When India came back via a follow-on in the second test match in Kolkata against Australia in 2001 to level the series and go on to win it in Chennai, that was regarded as one of the best Test series wins of all times and India’s greatest.
Now, 16 years later, India have won a series in pretty exhilarating fashion so the question has resurfaced after all these years:
Is this India’s Greatest Test Series Win?
That question is up for public discussion but this series has run out of superlatives for it to be described, for the sheer competitiveness it has been played with. The series started long before Australia even announced their touring party, with a 4-0 sweep of the Aussies being predicted by every second man, even many in the Australian media.
Let’s take a brief of how every game panned out. Australia demolished India in the first Test at Pune by 333 runs, India scoring 105 and 107 in their batting efforts. It was going to be an relative unknown in Steve O’Keefe who would do the damage, not Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood or Nathan Lyon. A Steven Smith hundred on a treacherous pitch was to be savoured. Mitchell Starc’s fifty was believed to be the momentum changer by many.
Australia showed in Pune that with preparation and application, results were possible in India. This method was to be seen in motion in the second test in Bangalore. Nathan Lyon would pick up 8/50, the best figures for an overseas bowler in India to skittle out India for 189. A cat and mouse battle would see Australia take a lead of 87 runs.
Then the turnaround would take place.
Rahul, Pujara and Rahane scored gritty half centuries to take India to 274 to set Australia 188. Ravichandran Ashwin would produce his magic yet again and Australia were bundled out for 112, India winning by 75 runs.
Third Test. Ranchi. A batting beauty. Australia made 451 with terrific hundreds from Smith and Glenn Maxwell. Ravindra Jadeja would impress yet again with a fifer. India then produced a marathon effort of 603/9(dec). Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhimann Saha would have a partnership which saw a 525-ball 202 from Pujara and a 117 from Saha. India would take a lead of 152 which made the final day intriguing. Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh showed their credentials against spin to earn Australia a draw.
The Best Test of the Series
Dharamshala. The best for the last. A fast, bouncy, almost Australian pitch. Australia made 300 with a hundred from that man, Steven Smith. It was debutant left-arm Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav who would spit fire with his 4/68. India would be 248/6 at the end of day two, behind by 52. Day Three. The one where the series was won and lost. India riding on Jadeja’s fifty and Saha’s supporting role, got to 332, a lead of 32. This would be the start of the Indian steamroller. Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed their talents and left Australia teetering at 31/3. The Indian spinners would get the remaining wickets for 137. 106 the target. Rahul, with his sixth fifty of the series and Rahane with a counterattacking 38 would see India win by 8 wickets.
The fact that this series needed one bad session from either team to be decided shows how closely this series was fought. India, who almost lost this series after Day Two in Bangalore, would first win the game and come back in the series. When India were in the ascendency in Ranchi, Australia would display grit and tenacity to deny India the win. Whenever one team would go marginally ahead in the series, the other would come back roaring. While there have been a few other series as exhilarating as this one, for India this is arguably their greatest Test series win ever.