India won the Test against Australia at the SCG played between 7-12 January 1978 by an innings and two runs.
This was their first ever Test success at the famous ground and it left the five-match series tied at 2-2 with the Adelaide Test to go. But while this success produced a new milestone for Indian cricket, it also marked the end of an era. It was the last time the three great Indian spinners Bishen Bedi, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar and Erapalli Prasanna contributed together in an Indian victory.
In fact, this was the last time that any of them was part of an Indian Test-winning team.
The SCG Test itself was a fairly one-sided affair. Bob Simpson won the toss and decided to bat. But, the inexperienced batting line-up collapsed against spin and they were bundled out for 131. The Aussie batsmen seemed to face a psychological barrier while facing the Indian spinners; Chandra in particular.
The leggie had taken 12 wickets at the MCG, and it became apparent that the Aussie batsmen were having difficulty picking him. Chandra took 4/30 ably supported by Bedi (3/49).
As for the Aussie batting, the run out of in-form Peter Toohey didn’t help their cause. Skipper Simpson top scored with 34 but the most attractive batting came from young Kim Hughes in the middle of the innings. Coming to the wicket with his team struggling at 61/4, he decided that the attack would be the best form of the defence.
He had the exuberance of youth in his side and his nimble footwork made him an attractive player of spin bowling. Immediately after coming to wicket he smashed a six and a four in a bid to wrest the initiative.
His rival Bedi, the Indian captain, had experience and plenty of guile in his favour. He stayed calm in the middle of the counter-attack and then deceived the young Western Australia batsman in flight, and bowled him. Hughes’ 21 ball 17 was the only highlight of the Aussie first innings.
India was in total control after finishing the first day at 86/0. Sunil Gavaskar and his opening partner Chetan Chauhan looked perfectly comfortable against the Aussie bowling.
Things, however, changed on the second morning. The story goes that Chauhan, somewhat uncharacteristically, exchanged a few aggressive words with Jeff Thomson. After that, the Aussie quickie just added a couple yards to his pace. He had Gavaakar ct. behind and 97/0 quickly became 116/3 as the home side saw a chance to fight-back.
But the ever-reliable Gundappa Vishwanath (79) stood firm and guided the middle order. Others made useful contributions as India declared at 396/8 late on the third day.
The Aussies produced a more determined batting effort in the second innings. Toohey top scored with 85 and opener Gary Cosier scored a fifty, but they couldn’t avoid the innings defeat. The Indian spinners were their usual selves with Prasanna this time playing the leading role.
For one last time, the veteran offie showed all his guiles and variations of flight to bamboozle the Aussie batsmen. He took 4/51 as the match finished early on the fifth day.
As I stated earlier, it was the last time that any of the famed trio was part of an Indian Test winning combination. India’s next Test success came against a depleted WI side at Madras in Jan 1979. There, Venkataraghaban and the leggie Narasimha Rao were the frontline spinners.
And by the time India defeated Kim Hughes’ Australia at Kanpur in the autumn of 1979, all three great spinners were well and truly gone from the international arena.