Test cricket is the longest and the oldest format of the game. Test cricket tests the truest skills of every player who played the gentleman's game. It is the format that, which allows a side that is on verge of losing to turn the tables at any point and emerge victoriously intently. There have been numerous instances where teams have dramatically victoriously the game on and added to the beauty of this game by winning such thrilling encounters whose results no one predicted initially. Out of many such events, one test match which stands tall amongst these in the 21St century is undoubtedly the Eden Gardens test match which happened in 2001 between India and Australia, with the former winning the match after a follow-on was enforced on them.
Follow-on is an advantage for the team which enforced it. And it is certainly predicted that the team which enforces follow-on emerger victorious. It is a challenging task to lead to a draw for the team on which a follow-on has been enforced, and has happened rarely. The phenomenon of a team winning after a follow-on enforced on them is one of the rarest ones one will come across. It had happened only twice, first in 1894 when England won by 10 runs and second in 1981 when yet again the English team won by 18 runs. However the third time world witnessed this rare phenomenon, India emerged victorious with a huge margin of 171 runs, making it special for every cricket lover.
On all intently three occasions, the Aussies were at the losing end. The 2001 heroics of India came against a strong Australian team led by Steve Waugh which had won the world cup of 1999. The team was known to break fortresses and create records. And they had the very intentiy to do the same in the Eden Gardens match too. Little did they know they would be at the receiving side of something very special in this match, which will be remembered forever.
Steve Waugh's dominant Australia put up a good total of 445 in the first innings. The skipper led the first innings by playing a captain's innings of 110. Hayden missed out on a century by 3 runs. But their contribution had posted a significant total. In reply to this, the Indian team was bundled out for a mere 171 runs. Barring VVS Laxman who scored a decent 59, none of the batters could play their role. Australia in desperation to win the game enforced a follow-on on the Indian team making matters worse for Men in Blue. India now was trailing by 274 runs, and with 10 sessions to go, it looked difficult for them to draw the match.
But there was a miracle to witness for the whole world. VVS Laxman, the lone warrior of the first innings who was wrongly given out in the first innings was promoted to number 3. And boy he justified his promotion in some style. He showed his intentions right since he came on to bat. He was in great touch and just needed support from another end. That's where "The Wall" stepped in. The duo started batting in the last few overs of 3Rd day and continued to bat till the first session of the 5th day. They batted the entire 4th day, scored 335 runs in 90 overs and took the Aussie attack to bonkers. The duo stitched a partnership of 376 runs batting for 104 overs together, miraculously turning the tables for India who now we're expecting a victory, contrary to praying for a draw before the start of Day 4.
The Aussie attack comprising of McGrath, Gillespie, Warne, Kasprowicz, Mark Waugh was brutally destroyed by the two very very special players. The Aussies desperate to get a wicket handed the bowl even to Ponting, Langer and Hayden in search of one wrong shot from the two batters, which didn't come soon. On the 5th day, Laxman missed out on a well deserved triple century, but he registered the then highest individual score of 281 runs for India, and the time it came for the team was very very special. Rahul Dravid played a sensational knock of 180 runs, playing his role to more than perfection before getting run out. Finally, India declared the innings on a huge total of 657/7, setting a target of 384 for the Aussies to chase in 75 overs.
The magic of Indian innings was such, that a test match saw a full packed Eden Gardens. The fans were hoping for an Indian victory. To dismiss mighty Aussies in a span of 75 overs was a challenge, but India accepted it. With the 5th day on, the turn was supposed to assist the Indian spinners and make life difficult for Australian batters. And the same happened. Harbhajan Singh ripped through the Aussie batting lineup dismissing Slater, Langer, Ponting, Waugh, Gillespie and McGrath. In the first innings too, he scalped 7 wickets which included the first-ever test hat-trick for an Indian spinner when he dismissed Ponting, Gilchrist and Warne on consecutive balls. With the figures of 13 wickets in the match, he was the hero with the ball.
On the other hand, the God of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, who couldn't do much with the bat, did his trick with his leg-spin. The famous conversation where he asked to give the ball to Sourav Ganguly, and Ganguly allowed him only one over is known by the fans. But Sachin didn't take much time, as he caught dangerous Gilchrist plumb on the very first ball he played. Gilchrist registered the king's pair in the historic match. Furthermore, Sachin dismissed the lone Aussie warrior Hayden with a magic ball. These two breakthroughs enhanced hopes of an Indian victory. Sachin then trapped Warne with his spin, and Harbhajan put the final nail in the Aussie coffin dismissing McGrath sealing the win for India.
The Eden crowd erupted as they witnessed history made in front of them. India became the only team after England to win a test match after a follow-on on enforced on them. Out of the only 3 instances of it happening, the Indian victory was the most special one as it came with a huge margin of 171 runs. Australia with a very heavy heart had to accept the defeat. The Aussie ego of the best team was crushed in the match due to the unbelievable performance of Laxman, Dravid and Harbhajan.
The match changed the fortunes of Indian cricket as it gave India the courage to fight till the end and go for a victory. It inspired generations of cricketers who would go on to represent the country and make a mark in international cricket. World cricket was blessed to witness the test match. Cricket Gods would be extremely proud of seeing the two best teams playing their heart out with one of them emerging victorious in the most unpredicted manner. Today, 21 years after the incident, recalling the test match gives goosebumps to the strongest of the people. Many victories for many teams came thereafter, but this Eden Gardens miracle would always be the most special for Indian fans.
Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)
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