People, these days make it sound like Test cricket is an utter boring event and only excitement that comes in cricket is from a gimmick called T20. However, if you look back in the history of the game, the vintage five day form has provided even more exciting games, than even the traditional 50 over ODIs. Mainly, because in tests, every session poses a different challenge and players have to refocus after the break and some time re-build their efforts. Games display a seesaw like behavior some times from session to session and offer a nail-biting affair for the viewers. One such exciting contest was held in Chennai (India) in September of 1986 and at the end of it the two team s were leveled equally, literally.
Chepauk offered a perfect test match pitch, plenty in there for batsman on first three days and last two days offering increasing assistance to the spinners. Border won the all important toss and opted to bat first. Dean Jones might have found the humidity unbearable; however he tormented the Indian attack for his monumental 210, even though he was hospitalized for dehydration later. Boon and Border joined in with their respective tons as Australia batted well into the third morning for their 574/7. Indian Spin trio of Shastri-Yadav-Maninder bowled a tireless 135 (of 170) overs. Usually in those days, such a score would ensure that the team would not lose the test, so it was up to India to try and do something different to have any chance at a win.
Kapil’s India, even after losing a few early wickets, went on counter attack. Srikkanth, Azhar, and Shastri all played well and fast paced innings for their fifties, however, failed to convert those to big scores. By the end of day 3 India found itself in a spot of bother at 270/7, still requiring 105 to avoid follow-on. What we witnessed on the fourth morning was yet another Kapil spectacular – a 138 ball 119 studded with 21 fours. He went from 33 to 119 in just one session!!! India had avoided the follow-on, but their fast paced batting (397 in fewer than 100 overs) had left enough time for Australia to take a final shot at posting a big target for the host on final day.
It is true that, sometimes, the pitches and/or the strategies from the captain can make this game very defensive or un-interesting, thus we have to credit Alan Border here, as after India averted the follow-on danger he had to make a choice: either to go defensive and ensure that his doesn’t lose or take a chance of giving India a gettable score and have a shot at win. He opted for later. The Aussies came out and attempted to s ore as quickly as possible. The Indian spinners tried their best to keep the batsman under leash. At the end of day 4 Australia were ahead by 347 runs. On the fifth morning, Border surprised everyone with a declaration, leaving India 87 overs to get 348, a gutsy move.
It was a huge ask for India on a last day pitch against the spin of Matthews, but the top-order began very well, with each of the top five contributed significantly. It was Sunny who stood out with a fantastic effort of 90 until the star of the game, Dean Jones, took a fabulous catch to end his surreal effort. Later, the Indian innings seemed to be losing its way and Border was smelling victory when Ravi Shastri played a magnificent cameo, 48 of 40 balls (3 fours 2 sixes) , however was left stranded at the non-strikers end, when last-man Maninder was out LBW on the penultimate delivery with scores leveled at 347.
It was only the second instance of a tied test, both involved Australia. The match changed colored every day. After first two days only two results seemed possible: An Australian win or a draw. At the end of day three, India looked in danger of losing. Even after Border’s declaration, many thought India would play defensive to save the game, in the last 10-15 minutes India came inches close to win it. Nowhere in those five days did a single soul around the globe think of a “Tie”.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav