When one talks about the most memorable spells of Test cricket bowling by Indian pacers in Australia, the names that often come to mind are Jasprit Bumrah in 2019, Ajit Agarkar in 2003 or maybe Ishant Sharma in 2008.
But the best bowling figures in an innings by an Indian in Australia belongs to a certain Kapil Dev, who snared eight wickets back in 1985 to start the Test series with a bang.
Five years after his historic 5/28 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground helped India win just their third Test in Australia, the captain delivered a masterful show with the ball in the first Test in Adelaide. Dev single-handedly ran through the Australian batting even as after David Boon and Greg Ritchie scored centuries.
Australia had complete control on the first day, ending with 248/4 with Border’s ton and Ritchie batting on 55. But on the second day, their batting innings was done in by Kapil Dev’s lethal swing bowling and despite two centurions and Allan Border falling one short of his fifty, Australia were dismissed for 381.
The Indian all-rounder’s victims that day included the likes of David Boon and Allan Border, but it was the manner in which he provided the final flourish that impressed one and all.
At one point, Dev’s figures read 3/99 but once he started the procession of wickets, he soon had five more... finishing with 8/106. He took five wickets in 21 balls and Australia’s last four wickets fell for just six runs. His variations and wicked swing meant the hosts had very little wriggle room.
The first wicket to fall was opener Wayne Phillips, who Dev got with a sharp bouncer. He then knocked down the stumps of their captain Border, who was done in with the movement Dev got and got the faintest inside edges. The last wicket to fall on the first day was Boon, who made 123 before edging it to the slips off a top delivery from Dev.
On the second day, Dev was much more lethal exploiting the movement and bounce of the wicket. Overnight bat Ritchie was met with a nasty blow off once such ball and all lower order batsmen were peppered by bouncers.
A wicket straight one got Greg Matthews LBW while another caught plumb by a full toss. The variations meant catches behind and at slips and the fielders did not drop much like the first day. His efforts with the ball in the first innings fetched him the player of the match award.
Sadly for ‘Kapil’s Devil’s’, the Test ended in a draw, which turned out to be the story of the series. India was the better team for majority of the sessions, but the three-Test series was drawn 0-0.
At Adelaide, in response to Australia’s 381, India posted a solid 520 in the first innings – which was their highest total against Australia then – but it ended with hosts batting on 17/0 in the second innings. According to the match report on Cricinfo, around 300 minutes’ of play was lost due to inclement weather during the last three days, which was a major factor as to why Dev’s effort didn’t produce another win.
In an interview with Sportstar after the series, Dev called the tour ‘emotionally draining’ and said the weather and umpiring standards cost India dearly. “It was frustrating, this matter of not winning. But I am happy that we played extremely well. Before this tour, everyone was doubting our ability to play Test cricket as it should be played. We proved conclusively that we can play Test cricket well too,” he said.
Here’s a highlight reel of Kapil Dev’s superb spell of bowling: