Top 5: India’s greatest Test endeavors in the 21st century!

(5) India vs Australia (Mohali, 2010)

This was a great game between bat and ball where both sides batted very well in the first innings, but the bowlers had the final say in the second innings. Zaheer Khan finished this game with eight wickets and was adjudged man of the match. 

Australia scored a massive score of 428 in the first innings riding on a century by Shane Watson and 71 from Ricky Ponting. After a middle-order wobble, Tim Paine and Mitchell Johnson steadied the ship and took Australia to a good score. In reply, India folded out for 405 with contributions from Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina.  

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The pitch had derailed in the 2nd innings, and the Indian bowlers managed to bundle out Australia for a meagre 192 with only Watson crossing the half-century mark. India needed 216 runs to win the game, but the pitch was tough to bat on, and India was reeling on 124-8 with Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger bowling some excellent spells. What followed this was a spectacle of resilience which made this match enter the list of India’s Greatest Tests. 

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Ishant Sharma showed remarkable resilience and managed to stuck in with VVS Laxman, Ishant fell with India still needing 11 runs, but Laxman and Pragyan Ojha managed to take India home and win a memorable test match.

(4) India vs New Zealand (Napier, 2009)

India didn’t win this match, but still, this is one of the most memorable matches in Indian Cricket because of the sheer resilience India showed after being down and out after the first innings. 

New Zealand scored a humongous total of 616, with Jesse Ryder scoring a double century, Ross Taylor scoring 151, and Brendon McCullum scoring a century. In reply to this, India never got going and couldn’t manage a solid partnership to give a fight to the Kiwi bowling lineup led by Chris Martin, who took three wickets. India kept losing wickets frequently and managed to score 305. Only Dravid and Laxman crossed the half-century mark.

Put into follow, India needed a miracle to save the test match, and we indeed witnessed a miracle that day. Gautam Gambhir batted for more than 10 hours facing 436 balls, and managed to draw the test match from a position from where defeat looked inevitable. Laxman also scored a century, and Yuvraj contributed with a half-century.  

India might not have won this match, but games like these which go on to define what a player is made up of, gazing into an inevitable defeat, what a player manages to pull up is what differentiates ordinary from the extraordinary, Gambhir and Co. managed to pull up with something unique that day.

(3) India vs Australia (SCG, 2021)

Just like the Napier test, this one also didn’t end up in a win for India, but this Test sparked a flame that led up to Gabba and burned down Australia’s ‘fortress’. 

This was the third test match of the Border-Gavaskar series, with the series at 1-1, and India was without their captain Virat Kohli who was on paternity leave, and Bumrah was the only experienced pacer in the fast bowling attack.

Australia scored 338 runs in the first innings with half-centuries from debutant Pucovski and Marnus Labuschagne and a century by Steve Smith, while Jadeja was the pick of the bowlers for India with four wickets. India was bundled out for 244 in reply, with only Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara getting to the half-century mark. Australia declared at 312 and put India in to bat with a target of 407.

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India was reeling at 102-3, and victory looked in sight for Australia, but India had other plans. Rishabh Pant went on a rampage scoring 97 off just 118 balls. Pujara supported the youngster with a gritty and patient 77 off 205 balls! After both the set batsmen fell, Vihari and Ashwin had to deliver. 

Unfortunately, Vihari received a hamstring blow and couldn’t do much. With these two being the only able batters, as Jadeja was also suffering from injury, India decided to aim for a draw instead of victory. Ashwin and Vihari stuck around eating dozens of blows, but they didn’t budge. After facing nearly 50 harsh overs, umpires decided to call it a day and a draw was declared. Vihari scored 23* in 161 balls, while Ashwin made 39* in 128 balls.

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This draw was momentous for India because this raised the spirit of a young team which went on to create history in the next test match.

(2) India vs Australia (Kolkata,2001) 

This match isn’t only one of the best for India, but it is considered to be one of the best Test matches ever. 

Australia scored a massive score of 445 in the first innings, with the captain Steve Waugh scoring a century. India, in reply, was bowled out cheaply for 171 with only Laxman crossing the 50-run mark and was asked to follow on. 

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India promoted Laxman to no.3, who scored 281 runs in a massive partnership with Dravid, who scored 180 runs. The pair took India from 232-4 in 67th over to 608 in 171st over! India posted a total of 657 runs and set Australia a target of 383. 

Harbhajan Singh weaved magic with the ball and took six wickets to bundle out Australia for 212 and drew the curtain on a match which is used as an example to teach children about the spirit of never giving up and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. This Test match was one for the storybooks, and the plotline was straight out of a Bollywood movie.

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(1) India vs Australia (Gabba, 2021)

As I begin to write about this match, I get flashbacks of the day when India was bowled out for 36 in the first Test of the series and was criticised massively by the fans and media. Their captain was departing on leave, the squad was full of injuries, and newbies were out to prove something. They won the second Test and heroically saved the third, which we talked about earlier, but this was the match that made this series one of the greatest ever. This was the match that would be talked about for ages.

 India had nothing going their way, and after the draw in the third Test, a certain Tim Paine was heard saying, ‘can’t wait to get you to the Gabba’ India did go to Australia’s fortress and made it their own, and it was a depleted Indian side at that.

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Australia scored 369, with Marnus Labuschagne scoring yet another century, and in reply, India was left reeling at 189-6, only for new additions Sundar and Thakur to put up a wonderful partnership to take India to a score of 336. 

Australia came into bat once again, having missed the chance of a massive lead, but they once again managed to put up a decent score and gave India the target of 328.

For a bit of context, this target of 328 was never chased down in Brisbane, and Australia hadn’t lost a match at the Gabba since 1988. India was massively depleted in both departments missing key men, yet India came out with a belief and a plan and COURAGE.

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Shubman Gill played a great knock and fell short of what would’ve been a remarkable hundred, but the star of the show was Rishabh Pant, who proved why he was always thought of as the prodigal heir to MSD. He proved his critics wrong and showed the world why he was the game-changer. 

He played shots with courage, and he had a set plan from ball 1. He was not thinking of a draw at any stage, he only wanted the win, and with the courage to gaze at the mountain like that, even the mountains fall on your feet. Rishabh was aided by cameos from Pujara and Sundar, and they led India to their greatest victory of the century. That match will always be proclaimed as “The Pant Showdown”. The sheer audacity to go for it made Rishabh Pant immortal on the very grounds of tested and toiled Gabba.

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This series will go down as the greatest for any team abroad, the fact that two of the four matches in that series feature in our Top 5 list is a testament to the truth itself. This victory will be celebrated for decades to come by generations of cricket-loving fans in the subcontinent. 

If you think we missed out on a few, share it in the comments section. Stay Tuned with The Sportsway for more updates!

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