India's best batting performances against Australia

Innings that matter: Laxman's 281, Dravid's 180 and the others.

Most batting performances are seen in an innings context, which is highly inadequate as that is such an incomplete picture. Since the DNA of Test cricket is Test matches made up of two innings, and those matches are in turn part of a series, the big picture is the series – that is the war, as it were. Test matches are battles, an innings merely a phase in a battle.

To provide this context to cricket performances, we bring you the five best Test batting performances in a match/series context, in the history of India-Australia Test cricket. Most of these will perhaps not be a surprise but their order may be.

All of them are Series-Defining performances (which explains why seemingly larger performances, like Tendulkar in Sydney 2004, or Gavaskar in Sydney 1986 do not make it on this list), which gives them values higher than what their Match IMPACT numbers say.

NOTE: In a career context, all Match IMPACT numbers over 5 are brought down to 5 – however the value they carry due to their series impact are carried forward, and tallied when career numbers are calculated.

1. VVS Laxman59 & 281 v Australia, Kolkata 2001

Match Batting IMPACT: 11.92

Brief Scores: Aus 445 & 212, Ind 171 & 657/7 – India won by 171 runs, Series 2-1 India

Innings

Runs Tally

Innings Start

Pressure

Strike Rate

Partnership Building

Innings IMPACT

1st

1.05

 

1.05

 

 

2.10

2nd

3.23

 

1.39

 

0.29

9.82

It is hard to imagine any batting performance having a higher impact in Test cricket history. The facts around this performance are as legendary as the performance itself. 16 consecutive world-record wins for Australia who are 1-0 up in the 3-Test series, Australia make 445, India 171. VVS Laxman coming in at 88 for 4 in the first innings, which soon becomes 129 for 9, playing the only substantial innings – a fluent 59 off 83 balls, with an unbelievable twelve boundaries (in the context of the game, where run-scoring seems so difficult).

India follow on, Laxman promoted up the order comes in at 52 for 1. 556 more runs would be scored, bowlers like McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and Kasprowicz would be thwarted like never before, or since, more than ten hours of play would transpire - before Laxman finally would get out for 281 off 452 balls – 44 boundaries in them. We’re keeping the romance out of this (enough has been written on this in that vein) – the facts are spine-tingling enough – from being 222 behind when Laxman walked in, to being 384 ahead when he got out -  no one has traversed a journey this long, and this deep, in Indian cricket history.

It’s a rags-to-riches cricket story – as his team went on to win the next Test and the series. And changed the course of Indian cricket history.

2. R Dravid25 & 180 v Australia, Kolkata 2001

Match Batting IMPACT – 7.87

Brief Scores: Aus 445 & 212, Ind 171 & 657/7 – India won by 171 runs, Series 2-1 India

Innings

Runs Tally

Innings Start

Pressure

Strike Rate

Partnership Building

Innings IMPACT

1st

0.45

 

 

 

 

0.45

2nd

2.07

 

1.39

 

0.20

7.32

For too long, Dravid’s performance in the same match has been seen as a supporting role. If Dravid had got 20 runs more, the romance around his performance would increase considerably and maybe history would remember this differently. But the facts are – coming in to bat at 232 for 4 (as the last recognized batsman) a demotion for the first time in his career from no. 3 to no. 6 (after a laboured 25 in the first innings) – an international cricket life on the line. 42 runs from making Australia bat again, on a good pitch that shows no sign of breaking up.

With just one ball separating two highly disparate destinies – through this fragile reality Dravid resumes his innings on 14th March 2001, on his overnight score of 7, hoping his partner, though well-set on 109, is not satiated yet (a quintessential Indian shortcoming). About 7 hours and 335 runs later, the duo is still not separated – India 315 runs ahead, and visions of victory entering incredulous Indian consciousness. India would go on to win (thanks to Harbhajan Singh) in the last day – which, of course, gave the match its legendary status and these two batting performances their high impact. How could it have been otherwise – can life, even in all its indifference, deny any moment such a high degree of poetry?

3. R Dravid233 & 72 not out  v Australia, Adelaide 2003

Match Batting IMPACT – 7.67

Brief Scores: Aus 556 & 196, Ind 523 & 233/6 – India won by 4 wickets, Series Drawn 1-1

Innings

Runs Tally

Innings Start

Pressure

Strike Rate

Partnership Building

Innings IMPACT

1st

2.38

 

0.97

 

0.21

3.56

2nd

1.59

 

 

 

0.18

4.11

A rare momentum-changing performance that changed the way the series would be fought (even losing the next Test did not affect that, as the last Test in the series proved).

The most interesting thing about this performance is that Dravid’s 233 (made in reply to Australia’s 556) actually had a slightly lower impact than his fourth innings unbeaten knock of 72. It seems staggering at first, when you look at the circumstances of the first innings – handling a mini-collapse when it had become 85 for 4 at one point (thus handling considerable pressure).

Adding 303 runs with Laxman, then 135 more runs with the rest. Making the highest individual score overseas by an India – yes, he did all that, but the context of the match tells the full story. The first half of the match yielded 1079 runs (of which he scored 233; Ponting made 242; Laxman 148; Katich 75; even Gillespie made 48 – indicative of the runs in the pitch), the second half of the match yielded 429 (of which he scored 72; no-one crossed 50 – indicative of how conditions had changed and run-making had become difficult) – just 6% more proportionately in the first innings.

This was overtaken by the value of making the 72 in a substantial fourth innings chase (the rare occurrence that often defines legacies), even though no pressure came through the falling of quick wickets (though they kept falling in regular intervals after a strong foundation had been set) - Dravid himself played a big part with his calm presence – there was no panic; he kept the innings together. He would later say his fierce motivation was the desperation to avoid the so-near-yet-so-far heartbreak he and his team had experienced a few times in the recent past.

Fact is – that unbeaten 72 would have had a classic status in Indian cricket history, even if Dravid had scored a duck in the first innings. The reverse may not have been true because India probably wouldn’t have won the Test otherwise. A good example of how circumstances and context have a big say in the calculation of impact.


4. Nawab of Pataudi jnr 86 & 53 v Australia, Bombay 1964

Match Batting IMPACT – 5.80

Brief Scores: Aus 320 & 274, Ind 341 & 256/8 – India won by 4 wickets, Series Drawn 1-1

Innings

Runs Tally

Innings Start

Pressure

Strike Rate

Partnership Building

Innings IMPACT

1st

1.43

 

0.54

 

0.11

2.08

2nd

1.05

 

0.71

 

0.10

3.72

A classic from the 1960s – when a 23-year-old prince (and India’s youngest-ever captain till date) led India, in every sense of the word, to a memorable win after being 0-1 down in the series. India was lucky that, shortly after the start of the match, Australian batsman Norman O’Neil withdrew with stomach problems and took no further part in the match. But even then, Australia put up 320 and had India at 149 for 4 when the one-eyed prince walked out.

There wasn’t much batting to follow but high class Test batting for over three and a half hours took the score to 293 until Pataudi Jr was out for a heroic 86. A rejuvenated India added almost 40 more but Australia came back strongly in the second innings and set India 254 to win – a very high ask in that era. Thanks to night-watchman Surti, the Nawab came out even later than the first innings (many experts feel he should have batted at no. 4 all his life), at 113 for 5, which shortly became 122 for 6.

For the second time in the match, Pataudi took charge (this time with Vijay Manjrekar, who also came out late) and brought stability that seemed occidental in its assuredness – which would eventually be Pataudi Jr’s greatest contribution to Indian cricket. He was out 30 runs from the target though; Chandu Borde’s unbeaten 30 ensured none of this was in vain. 42,000 people watched the match, which ended half-an-hour before close – and gave India its most memorable Test win of that era. It was particularly significant because, due to the next rain-affected Test, this victory gave India its first-ever drawn series against Australia.


5. GR Vishwanath 114 & 30 v Australia, Melbourne 1981

Match Batting IMPACT – 4.24

Brief Scores: Ind 237 & 324, Aus 419 & 83 – India won by 59 runs, Series Drawn 1-1

 

Innings

Runs Tally

Innings Start

Pressure

Strike Rate

Partnership Building

Innings IMPACT

1st

1.91

0.14

1.14

 

0.16

3.35

2nd

0.81

 

 

 

0.08

0.89

0-1 in the series, one Test match to go, India’s last chance to make something out of a series that at least had yielded Sandeep Patil as a major find. India’s batting heroes Gavaskar and Vishwanath had been in indifferent form, and in much the same vein, India were 22 for 2 when Vishwanath walked out to bat within the first hour of the match. Soon it was 43 for 3, 99 for 5, 115 for 6.

But India’s most aesthetic batsman had also proved in the past that could also be the most substantial – and his thrilling exhibition of square cuts, flicks, drives and nudges, all cajoled by eminently insurable wrists, put runs on the board and the colour back on Indian cheeks. Supported first by Patil, then by Kirmani and Shivlal Yadav, Vishawanath was ninth out at 230 for almost half those runs. India’s total was surpassed easily by Australia, and India fought hard in the second innings with Gavaskar finding form in the second innings.

When he was wrongly given out at 70, “temporary insanity” (his own words) led Gavaskar to stage a walk-out in the match (he famously physically pushed opening partner Chauhan to walk out with him, till the cooler head of manager SK Durrani prevailed. Test cricket history owes him – as the match gradually became a classic. India fought on to make 324 (Vishwanath made 30 of those) and left Australia a seemingly trivial 143 to make.

But the pitch, which had been showing signs of breaking, came into the fore dramatically, as Australia were reduced to 24 for 3 by close (Greg Chappell’s dismissal a loud alarm bell that just wouldn’t go off). Kapil Dev, who had been injured in the course of the match, came back on the last day despite not being fully fit, bowled non-stop, and took 5 for 28 to give India a famous win. It was India’s first-ever drawn series in Australia.

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