India is currently playing its 500th Test in Kanpur. That is a whole lot of matches. And they run entire gamut – boring draws, run-fests, epic come-from-behind efforts (remember the Kolkata Test of 2001?) and shootouts on rank turners.
And yet, amidst all this, the 236th Test match that India played will not be forgotten any time soon. It took place in 1986, the opposition was Australia, and the venue was Madras (now Chennai). And it produced a result which has only happened twice in Test cricket’s almost-200 year-long history, a tie.
It honestly had it all. Brilliant batting performances under unbearably hot and humid conditions. A rearguard fightback from Kapil Dev and a sporting declaration from Allan Border. And at the end, unbearable tension, as first India, then Australia, and then India again came close to victory before umpire V Vikramraju had the final say.
Dean Jones’s marathon effort
The highlight of the first two days was Dean Jones. The Australian batsman fought dehydration and debilitating cramps to score a mammoth 210 in Australia’s first innings score of 574/7 declared. But it was the way he doggedly fought on, under sweltering heat and humidity. In an interview with ESPNCricinfo, he said he could not remember anything after he scored 120. He could not control his bodily functions and did not want to bat after tea on the second day when he was not out on 202, but was compelled by captain Allan Border, who taunted him by calling him “a weak Victorian”.
Then Australia seemed to be coasting. India were reduced to 65/3 and looked like they might even have trouble avoiding the follow-on. The fact that they did so was thanks to a heroic innings from captain Kapil Dev, who scored 119, and was the last man to get out in India’s first innings score of 397.
The match could have petered out into a dull draw. But Australia came out attacking in the second innings, losing wickets. At the end of Day 4, they had reached 170/5, 348 runs ahead. And then came a typically Australian move by Border – he declared, throwing down the gauntlet to India’s batsmen and bowlers.
Turning and twisting
And India responded. They rocketed out of the blocks. By lunch, they were 94/1 and by tea, 193/2. Only 155 runs were required in 30 overs. A famous victory seemed imminent.
“We were confident that we would chase it down,” recalled cricket-lover Mohanarangan KS to Scroll.in. He had followed the match on radio in his office in Trichy and distinctly remembered listening to Ranjan Bala’s commentary. “We were all getting very excited by the way the match was turning.”
And then arrived the inevitable wobble. Sunil Gavaskar was dismissed for 90. A little later, the first innings hero Kapil Dev left for only 1. The match was swinging. Wickets were falling but it was Ravi Shastri who held fort at other end, a picture of absolute calm. He sneaked the singles, he took the twos. And when required, he hit the big ones.
Things were getting very tense. Squabbles broke out between the players and the umpires rushed to keep control. The heat was getting to everyone. Shivlal Yadav made India think that they were home by a six over long-on, only to be dismissed. Maninder Singh, India’s No.11, walked in. Four required off the last over.
Shastri looked like he would do it. He was on strike, after all. Steve Waugh misfielded and gave him a two and, more importantly, a chance to come back to the crease. Then he took a single to make the scores level and put Singh on strike.
“We were all blaming Shastri,” reminisced Mohanarangan. “Why did he take that single to give Singh the strike? He should have finished it. But we were egging Maninder on.”
Only the second time it had ever happened
Singh blocked the first ball. The second ball stuck him on his back leg. The Australians went up in a huge appeal. Almost instantly, umpire Vikramraju put his finger up. It was over. The match was a tie.
“The entire stadium was stunned. It was just silent,” NK Ramanathun, a former umpire who watched the action unfold live from the stands, told Scroll.in. “Even in the umpires' stand, there was silence for three to five seconds. We could not believe how the decision was given so quickly. The last over of the Test match and such a situation, and you expected the umpire to take at least an extra second. But the decision was given so fast...”
Was the decision right? Did Singh get some bat on the ball? Vikramraju sticks by his decision. But it did not really matter. Thirty years later, the match remains etched in the annals of cricket history for that incredible result.
“After the initial shock had subsided, we realised how lucky we had been,” summed up Mohanarangan. “We had just experienced a tied Test, something so unique. It was an incredible match and one which can never be forgotten.”
Australia 574/7 declared (Dean Jones 210, David Boon 122, Allan Border 106; Shivlal Yadav 4/142) and 170/5 declared (David Boon 49; Maninder Singh 3/60) tied with India 397 all out (Kapil Dev 119, Ravi Shastri 62; Greg Matthews 5/103) and 347 all out (Sunil Gavaskar 90, Mohinder Amarnath 51, Ravi Shastri 48 not out; Greg Matthews 5/146, Ray Bright 5/84)
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