When India toured Australia in 2003-04, the wide speculation was they would get a spanking from the world beaters and would be lucky if they can even save a test or two. Australians looked at the series as a nice farewell to Legendary Steve Waugh who was set to retire at the end of the tour. India was going in with new and untested opening pair and Dravid’s previous tour (1999-00) where he score only 95 runs in six innings, posed big questions as to how he would fare. Sachin and Sourav were low on form heading in to the series and before the series began the bowling department received a huge blow as Harbhajan’s finger injury ruled him out of the tour.
Opening encounter at Brisbane was dominated hugely by rain that played spoil sport. Indian’s took comfort in the fact that Zaheer Khan’s inspired spell on day 2 morning restricted Australia to under 350 and then Sourav’c counter attack with a gutsy 144 ensured the visitors a first innings lead. Many speculated that it was the rains that had helped India save the game and the team will be tested hard in the next three encounters. The second test at Adelaide began in a fashion somewhat echoing these sentiments, as Australia, batting first, amassed 400/5 on the opening day. The outlook was gloomy for India with Ponting well set at 176* and Gilchrist had just joined him. A long grueling day waited ahead for the visitors.
What transpired on day 2 at Adelaide, changed the entire complexion of the series. First up, the Indians fought back hard. Kumble bowled a tries less 43 overs for his five wicket haul as India restricted Australia to 556 as it could very well have been much, much more. Ponting scored a surreal 242. In reply India began with a steady opening stand of 66, however fiery spell from Andy Bichel reduced them to 4/85 as he grabbed three vital scalps of Chopra, Sehwag, and Tendulkar. That brought the Laxman-Dravid pair together on the wicket, in a situation not unfamiliar to them. In the previous tour at home, this same pair had put together an epic 376 partnership when the team was staring at a series deafeat and turned the match around its head. Here, at Adelaide, when they were united, India was 471 in arrears with the last recognized batting pair out there. They hung on till the end of the day to bring India to somewhat decent total of 4/180.
India began day 3, still 376 runs behind, however Laxman-Dravid pair began a counter attack. It was almost like they were re-living the Edens 2001 match. The jodi went on to add 303, their second triple century stand, for the sixth wicket before Laxman fell for a classy 148. Dravid then continued to fight with lower order batsmen and was the last man to be dismissed at 233. By this time India had reached an unthinkable 523. The team that was very much in danger of follow-on, had managed to reduce the deficit to only 33 runs, by the fourth morning. India was not yet out of danger as Australians were well known to post a quick and big third innings total and post a challenging final day score for the visitors.
Agarkar dealt the Aussies some early blows, but they recovered well to be at 3/109, when Sachin struck twice, earning the prize wickets of Waugh and Martyn. Agarker came back for a fiery second spell and finished with career best figures of 6/41 as Australia collapsed to 196. The target for India was 230 to get in 100 overs. There was definitely enough time to get the runs, the big question was would they be able to preserve their wickets. Ever since the record-chase of 404 in 1976, India had successfully managed only one chase over 200 in tests (2001 in Srilanka) in the next 27 years. The openers, yet again, saw the evening through as India closed day 4 at 0/37.
Even though the visitors lost Chopra early, Sehwag was looking excellent, however a rush of blood shot cost him his wicket as he was stumped for 47 with India 2/79. Sachin was woefully out of form and walked in at crucial stage in the game. Dravid, at the other end, looked like he was continuing where he left off in the first innings. Sachin didn’t play to best of his abilities but played this one for the team and hung in there to forge a crucial 70 stand with Rahul. A very close LBW shout that could have gone either way, ended up Tendulkar’s brave effort at 37. Sourav walked in and looked to slash at everything and was dismissed with India needing another 60 runs. This is exactly when the importance of Laxman was lamented again. He smothered six boundaries in his quick fire cameo of 32. India survived some late hiccups as Dravid’s cover drive boundary sealed the victory.
Dravid had scored 305 runs in the game and was true architect of India’s win. Efforts of Laxman, who scored a total 180 runs, and Agarkar with his career best figures were also vital contributions to the victory. The team that was expected to lose 0-3 if not 0-4 had just notched first win in the series and were sitting pretty at 1-0 after the first two tests. India had gate crashed Steve Waugh’s farewell party and after Port of Spain (2001-02) and Headingley (2002) this was yet another vital oversees win for Sourav’s men. They were just truly amazing at Adelaide!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav