A very very special fairy tale

India v Australia, 2nd Test, 2001, Kolkata

Sportz Interactive


When: March 11-15, 2001
Where: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
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The very simplest way of defining the match was that it was a ‘miraculous vitality that occurs once an era’. Many cricket historians and journalists went on to tout the match as the ‘greatest they had ever seen,’ purely, on the basis of the vivid script that unfolded. 


India went into the Test with more predicaments than answers:-

  • Batting firepower: Tendulkar was the only batsman who looked at ease in the previous Test at Wankhede Stadium. India lost the Mumbai Test by 10 wickets.
  • Inexperienced bowlers: Prasad and Raju had lost rhythm. Kumble, Srinath were injured. Zaheer was playing in only his third Test and Harbhajan in his tenth.
  • Opening woes: Ramesh and Das were put under the scanner.
  • Australia was overjoyed after having India to follow on in the first innings, coming off a fabulous 16 consecutive Test victories, including the convincing win in Mumbai.

    The verdict was out – it was going to take an epic effort from the hosts to cause a stumble in the Aussie juggernaut. The visitors had held the match by the neckline after Day 2. Steve Waugh inspired his team to a competitive first-innings total of 445, after it had lurched to 252/7 at one juncture, courtesy of a record hat-trick from the ‘turbanator’.

    "I just wish my father Sardev Singh was here today. He passed away six months back. He would have really felt proud about my performance," Harbhajan said after the feat.

    The Indian reply was a dismal one – shot out to 171 all out – the chief destroyer being the miserly McGrath, who ended with figures of 4/18. VVS Laxman with a fluent knock of 59 was the only Indian who could hold a candle against the fiery Australians amidst a capacity crowd at the Eden Gardens, who were shattered by the proceedings.

    Conceding a first-innings lead of 274 runs, the Ganguly-led outfit was asked to follow on by Steve Waugh – an antagonistic move that all but guaranteed the 17th win. There were heated words exchanged prior to the Test between the two ‘old school’ captains, with Waugh accusing his opposite number of being someone who ‘lacked discipline’.

    The Indian second innings materialised courtesy of steady start from besieged openers Ramesh (39) and Das (30). The duo added 52 runs for the first-wicket until Shane Warne got the latter to nick one to the safe hands of Mark Waugh at first slip.


  • It was the final appearance on the international stage of  Nayan Mongia and ‘Muscles’ Venkatapathy Raju.
  • Aussie captain Steve Waugh’s innings of 110 was his first and solitary century on Indian soil.
  • Adam Gilchrist had played 15 Tests prior to the match and never tasted defeat. He finally did!
  • The dismissal brought Laxman to the crease, who appeared at ease, with an exhibition of gorgeous strokeplay, crossing the foremost hurdles of the marathon task in hand. Das, however, fell victim to Gillespie – leaving India at 97/2 and further trailing by 177 runs.

    There was a prolonged applause from the crowds for Sachin Tendulkar, who lasted only 26 deliviries, before ‘Dizzy’ got him to nick one to Gilchrist. India was rocked at 115/3 with a desperate need of brainwaves from captain and succeeding batsman Ganguly.

    In trademark style, the hometown hero played some dazzling srokes through the offside, bringing up a 100-run partnership for the fourth-wicket with Laxman. Just when the graceful right and left-handed mishmash was bailing India out of trouble, Waugh called upon strike bowler McGrath, who did not disappoint, claiming Ganguly caught behind to Gilchrist, leaving India at 232/4.


  • Laxman surpassed Gavaskar’s 236 to make the then highest individual score by an Indian.
  • The 376-run partnership between Laxman, Dravid was the 2nd highest by an Indian pair.
  •  Harbhajan Singh surfaced as the first Indian to claim a hat-trick  in Tests. Aged 20 years, 255 days, he became the youngest to take a 10-wicket haul against Australia.
  • Only twice before a team had won a Test match after following on and on both previous occasions it was the Australians who suffered the misery – against England at Sydney in December 1894 and at Leeds in July 1981.
  • Dravid's 180 was the highest score an Indian  at number six. 
  • Rahul Dravid, who batted at number six after heaps of Test matches, joined Laxman at the crease. The rest, as they say, is history.

    The duo went on to add 376 runs for the fifth-wicket to defy the hostility with grace, honour and most importantly, class. 

    “I played every delivery according to its merit. Dravid and I have had a lot of big partnerships in domestic cricket. So we told each other — let’s do it again.” Laxman said. 

    Steve Waugh described Laxman’s epic innings as "some of the best batting I have ever seen". Laxman and Dravid’s ‘pleasing to the eye’ batting constructed daunting target of 384 for the visitors on the last day. India amassed 657/7 decl. in their second innings.
    It had been a protracted time since an Indian took the attack to the opposition in such a strident style. Warne continued to struggle and ended with figures of 1/152.

    The Final Day 

    After batting out the entire fourth day, Laxman was finally dismissed on Day 5, while slashing hard at a short and wide delivery from Glenn McGrath, only to be pounced by Ricky Ponting at gully. 

    The Hyderabad batsman crafted his innings in over ten and a half hours. He struck 44 boundaries but did not manage a sixer. Soon after, Rahul Dravid was run out in a bid to push the scoring rate. The solid batsman batted for 444 minutes and smashed 21 fours.

    The Indian declaration came after 178 overs with the overall lead at 383 runs. It was purely a case of Australia batting out two sessions to go into Chennai with a 1-0 lead. 


    © AFP

    VVS Laxman (59 & 281)
    The stylish batsman steered India from a ‘down in the dumps’ position into one of ascendancy. Also, he scored his runs on a crumbling pitch. 

    First innings: 59 runs (83 balls, 12 fours, 122 minutes)
    Second innings: 281 runs (452 balls, 44 fours, 631 minutes) 

    Affirmative start

    Hayden and Slater continued from where they had left off in the first innings, counterattacking the unproven Zaheer and fagged out Prasad with ascendancy. The duo guided the team to 74/0 until Harbhajan got into the act – getting Slater to nick one to Ganguly.

    Mark Waugh, the stylish middle-order batsman was trapped plumb in front by an arm ball from left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju before he could get off the mark. With Justin Langer having left earlier, the Australians were 116/3 and the Indians began to sense a window of opportunity. Although, Hayden completed a half-century and held one end.

    The influential southpaw was joined by Steve Waugh – the duo added 50 runs for the fourth-wicket to ignite hopes of saving the Test match.

    Turbanator charm

    Playing in only his 10th Test match, deprived of Kumble tweaking the ball at the other end, Harbhajan asserted the headband of the primary spinner with both hands.

    Going into tea at 161/3, the visiting outfit looked good to save the Test, although, Harbhajan had other plans, as he snapped the Australian captain and Ricky Ponting in the space of 4 deliveries.

    Attempting an awkward sweep shot, Ponting presented Das with a simple catch at forward short leg. From 166/3 Australia slumped to 174/8, losing five wickets in a 32-ball period that yielded just eight runs. Hayden played all over a Tendulkar full toss and was adjudged LBW. Soon after which the Indian batting maestro had Warne trapped in front as well.

    When McGrath shouldered arms to Harbhajan and umpire SK Bansal's finger went up for the fifth time in the day, it was all over. Scuttling Australia for 212, India had won by 171 runs. 

    Harbhajan captured 6/73 in the second innings and finished with overall mtch figures of 13/196. He triggered what went on to façade as one of Indian cricket’s finest hours. 

    The Aussie juggernaut of 1999-2001 was history!

    © AFP
    Ganguly and the 'gang' are thrilled a blitz

    Brief Summary
    Australia 445 (S Waugh 110, Hayden 97, Harbhajan 7/123) & 212 (Hayden 67,  Harbhajan 6/73, Tendulkar 3/31); India 171 (Laxman 59, McGrath 4/18) & 657 (Laxman 281, Dravid 180, McGrath 3/103)

    Relive the magic

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    Key performers - Profiles

    | VVS Laxman | Matthew Hayden | Harbhajan Singh | Rahul Dravid |