Harbhajan Singh is known to be Australia’s nemesis and it was the Kangaroos’ tour in 2001 that kickstarted the career of the Turbanator. He was young, exuberant and dynamic and was oblivious of who he was bowling to and it struck gold for him.
On this day in 2001, Harbhajan scampered to become the first Indian to register a hat-trick in Test cricket when he bagged the feat in the second Test of the series at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Back in those days, the Australians were world beaters and carried with them an aura of invincibility, beating opponents black and blue irrespective of the venue and nature of wickets. However, come this day in 2001, that aura was set for a cruel shattering as an Indian off-spinner cooked up a storm in Kolkata
17 years down the line, Harbhajan might have gone out of the radar, but his imprints are too profound to fade away in the future. We roll back the years as we hand-picked five intriguing moments from the arguably the greatest Test match in Indian cricket history.
#1 Australia carried forward the momentum from Mumbai
After mauling India in the first Test at Mumbai, the Aussies were on a rampage at the Eden Gardens. Matthew Hayden, after a scorching ton at the Wankhede, replicated the same form as he carted the Indian attack, stranding the Indian bowlers who were struggling for ideas.
Michael Slater enacted the role of an apt foil, as he tied down the Indians with some buoyant batting. Slater was eventually dismissed for 42 runs, but with a 103 run opening stand, he had helped craft a smooth platform for the Australian batsmen to take off.
Justin Langer, Hayden’s next partner, outscored the big man by scoring at a fair clip of approximately four runs per over. In a partnership of 90 runs, Hayden was the subdued partner while Langer kept on peppering the boundary ropes to score 58 runs. Australia, after the 53rd over, were cruising along with 193 runs with another massive score on the cards.
#2 The collapse
Unquestionably, this was the phase of play that injected assurance in the Indian camp to storm back into the contest. From 193/1, the Kangaroos slumped to 269/8 within a space of 25 overs, which was pretty unusual for the all-dominating Australian team.
Amidst the hara-kiri by the Aussie batsmen, a young, enthusiastic Indian off-spinner took giant strides in the world of cricket. Australia, from being a dominant force, turned submissive to the Turbanator and gifted Harbhajan and Indian cricket their first hat-trick in Test cricket.
Ricky Ponting was trapped plumb in front after which Adam Gilchrist bit the dust to a similar dismissal to the spinner from Punjab. And then Shane Warne trotted forward to inside-edge a delivery into the palms of Sadagopan Ramesh, standing at short-leg. The decision went upstairs, but it was nothing, but delaying the inevitable as Harbhajan entered the record books.
#3 Steve Waugh stands tall
While Harbhajan was crafting India’s glorious turnaround, one man weathered every storm to stay put in the crease. Steve Waugh didn’t only muster his 25th Test ton but also ensured that Australia recovered from the slump to register a healthy total in their first innings.
The innings might not have been a flamboyant one but was astute enough to fetch Steve Waugh a Test ton in the trying sub-continent conditions. The Aussie skipper came in at the fall of the third wicket and carried on till the fall of the final wicket when he turned into another victim to Bhajji.
The ninth and tenth wicket stands fetched 133 and 43 runs respectively, which had pulled things back for the visitors. Steve Waugh, in the process, surpassed Javed Miandad on the list of top run-getters in Test cricket as the Australian skipper displayed why he was deemed to be their mainstay in the batting order.
#4 The partnership that redefined following on
After Australia piled on 445 runs, India were bundled out for 171 runs courtesy of an all-round show by the Kangaroos’ bowlers. Glenn McGrath was the wrecker-in-chief with four wickets while Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Shane Warne shared two wickets each.
Following on by 274 runs, India lost four wickets for 232 runs and were in danger of not only crashing to a defeat but also handing Australia an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. Nonetheless, the day had something stupendous in store for the cricketing globe.
V.V.S Laxman and Rahul Dravid, with a stand of 376 from 100 overs, not only pulled India from the pits but also ensured that India were in with a chance of pulling off a miraculous victory. Nine bowlers were used by Australia, but all in despair as Laxman and Dravid kept smashing the ball and turning over the strike. The fourth day of the Test saw the unthinkable as Laxman and Dravid batted the whole day as the World Champions’ spirit began to crumble.
#1 End of a glorious streak
After Dravid and Laxman’s heroics, Australia was set a target of 384 on the last day of the Test. With Australia’s performance in overseas Tests and with the kind of form their batsmen were in, the target wasn’t one that you would put beyond the realms of reality for the Kangaroos to chase down.
The start for the Aussies was a promising one as Matthew Hayden and Michael Slater stitched together yet another half-century stand after which Justin Langer played a quick-fire cameo of 28 runs from 21 balls. And even after Ponting was sent home cheaply, Steve Waugh’s assured hands combined with Hayden as Australia looked to be cruising at 166/3. A draw was on the horizon and with that, Australia would also have ensured the retention of the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Thunder, however, struck at the wrong time for the Aussies and their next six wickets were wounded up for just 25 runs, leaving them at 191/9. 212 runs is what all they could muster as they fell by 171 runs short, therefore halting their record-breaking winning streak of 16 Tests.
Harbhajan returned up to the occasion again with a six-wicket haul, ripping through the visitors' batting line-up in a hurry. Meanwhile, Sachin Tendulkar- the man with the golden arm- rolled his arms over for three priceless wickets.