An unforgettable day at Chepauk!

Last Updated: Fri, Sep 21, 2012 06:42 hrs

It never fails. Every year during the period September 18 to 22 I wander off on a trip down memory lane. It’s been going on for 25 years now as the magical match was played out in 1986. And since then at this time my mind goes back to the momentous events of Tied Test II as I try to recollect every little incident associated with the historic game.

The rarity is best brought out by the fact that around 500 matches were played before the Brisbane Test tie between Australia and West Indies in December 1960 while another 550 Tests were played before the game at Chepauk between India and Australia ended in a tie and there have been some 1000 Tests played since then and there has never been a similar result.

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I was fortunate in not only being witness to the proceedings over five extremely hot and humid days but also reporting it for the newspaper and the magazine I worked for then. In the cauldron that was the MA Chidambaram stadium heroic feats were performed and there were several twists and turns before the incredible denouement.

Australia dominated over the first three days first with the bat and then with the ball to be in a position to force a victory. India fought back on the fourth day at the end of which the word 'draw' was written all over the game. It was Allan Border’s bold overnight declaration that opened up the Test and made any of three results possible.

Indeed at first it looked like a draw was the most likely outcome before India were in a position to force a victory. Australia then came into the picture for the first time during the day with some late wickets. Finally the match produced an incredible result.

I suppose any memory of Tied Test II will have to begin with the last act. The time is 5.18 pm. Australian off spinner Greg Matthews runs in to bowl to Indian No 11 Maninder Singh. The ball is a trifle short and Maninder goes back. But the ball turns and strikes him on the pads in front of the stumps. There is a vociferous appeal and umpire Vikram Raju is quick to lift his index finger. That signal was the final act in a pulsating climax.

After this as if in a filmy flashback the mind goes back to the first morning and the first hero of the match – Dean Jones. In oppressive conditions for a visiting batsman to get a double hundred in a stay of nearly 8-1/2 hours has to constitute one of the greatest feats by any cricketer. Midway through the innings, overcome by the enervating heat, the 25-year-old Victorian right-hander started retching by the side of the crease.

But he refused to leave the crease and after receiving medical attention continued to bat. Later he was overcome by bouts of nausea and cramps but still continued to stay in the middle before he was finally out at 210. Back in the comparative cool confines of the pavilion Jones was found to be completely dehydrated and was rushed to hospital for saline treatment.

Jones then emerges as THE heroic figure of the match but can Kapil Dev be far behind? Replying to Australia’s 574 for seven declared, India were facing the ignominy of a follow on when the Indian captain entered on the third evening.

With a counter-attack only he could have scripted, Kapil Dev flayed the bowling to all parts of the ground in hitting 119 before he was last out at 397 on the fourth afternoon. By the time he was dismissed not only had the follow on been averted but to all intents and purposes the match also had been saved.

At least that’s what we all thought when we made our way to Chepauk for the final day’s play. Australia without showing much urgency had made 170 for five but Border’s unexpected declaration meant that India had to get 348 for victory in 87 overs and on the evidence of the first innings the Aussie captain’s decision did appear to have an element of risk.

The Australians did not seem to have the bowling to dismiss a strong Indian batting line-up in a day. India did have things under control with a score of 190 for two at tea with 30 overs remaining to be bowled. With eight wickets in hand 158 runs were eminently gettable but then the post-tea session provided the third hero of the game.

Greg Matthews after scoring 44 had taken five wickets in the first innings. In the second innings the off spinner bowled unchanged for 40 overs and slowly got Australia back in the match. Wickets fell at regular intervals even as runs were being scored and it was clear that the spectators were going to witness a pulsating finish. The stadium was sparsely occupied initially with the match seemingly doomed to a draw but Border’s declaration and India’s fitting reply meant that the stadium was almost filled to capacity towards the final stages.

I well remember that India were 330 for six with five overs left – a winning position. But the never-say-die spirit of the Aussies saw them claw back. Ray Bright the left-arm spinner took two wickets in one over as India slid to 334 for eight. By now it was all about battling pressure.

Shivlal Yadav was ninth out at 344 in the penultimate over and by now it was sheer bedlam. There was a distinct possibility of a sensational result – a tie! Ravi Shastri was holding one end up admirably and it was now a straight duel between him and the untiring Matthews bowling with his sleeves buttoned to his wrist and with his baggy green cap on.

By now the spectators were on their feet clapping, cheering and shouting themselves hoarse. Matthews started the last over with India needing four runs and Australia wanting one wicket. Shastri expertly controlling things scored three runs to level the scores giving Maninder the task of getting the winning run.

But Matthews keeping his cool in the unbelievably tense situation had the final say by having Maninder leg before with the fifth ball of the over for his tenth wicket of the match. It was a tie after all with both teams having scored 744 runs.

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