India vs Australia: when Sourav Ganguly tamed Australia in his Gabba fortress

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India had arrived in Australia for the 2003/04 still being the tag “Tigers at Home and Lambs Abroad”. In 2002, they had done a lot to dispel the idea that they were only strong at home after drawing a series in England. When they came to Australia the situation was different. Australia were world champions and India had not won a Test against them since 1981 and an ODI in their lair since 1991. The odds were strongly against the Indian cricket team. To top it off, the first test took place in the Australian fortress of Brisbane where they had not lost a test match in the past 15 years.

Steve Waugh longed for revenge after his 16-game winning streak was stopped in a landmark series in India in 2001 and it was the exploits of VVS Laxman and Harbhajan Singh that helped India win the series 2-1 after have lost 0-1. Australia got off to a flying start with Justin Langer scoring a century after being overtaken by Aakash Chopra off Ashish Nehra.

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Langer managed a century but Zaheer Khan stole the show with 5/75 as Australia was eliminated for 323. In response India faltered at 62/3 with Jason Gillespie getting the big wickets from Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in a controversial way thanks to a mistake by referee Steve Bucknor.

Ganguly in the foreground

Sourav Ganguly came with a lot of stakes for India. On his previous tour of Australia in 1991/92, Ganguly did not start his career well and he did not return to the Indian cricket team for five years. Here Ganguly was the captain and he knew he had to make a statement if India was not to be beaten by Australia.

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Deploying magnificent practices and cut shots against an Australian attack without Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne but nonetheless powerful, Ganguly flared up to glory at Gabba. Ganguly found great support in VVS Laxman and their stand of 146 races helped India move closer to Australia’s total. Laxman fell for 75 but Sourav Ganguly kept going and when he pushed Stuart MacGill to a limit he hit his century and the celebrations were magnificent. He eventually fell to 144 as India took an 86 point lead.

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Sourav Ganguly had looked Australia in the eye and just like 2001, he decided to dictate the series on his own terms. The rain spoiled what would have been an intriguing game but India had made a statement. In the next test in Adelaide, India broke 22 years of pain by winning the test by four wickets thanks to Rahul Dravid’s 233 and 72 *. Although they lost the Melbourne Test from a winning position, India had Australia on the ropes in Sydney thanks to Sachin Tendulkar’s brilliant 241s and Anil Kumble’s 12 wickets. Australia held on for a draw and the series was level 1-1. It was the best time for the team at that time and the foundations of India’s fearless cricket were laid in Brisbane when Ganguly hit a century.

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