Ganeshbabu Venkat | 9:46pm gmt 21 Sep 2011
In 134 years of Test cricket and more than 2000 games to boot, this happened only twice and incidentally almost 25 years apart. On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the second tied Test between India and Australia at Chennai, here is a path down memory lane of that nerve-wracking contest, which was largely a forgotten tie unlike the famous 1960 tied Test between West Indies and Australia in Brisbane.
Although the result and the drama could never measure up to the one enacted in Brisbane, this Test had its moments and there was no shortage of excitement. It was probably a fair result at the end of the day as neither team deserved to lose the match. Australia set the game up with a sporting declaration on the fourth day and India took up the challenge by chasing almost four runs an over on the final day and eventually after five days of this grueling contest we got a tie.
Australia was visiting India after quiet some time and was a rebuilding team with the retirement of Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Greg Chappell and Kim Hughes. India on the other hand was a fairly settled combination who had come off triumphs in the World Cup in 1983 and the World Championship of cricket in 1985, although their Test record was not as good as their ODI record.
The match was played from September 18th - 22nd 1986 at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai. It was one of the hottest and driest spells of the year in India. MAC being the concrete cauldron it was, the players had to face absolutely appalling playing conditions. The mercury soared to almost 40 degrees Celsius and the players would have felt they were in a furnace every time they stepped on to the pitch. Australia won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first and on the first day, David Boon put on a masterful exhibition of stroke play with his trademark cuts, pulls and hooks. Given the chance to open the innings he made most of that opportunity and played some delectable cut shots on his way to 122 of 258 balls with 21 hits to the fence.
Boon alongside Dean Jones put on 158 for the second wicket, Jones playing only his third Test exhibited fine temperament coupled with great technique. Australia finished day one on a healthy 211/2 with Jones unbeaten on 56. If day one belonged to Boon, day two belonged to the tall and lean Victorian Jones. He showed great panache when handling the spinners and pace bowlers. He was especially severe on the Indian spinners and legend has it that he was completely dehydrated and could not even remove his gear when he went in to the dressing room during breaks. Of course no one can forget the enduring image of Jones throwing up on the field only to come back and smack the bowlers again. That did not come without a price though. He had to be put on an intravenous drip over night at the Apollo hospitals, Chennai. In the documentary titled 'Madras Magic, the tied Test of 1986' he recalls that he almost lost six kilos during that game. It was one of the best innings under extremely oppressive conditions and for someone playing his third Test it was something to remember for the rest of his life. Jones scored 210 with 27 fours and two sixes. He along with Allan Border put on the most entertaining partnership of the Australian innings scoring 178 runs. Border himself was aggressive and filled his coffers with a century and when he fell, Australia had reached a formidable total of 544. After running India ragged for another 30 runs at the start of the third day, Border closed Australia's Innings at 574/7.
Left with the daunting task of reaching 374 just to avoid the follow on, India started in swashbuckling style with K.Srikkanth providing the momentum early on with a quick fire 53 of 62 balls with nine fours and one six. However none of the Indian batsmen were able to capitalize on the starts they got with everyone failing to press on. It was not until Kapil Dev arrived at the crease with his brazen and aggressive methods India started to dominate the proceedings. Kapil Played like he only can play and took the Aussies to the cleaners, he played every shot in the book to finish up with 119 with 21 hits to the fence and when he was the last man out, India had forced Australia to bat again and everyone thought the game was destined for a draw. The eccentric Greg Matthews turned out to be Australia's bowling hero claiming a five wicket haul and Ray Bright played an ideal foil to him by claiming two wickets. With a lead of 177, Australia played reasonably positive to get to 170/4 by close of play on day four. When Allan Border declared overnight to leave India a Target of 348 to get on the final day at almost four runs an over. The stage was set for a dramatic and tense final day.
Border deserves credit for that sporting declaration, many captains would have been content with the draw, Kapil went one step further when India began aggressively on the final morning going after the target, K. Srikkanth scored 39 of 49 balls in typical cavalier fashion and Sunil Gavaskar played some superb shots to lay the platform from which India could pursue their victory quest. Mohinder Amarnath provided valuable support to Gavaskar by adding 103 runs for the second wicket. India had reached a healthy 158 when Amarnath fell to Matthews soon Gavaskar followed him to the pavilion with the score on 204. That did not deter the Indian middle order and the chase was on, with the Aussie duo of Matthews and Bright persevering relentlessly for wickets and in the process managed to get regular breakthroughs to keep the Aussies in the hunt. When Kapil was dismissed cheaply for one the Aussies thought they really had a chance or at least thought they can't lose from here.
However Ravi Shastri played an admirable late hand to rally the lower middle order, he put on a vital 40 runs with Chetan Sharma to get India within striking distance of the target. Not to mention his theatrics with the crowd and getting under the skin of the Aussies. By this time the players were literally going at each other and Chetan Sharma and Tim Zoherer had a nasty confrontation which was a disgrace to put it mildly. As Shastri and Steve Waugh recall in the documentary 'In this day and age, people would have been banned for a year or so for all the antics and the behavior on the pitch'.
With India needing 17 runs to win the game, Chetan Sharma was dismissed by Ray Bright to leave India at 331/7, Australia prized out Kiran More for a duck and at 344, Shiv Lal Yadav inexplicably swung only to see his furniture disturbed. Maninder Singh walked out to face the music and he was a genuine #11. With Shastri taking a single to tie the scores at the end of the penultimate over, Maninder was given the unenviable task of scoring the winning run, but he also had to contend with the wily Matthews who was to bowl the last over of the day. Maninder was nervous as hell and blocked out the first three balls, then came the fourth ball that dismissed him LBW which put the Test in history. To this day the Indians and even some Australians contend that there was possibly a hint of an inside edge which the umpire Vikram Raju missed. It was a travesty that this Test match did not get as much recognition as the Brisbane Test got. But as Gavaskar would say ' This was as good if not a better game than the tied test of 1960' and Border summed it up nicely when he said 'It was indeed the forgotten tie'.