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Opinion

When the Gabba fortress was nearly breached

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Roar Guru
4th December, 2021
6

Spanning across four decades, Australia had not lost a Test match on the holy cricket grail of Brisbane that is the Gabba.

However, there were a few instances where that streak had nearly been broken (well, before some Indian net bowlers who had hardly played much first-class cricket since 2017 could not care about that record this year).

With the first Ashes Test less than a week away starting at the Gabba, here is a throwback to when Australia escaped defeat at the Gabba between 1989 to 2019.

Australia versus New Zealand, November 2001
For years, New Zealand have been bullied by Australia in international cricket. And then the All Blacks take revenge by thrashing the Wallabies at Eden Park.

With Stephen Fleming at the helm, New Zealand wanted to play a brave style of cricket. And Fleming took a huge gamble by sending Australia to bat first at the Gabba after winning the toss.

Openers Justin Langer (104) and Matthew Hayden (136) put on an opening stand of 224 to make Fleming look like a complete idiot.

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However, the Black Caps fought back well to leave Australia 6-294 at stumps on the opening day.

Rain played spoilsport across Days 2 and 3 with Australia declaring on Day 3 at 9-486 with Adam Gilchrist (118) toning up and New Zealand 0-29 at stumps with two days left of play.

Rain continued to play spoilsport on Day 4 with New Zealand 5-186. Australia hated draws and would definitely push for an innings victory on the final day.

But fifties from Nathan Astle (66) and Chris Cairns (61) saw New Zealand declare on Day 5 at 8-287, 199 runs behind Australia’s first-innings total. They teased Steve Waugh into setting up a thrilling final few sessions.

Steve Waugh

(Credit: Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images)

To Waugh’s credit, he did exactly just that. Australia declared their second innings at 2-84, leaving New Zealand to chase down 285 in 57 overs.

Half centuries to Mark Richardson (57) and Stephen Fleming (57) put New Zealand at 5-213 in the 49th over as Craig McMillan walked into the crease with the dangerous Chris Cairns set.

The pair took on the Aussie attack, smashing Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne for 31 runs in two overs as New Zealand smashed their way to 5-263.

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There were 22 runs required with 18 balls of the match to go. However, Australia went into a high defensive mode, which saw Cairns depart for 38 trying to clear the long-on boundary.

New Zealand would finish the game at 6-274. Although they were outplayed for the majority of the game, the Black Caps sure did nearly pull off arguably the greatest run chase of that time.

Australia versus India, December 2014
After India’s middle order had massively let down Virat Kohli in the first Test in Adelaide where they should have chased down 364 on the final day, India went to the Gabba with confidence that they could compete with Australia.

Batting first, India posted 408 courtesy of a century from Murali Vijay (144) and a delightful 81 by Ajinkya Rahane.

Ajinkya Rahane

(Photo by William West/AFP via Getty Images)

The Aussie batters got starts, but no one got a big score to put pressure on India as MS Dhoni’s bowlers kept on chipping away with wickets. Australia were 6-247 early on Day 3.

And then Dhoni lost the plot by getting his seamers to constantly bowl short. Mitchell Johnson (88) and Mitch Starc (52) contributed down the order while skipper Steve Smith led the way with a classy 133.

From 6-247, Australia finished with a first-innings total of 505 – a lead of 97 runs.

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Johnson tore India apart with the ball as India collapsed from 1-71 to 5-87 early on Day 4.

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Despite a fighting 81 from an injured Shikhar Dhawan, India could only muster 224, setting Australia 128 to chase down on a Gabba wicket that spiced up a lot on Day 4.

India fought hard with the ball, taking two early wickets, but a quick-fire 55 from Chris Rogers and cameos from Smith (28) and Shaun Marsh (17) ensured Australia won with four wickets to spare.

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Despite India being way on top for the majority of the game, they couldn’t capitalise on it and rued it badly.

But for Steve Smith, he led from the front to lead Australia to a Test win and keep Australia’s Gabba streak alive for 26 years on the trot.

Steve Smith

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Australia versus Pakistan, December 2016
After a humiliating series loss against South Africa, Australia wanted to get back on track in the opening Test versus Pakistan in a day-night encounter.

An aggressive 71 from Matt Renshaw set the tone for Australia with the bat before centuries from Steve Smith (130) and Peter Handscomb (105) saw Australia post a first innings total of 429.

Pakistan looked clueless against the pink ball under lights, crumbling to 8-67 late on Day 2.

Sarfaraz Ahmed scored a fighting 55 not out to ensure Pakistan posted triple figures, trailing by 287 after Pakistan were bowled out.

A quick-fire 74 from Usman Khawaja and an aggressive 63 from Smith ensured Australia declared on Day 3 at 5-202, setting Pakistan to chase down 490 in seven sessions.

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Despite tough fifties from the bat of Azhar Ali (71) and Younis Khan (65), Pakistan were tottering at 5-165.

Pakistan supporters wave their national flag

(Photo by Donall Farmer/PA Images via Getty Images)

But this is Pakistan we are talking about. They could have a terrible Test match, but their unpredictability is scary at times.

Asad Shafiq played arguably the best innings of his life, notching up his tenth Test hundred, while the Pakistan tail wagged as the Pakistanis finished Day 4 at 8-382.

Shafiq and Yasir Shah (33) brought the required runs down as the Pakistani supporters at the Gabba were cheering the pair on.

But an absolute snorter from Mitch Starc saw Shafiq depart for 137, before some smart fielding by Steve Smith ran Shah out. Pakistan were bowled out for 450 and lost by 39 runs.

For the majority of the Test, Pakistan were outplayed in all facets. However, the unpredictability tag had nearly worked in their favour.

Despite the scare, Steve Smith held his nerve as Australian skipper and backed his bowlers to get the job done.

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