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It was a rare and timeless thriller

Vijay Lokapally &
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CRICKET / Lead players look back on the 25th anniversary of the second Tied Test

MOMENT FROZEN IN HISTORY: Vikramraju adjudging India's Maninder Singh leg-before to Australian Greg Matthews (left) saw M.A. Chidambaram Stadium enter the record books in 1986 for being only the second ground to host a Tie in Test cricket. The others in the picture are (from left) Allan Border, Tim Zoehrer, Geoff Marsh and Ravi Shastri. — PHOTO: Mala Mukerjee/The Hindu Photo Archives
MOMENT FROZEN IN HISTORY: Vikramraju adjudging India's Maninder Singh leg-before to Australian Greg Matthews (left) saw M.A. Chidambaram Stadium enter the record books in 1986 for being only the second ground to host a Tie in Test cricket. The others in the picture are (from left) Allan Border, Tim Zoehrer, Geoff Marsh and Ravi Shastri. — PHOTO: Mala Mukerjee/The Hindu Photo Archives

On September 22, 1986, the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium at Chepauk was an enthralling arena. Hot and energy-sapping but so very close to every true cricket lover's heart as India and Australia — two pleasingly positive and fiercely competitive teams — produced a classic, timeless thriller that followed a taut script that was unique in many ways. 

Credit to captains

All credit to skippers Kapil Dev and Allan Border, who enacted crucial roles while orchestrating a rare finish — a tie, only the second after the Australia and West Indies epic at Brisbane in 1960.

Australia made two declarations and yet came excruciatingly close to losing. India stood on the threshold of a victory that was not to be.

Batsmen thrived, bowlers shone and the umpires stood out under intense pressure. It was an acid test of endurance and concentration for every participant, including the spectators.

“The one thing that comes to my mind was that there were around 10,000 people at the start of play and after tea, (with India sensing a victory), the stands were jam-packed. The full house made it look as though a one-day match was on,” recalls Ravi Shastri, who was there at the end.

Differing views

“What a phenomenal day of cricket it was! In the final over, I wondered ‘do I take a chance with a six?' I thought if I took a single, I would shut Australia out of the game. I told Maninder (Singh) to tackle the (fourth and fifth) balls carefully and (if it came to it) whack the last one. 

“We could have won it; we could have lost it. At the end, it was a fair result,” says Shastri, who stood devastated as last man Maninder Singh fell leg-before to Greg Matthews. Though both the Indians still believe that there was nick, umpire V. Vikramraju thinks otherwise. 

“Most courageous umpire to give that decision,” 10-wicket hero Matthews had commented then. He was right, but Vikramraju never officiated another Test.

Earlier, a diligently-crafted double century by Dean Jones, who battled hostile weather and overcame dehydration, was matched by a scintillating hundred by Kapil as India avoided a follow-on. “It was one of those days when you connect well,” reflects Kapil.

“What comes to my mind is the brilliant innings that Kapil played and the effort of Jones in conditions that were unfamiliar to him. Twenty-five years have flown and it is still the second Tied Test in the history of cricket,” notes Sunil Gavaskar, one of the key actors in that celebrated drama.

Gavaskar, playing his 100th Test in a row, missed a century by 10 runs on the final day when India, following an overnight declaration, pursued 348 to win in minimum 87 overs. 

Gavaskar remembers: “There were mixed feelings in the dressing room after the match because we thought we should have won. There was no relief about not having lost the match. It was more about disappointment at not winning. It was a historical game. A win or a loss would have been just another win or a loss in the books…”

Writes Border in his autobiography: “It remains one of my great disappointments that the game has never achieved the same recognition as did the first Tied Test.”

For Australian coach Bob Simpson, the result was doubly special as he had played in the first tied Test.

 Feast for fans

For many fans, who were at the MAC on that unforgettable evening, it remains a rare treat. T.K. Balaji, now a successful professional with an MNC, vividly remembers the last over. “We were all praying for an Indian win. When the fateful lbw was given, I was bewildered for an instant but then realised I had become part of cricketing history.” The counterfoil of the ticket for Test match No. 1,052 is a cherished souvenir for the die-hard fan.

The scores: Australia 574 for seven decl. (Dean Jones 210, David Boon 122, Allan Border 106, Shivlal Yadav four for 142) and 170 for five decl. (David Boon 49, Maninder Singh three for 60)  tied with India 397 (Kapil Dev 119, Ravi Shastri 62, K. Srikkanth 53, Mohd Azharuddin 50, Greg Matthews five for 103) and 347 (Sunil Gavaskar 90, Mohinder Amarnath 51, Ravi Shastri 48 not out, Greg Matthews five for 146, Ray Bright five for 94).

Players of the match: Jones and Kapil .

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