“We remember not the scores and the results in after years; it is the men who remain in our minds, in our imagination.”
– Neville Cardus
More often than not in Test cricket, there’s a draw; and a result only if one team plays good enough. However, a tie is what exactly happened 28 years ago on this date: a historic “Tied Test” at Chennai, in the match between India and Australia. It was only the second tied test in the glittering history of Test cricket, studded with nerve-racking finishes and thrills comparable to that in an Alfred Hitchcock classic. For the record, the first Tied test was played between Australia and West Indies in 1960, setting a benchmark for exciting Test matches.
The historic Test match began on 18th September, 1986. Australia won the toss and chose to bat first, and riding high on a Dean Jones double ton (scoring 210, he was rushed to the hospital for treating dehydration after the end of the innings), declared for a huge total of 574 for the loss of 7 wickets only. Allan Border and David Boon also chipped in quite substantially, scoring 106 and 122 runs respectively.
In reply, India began briskly with their flamboyant opener Kris Srikkanth reaching 53 runs in just 62 balls. However, the hiccups began as India lost their way, before being rescued incredibly by their enigmatic skipper Kapil Dev. In his inimitable fashion, he scored 119 runs in just 138 balls, before being caught by Australian captain Allan Border off Greg Matthews’ bowling. India finished their reply with 397 runs, thus conceding a worrying deficit of 177 runs and narrowly avoiding the follow-on.
The Aussies backed up their massive total in the 1st innings with a respectable 170 runs for the fall of 5 wickets at the end of the 4th day, and declared on their overnight score the next day. Boon contributed yet again with a handy 49. Entering the final day of the Test match, it meant that India had to score 348 runs to win the Test match in one day only. The Aussies were clearly in the driving seat.
India started their chase very positively, with Srikkanth once again racing to 39 runs before falling to Matthews. The legendary Sunil Gavaskar, making his 100th Test match appearance, put behind his woes in the first innings to steer India to a good-looking 94 runs (only losing Srikkanth’s wicket) by lunch. After lunch, Mohinder Amarnath and Sunil Gavaskar put their experience to great use as they made a valuable partnership of 103 runs, before Amarnath fell for 51 runs. The scoreboard read: India 158 for 2: still needing 190 runs to win the match.
By tea, India were 193 for 2; requiring 155 runs in the last 30 overs (at more than 5 runs per over) to complete a famous chase. Moments after tea, lightning struck the Indian dressing-room: Gavaskar fell for a superb 90 runs, with India still 144 runs adrift of their massive target.
All was not lost for India yet, as Mohammad Azharuddin and Chandrakant Pandit kept on playing sensible cricket. As time went by, India crept closer and closer to the magic tally of 348. After Azhar fell for 42 runs, out came the hero of the first innings: the skipper, retracing his steps back to the pavilion scoring only 1 run. The next man in was Ravi Shastri, who with Pandit, kept the board ticking. Pandit was the next man to depart, with India still needing 57 runs to win.
It was Ravi Shastri all along after that; with wickets falling all around him, he kept his nerve and hit two sixes off Matthews. When the last man Maninder Singh came out to bat, India were 344 for 9 and needed just 4 more runs! It all came down to the last over of the day: India requiring 4 runs to win off 6 balls. Ravi Shastri was on strike, and Matthews was the one to bowl the last legendary over.
The first ball was a dot: India required 4 off 5 balls. The second ball calmed Indian nerves as Shastri took 2 quick runs, reducing the trail to just 2. The next ball saw Shastri doing the sure: taking the one run and levelling scores, putting Singh on strike. Hearts pounded as Singh successfully defended the next ball, leaving India to get just that one run with 2 balls remaining. However, the Australians sighed relief as Maninder Singh was out, leg before wicket the next ball; the match resulting in a historic tie!
It was one of the most thrilling finishes Test cricket gave birth to at that time: it still is. Whenever the ones who recall “that” Test in 1986, they get shivers all over again. Test Cricket, it seems, is all alive and well with results like these being panned out.