Cricket fans around the world witnessed history on September 22, 1986, as India and Australia engaged in a thrilling battle that resulted in only the second tied Test match in cricket history. The match, played in scorching heat in Chennai, showcased the true spirit of the game as both teams fought tooth and nail until the very last ball. This article delves into the memorable moments and key players that shaped this historic encounter.
A Gripping Test Match Unfolds
On a hot and grueling day, a handful of dedicated fans turned up at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai to witness the final day of a seemingly dead Test match. Australia, who had dominated the match thus far, declared their innings at 170 for 5, setting India a challenging target of 348 runs to win. The stage was set for an enthralling contest.
India’s chase began with Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth leading the charge. Gavaskar, playing in his 100th consecutive Test match, displayed his experience and skill, guiding the Indian innings with a mixture of caution and strokeplay. The pair’s solid partnership laid the foundation for India’s pursuit of the target.
The Middle Order Resurgence
As the day progressed, televisions, transistor radios, and word of mouth spread the news that the Indian team was going for the win. Mohinder Amarnath and Gavaskar continued to build a strong partnership, cautiously accumulating runs. Amarnath’s half-century showcased his resilience and experience, while young Mohammad Azharuddin displayed his wristy strokeplay to keep the scoreboard ticking.
At tea, India stood at 193 for 2, requiring 155 runs from 30 overs to secure an unlikely victory. The home crowd sensed the possibility of a memorable win as the Indian middle order stood firm against the Australian attack.
The Pendulum Swings
However, cricket is a game of uncertainties, and the pendulum swung in Australia’s favor as the match entered its final stages. Gavaskar, who had anchored the innings magnificently, was dismissed by Dean Jones off the bowling of Greg Matthews. This breakthrough brought the Australian spinner into the limelight, as he delivered one of the most remarkable spells by a visiting spinner in India.
Chandrakant Pandit, filling in the shoes of the injured Dilip Vengsarkar, played a crucial cameo, finding gaps in the field with delicate deflections. His partnership with Azharuddin put the Australians on edge. India seemed to be cruising towards victory with the required run rate comfortably under control.
The Nerve-Wracking Finish
With the score at 291 and just 57 runs needed, Matthews deceived Pandit with a spinning delivery, hitting the stumps. Pandit’s fluent innings had contributed 39 vital runs to the Indian cause. With four wickets remaining, the pressure mounted on India. Captain Kapil Dev walked in, hoping to replicate his heroics from the first innings.
Unfortunately for India, Kapil Dev’s stay at the crease was short-lived. He fell to Matthews after facing just two deliveries. The match hung in the balance, and the tension in the stadium was palpable. India needed 95 runs with five wickets in hand, while the Australian team, led by Allan Border, fought tooth and nail to secure a victory.
Ravi Shastri’s Heroics
Ravi Shastri, known for his solid technique and calm demeanor, joined Pandit in the middle. The duo faced the daunting task of reviving the Indian innings and achieving the target. Shastri, recognizing the gravity of the situation, played an innings that would go down in history as one of his best in Test cricket.
With every ball, the pressure mounted on Shastri and Pandit. The crowd held its breath as they battled against the relentless Australian attack. Shastri’s solid defense and occasional aggression kept the required run rate in check. The tension reached its peak when India needed 57 runs from the final six overs.
The Final Over Drama
Entering the mandatory overs, India required 18 runs from the last three overs, with just one wicket in hand. Chetan Sharma, known for his batting abilities, joined Shastri in the middle. The Indian team had a glimmer of hope, but the Australians were determined to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
In the 17th mandatory over, Sharma attempted an ambitious shot off Ray Bright’s bowling, only to be caught at long on by Craig McDermott. The Indian team was now 331 for 7, and the tension in the stadium reached fever pitch.
Shastri, remaining calm in the face of adversity, continued to hold the fort for India. He struck a crucial boundary off Matthews, relieving some of the pressure. However, Pandit’s dismissal had left India with just four wickets remaining.
Maninder Singh’s Nerve-Wracking Battle
With the match on a knife’s edge, Maninder Singh, India’s last recognized batsman, walked out to face the remaining two balls of Bright’s over. The nation held its collective breath as Singh blocked the balls with determination, refusing to give in to the Australian attack.
The final over began with Matthews bowling to Shastri, who cleverly took a double off the second ball to level the scores and ensure that India would not lose the match. Singh, meanwhile, had three balls to either score a run or survive against the skillful Australian bowler.
As the tension reached its peak, Singh played a defensive shot, missing the ball completely with his bat hitting the pad. The Australians appealed fervently, and the umpire, Dara Dotiwalla, raised his finger, declaring Singh out leg before wicket. The match ended in a tie, creating history and leaving both teams with mixed emotions.
The Aftermath and Enduring Memories
The tied Test match of 1986 between India and Australia left an indelible mark on the cricketing world. While the result was undoubtedly disappointing for both teams, it showcased the beauty of the sport and the resilience of the players involved.
Dean Jones was rightfully hailed for his heroic double century, battling extreme heat and illness throughout his innings. Greg Matthews’ exceptional bowling spell and the controversial decision by umpire Dara Dotiwalla added to the drama of the match.
Despite the disappointment of not achieving a victory, the tied Test match remains etched in the memories of cricket fans worldwide. It serves as a testament to the spirit of the game, reminding us that cricket is not just about winning or losing but about the thrilling moments and unforgettable battles that unfold on the field.
As cricket continues to evolve, fans will always look back on the tied Test match of 1986 with fondness, cherishing the memories of a truly remarkable contest between two cricketing giants.