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How will Australia fare in the Chennai Test?

Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar walks towards the pavilion. AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade
Expert
21st February, 2013
36

When exciting Tests between Australia and India in India are recalled, everyone remembers the Kolkata 2001 Test where VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh converted a lost cause into a winning reality for India within two days.

But the Chennai Test which started three days after the Kolkata roller-coaster in 2001 was equally fascinating, but rarely rates a mention.

With the Chennai Test starting on Friday, it will be fitting to recall this forgotten memorable Test played twelve years ago.

It was the third and final Test of the series, with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy tied one-all, Australia comfortably winning the first Test in Mumbai by 10 wickets and India drawing level with a 171 run incredible win in Kolkata.

Australia won the toss and scored 391 thanks to a magnificent double century by Matthew Hayden (203 runs off 320 balls hitting 15 fours and six sixes – then the most sixes by an Australian in a Test innings).

Skipper Steve Waugh was dismissed in a bizarre and unfortunate way as he became the sixth batsman to be given out “handled the ball.” This prompted a collapse and the visitors plummeted from 3 for 340 to 391 all out, losing 7 for 51 with off-spinner Harbhajan Singh claiming 7 scalps.

Sachin Tendulkar hit a superb 126, reaching his century with a six and India reached 501 to lead by 110 runs.

Harbhajan bowled with venom in the second innings to claim 8 for 84 for an amazing 15 wicket match haul and Australia was dismissed for 264. India needed 155 to win but kept losing wickets.

It was 8 for 151 when Harbhajan joined Samir Dighe and hit the winning run to enable India to win the thriller by 2 wickets and with it the entrancing series 2-1.

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Harbhajan had captured 28 wickets in the last two Tests and was voted the Man of the Series.

He is back in the Chennai Test starting on Friday. So is Tendulkar. But the passage of 12 years has robbed them of their match-winning abilities.

However, both reserve their best against Australia, so beware Michael Clarke’s men.

Fortunately for Australia, not one of the current team was in the 2001 squad so they do not carry any “baggage”. Here is the Australian XI for the Chennai Test:

David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (capt), Matthew Wade (wk), Moises Henriques, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon.

In my opinion Australia has selected her XI as if the Test was to be played in Brisbane or Perth rather than in Chennai.

“What, three quickies and only one spinner?” I asked myself in horror.

England had won the series in India a few months ago thanks to their spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.

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But Nathan Lyon does not fall in their category.

The inclusion of Phil Hughes also arouses question marks. The Indian medium-pacers and spinners will have him caught in the slips or point before you can say howzat. The job of scoring runs will rest heavily on skipper Clarke and his deputy Shane Watson.

I still back Australia to win as the Indian batting is weak and their bowling weaker.

That is unless Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan regain their “Fee fee fo fum, we smell the blood of Australians” mantra.