Exactly a year ago, the Indian team created history by breaching the Australian fortress, Gabba, which was undefeated for 32 long years. A team full of youngsters, with the most experienced players either injured or on leave, defeated the full strength Australian squad one of the finest test matches ever played in the history of the game. The nail-biting test match full of the thrill was eventually hailed as one of the best test matches to have ever played.
The entire series was a treat for the fans, and it added to the beauty of the longest format of the game. The first match was a match to forget for Men in Blue, when they were bundled out for a mere 36 runs, creating an unwanted record of the lowest total for their team ever. What made the matters worse was, India's match-winner and the best batsman in the world Virat Kohli was supposed to leave back home post the first match. Furthermore, India's spearhead Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out of the tour due to injury. After the humiliating loss, India had to proceed in the series without their best batter and best bowler.
And boy, they did it in style. In one of the finest tales of resurrection, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane led the team from front scoring a magnificent century at MCG, and Men in Blue levelled the series answering the critics who expected them to get white washed 4-0. They followed it by pulling out an almost impossible looking draw at SCG, when Ravichandran Ashwin and the both severely injured, batted for 250 balls to result in a draw. It was in this match when Australian skipper Tim Paine gave a challenge to Ashwin saying "Come to Gabba, Ash".
And the entire Indian team accomplished the challenge in style. With only 3 experienced members of the test team, the task was difficult. But the remaining 8 youngsters displayed immense fighting spirit and helped the team to its victory, making Ajinkya Rahane the only captain to beat Australia at the Gabba in 33 years.
Batting first, Australia posted a good total of 369 runs, courtesy a century by Marnus Labuschagne, half-century by skipper Paine and valuable contributions by Steve Smith, Green, Wade. For India, it was the three debutants Shardul Thakur, Natarajan and Sundar who scalped 3 wickets each. The bowling lineup of India was so inexperienced, that the overall matches test played by all the bowlers combined was lesser than each of the Aussie bowlers. It was evident from the fact that Mohammad Siraj, who was just playing his 3rd test, was leading the pace attack. Yet the inexperienced team did a good job to restrict Aussie to 369.
It was now the batters turn to put on a good score. There were some handy knocks from Rohit, Rahane, Pujara, but India was in trouble with 6 down for a mere 186 runs. It was at this time, when the two debutants , Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar launched an attack on experienced Aussie bowlers. With former scoring 67 and later 62, both hit their maiden half-centuries and stitched a crucial partnership of 123 runs. Both of them displayed their array of shots, particularly Thakur impressing everyone with his cover drive and square cuts. Resultant of their resistance, India posted a total of 336 runs.
The Aussies in the second innings were bundled for 294. For India, Mohammad Siraj registered his first five-for in tests, an emotional one for him whose father had passed away 3 weeks ago. Apart from Siraj, it was Thakur yet again, who scalped 4 crucial wickets. Australia set a target of 328 runs at their fortress, where the previous highest successful chase was 236 runs. To set a new record, India started, but only after the first over, when India was at 4/0 the rain gods showed their existence.
With still a probable chance of rain on the 5th day, India required 324 runs to create history. A billion people woke up at 4:30 in the morning to witness history in the making. Fortunately, with rain gods showing mercy, Indian batting started. Everyone was making assumptions whether Indians will go for a victory, or would try to save the match for a draw. But showing no mercy on the Aussie bowlers, Shubhman Gill showed what the Indians were playing for. It was a battle between a youngster and the experienced line-up of Starc, Hazelwood and Cummins. He eventually fell 9 runs short of a well-deserving century, but he had done the job for his team.
When Hazelwood and Cummins started to breathe fire with the old ball, the modern Wall of Indian, Cheteshwar Pujara stood like a rock on the crease. Along with the skipper Rahane, the experienced duo held the crease for some time before Rahane fell. But Pujara was rock solid on one end. It almost looked impossible to get this man out. When the Aussie bowlers targetted Indian batters on the backfoot with the short bowl, Pujara courageously took blows on his body, to save his wicket. His act of bravery was lauded by critics and the experts of the game.
He was joined by Rishabh Pant, who played his natural game. Every single cricket fan enjoyed the duo of ice and fire in the form of Pujara and Pant playing together to create history. The beauty of test cricket was to see Pujara defend the ball, and Pant sending the ball in stands at the same time in the crease. After playing a vital inning of 56, Pujara received applause when he was dismissed and was travelling back to the pavilion. Then joined Mayank Agarwal, who used his opening experience to play the new ball after 80 overs. Mayank fell but played cautiously to remove the shine of the ball.
At the point where all three results seemed possible, Sundar joined Pant. The two left-handers were on the crease with a required run rate of around 6 in the remaining 11 overs. When they slowed down a little bit, it looked like the match would probably result in a draw. But when 42 were required off 36 balls, a classic 'Nataraj shot' by Sundar off a short ball Mitchell Starc brought India back in the game. He followed it by a boundary, putting additional pressure on the Aussies. But Sundar's wicket brought a ray of hope for Aussies, which was denied by the heroics of Rishabh Pant, who smashed boundaries and comfortably sealed the historic win for India breaching the Australian fortress for the first time after 1989.
Australia didn't just lose the match, it was their ego at Gabba that was broken. A young India, without the senior players, achieved created history and achieved a feat that no other teams did. The calm and composed Ajinkya Rahane led to a triumph over the aggressive Aussies. With the match, India won the Border-Gavaskar series consecutively for the second time on Australian soil.
Resurrecting from 36 all out in Adelaide, Ajinkya Rahane's India rose like Pheonix from the ashes and conquered Australia. The victory was special, but more special was the contribution of youngsters like Gill, Pant, Thakur, Natrajan, Siraj, Vihari and others. The fighting spirit displayed by Indians was commendable, it made a way for other teams to believe that a win in Australia is possible. The entire series was a treat to the fans. A well-fought series, with both the teams playing their heart out, was called "The ultimate test series". The series was an example of leadership, resurrection and fighting spirit. This is why the breach at Gabba will always be written in golden words in the history of Men in Blue as well as test cricket.
Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)
Instagram ID: https://www.instagram.com/cricket_creativity/
As a tribute to team India, the author has made a poem on Gabb breach in the Marathi language. Please check the poem here 👇🏻