It never fails. At this time every year, I go off on a trip down memory lane. Every anniversary of Tied Test II has me soaked in nostalgia as I try and recall all the dramatic events associated with a very special cricket match that I had the good fortune of seeing and the greater fortune of reporting on for the daily and the magazine I then worked for.
With the passing of every year, I fear that I will remember less and less of Tied Test II given that age does funny things to the mind. But somehow I can happily recall much of the great batting and bowling performances, the thrills and excitement that marked the fantastic denouement and even unfortunately the couple of seamy incidents.
The Brisbane Test tie of December 1960 will always have a unique place in cricket history and the cricket played by West Indies and Australia was in true sportsman's spirit. Twenty six years later, cricket was a very different sport.
Plainly put, it had more or less ceased to be a gentleman’s game but if there were great performances at the Gabba in Brisbane, this was true also of the MAC stadium in Chennai.
The cynics have tended to dismiss the thrills of Tied Test II calling the result contrived because of the two declarations that Australia made. But as one who witnessed every ball during the five hot and humid days, I can vehemently deny this.
The match had everything a well contested cricket match should have with the unusual result being the icing on the cake. And in any case if the result was contrived, how come there has not been a Tied Test III even though more than 1000 Tests have been played since then.
For the record, the tie at Brisbane occurred after some 500 Tests had been played and it took another 550 matches before Tied Test II occurred. Oh yes, Tied Test II certainly deserves its exalted status in cricket history. Let there be no doubt about that.
And yet such a dream finish obviously could not have been predicted at the start of the match – or indeed even at the start of the final day, September 22 1986. India were the favourites going into the match having just returned after a triumphant tour of England whereas Australia had been getting a pasting from almost every team as they were still rebuilding following the simultaneous retirements of Rod Marsh, Dennis Lillee and Greg Chappell in January 1984.
And yet Australia did not take long in ripping off the underdogs tag by amassing 574 for seven before declaring early on the third morning. And as the cricketing world is well aware, Dean Jones was the hero with his courageous 210 in the cauldron that was the MAC stadium, retching by the side of the crease but still continuing to bat until, totally exhausted after sticking it out for 500 minutes, he was bowled by Shivlal Yadav. A dehydrated Jones was immediately rushed to hospital for saline treatment.
India had a few anxious moments and were in danger of falling short of the follow on figure but they too had a hero in captain Kapil Dev who produced a brilliant counter-attacking knock of 119, largely in the company of the tail.
When India were out for 397 shortly after lunch on the fourth day, the match had the word `draw’ written all over it and this feeling gained momentum with Australia showing little enterprise in their second innings which saw them reach 170 for five at stumps.
The stadium was predictably sparsely populated at the start of the fifth day. Whoever would want to sit through a pointless day’s play with the match meandering towards its inescapable dull conclusion.
But when news came through that Allan Border had declared at the overnight total setting India a target of 348 in 87 overs, interest was renewed. Through the day the crowd grew larger and larger until at the end there was a near capacity stadium.
At the time it seemed a bold, adventurous declaration but the feeling was that Border had taken a bit of a risk. He lacked the bowling skills to get India out in a day but another point that was the subject of much debate was whether India had the batting strength to score at four runs an over throughout.
India however planned their innings methodically and at 190 for two at tea they required another 158 runs in 30 overs. Australia fought back with some quick wickets but India still had their noses in front at 331 for six.
However left arm spinner Ray Bright took two wickets in an over and as off spinner Greg Matthews toiled manfully in the heat and humidity sending down 40 overs without a break, it was clear by now that all four results were possible – including a sensational tie.
And that is how it ultimately ended with the spectators shouting themselves hoarse and finally happy that they had been witness to cricketing history. And when one mentions Jones and Kapil, one cannot also forget Matthews for his ten-wicket haul.
There were other heroes too but these three stood out and today 27 years later, their deeds are deeply etched in memory as much as the unbelievable finish. I remember how in the press box, veteran correspondents could not control their emotions and were up on their feet. That was the impact of Tied Test II.