India are heading into the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, seeking an unbeatable lead in the four-match series against Australia. Virat Kohli’s men are 1-1 against Tim Paine’s Australia. But India, 37 years ago, were in a worse position at the same venue, when they started batting in the third innings. They were 0-1 in the last Test of a three-match series. They had to clear a deficit of 182 runs and set Australia a target. They were trailing, struggling and staring at another defeat. All of these make India’s victory in the Test timeless and venerable.
Australia, in the first Test at Sydney, had drubbed India by an innings and four runs. The second one at Adelaide ended in a draw.
After Australia won the toss, Dennis Lillee scalped four wickets for 65 runs and restricted India to 237 – 114 of which came from the smooth bat of GR Viswanath.
Allan Border, as he often did as skipper, steered his team to a position of dominance. His 124 helped Australia make 419 and lead India by 182.
The match, many thought, was over. But the action was just getting started.
Captain Sunil Gavaskar and fellow opener Chetan Chauhan put on a 165-run stand before Lillee got the former out LBW. Gavaskar, unhappy with the umpire’s decision, was leaving reluctantly when Lillee reportedly taunted him.
Gavaskar returned to the crease and instructed fellow opener Chetan Chauhan to walk off the pitch with him. Team manager Shahid Durrani and Bapu Nadkarni, the assistant manager had to calm the captain down and let the Indian innings continue.
India made 324, setting Australia a modest 143-run target. Karsan Ghavri’s early double-wicket burst – wherein he got rid of opener John Dyson and rival skipper Greg Chappell cheaply — set the tone for what was to follow.
His illustrious bowling partner, Kapil Dev, then, bowled one of his best spells to take apart the Australian line-up. He bowled Kim Hughes, Rod Marsh and Lillee; got Border caught behind and trapped last man Jim Higgs to help India win one of their most memorable Tests away.
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