The moment will forever be etched in the history of Indian cricket. Rishabh Pant drives a full ball from Josh Hazlewood to the long-off fence. The boundary seals a golden moment in the history of Indian cricket. For 33 years, Australia had decimated and intimidated opponents in their fortress of the Gabba in Brisbane. Pace, bounce and swing were the three factors on which opposition batsmen would be intimidated. Now, on January 19, 2021, the Fortress was breached. The Indian cricket team, inexperienced in all facets against Australia, pulled off one of the greatest wins in history.
On paper, it should have been a no-contest right from the beginning. The taunts of 36 all out from Adelaide had still not vanished despite India winning the Boxing Day Test in Grand style. India survived in Sydney thanks to the grittiness of the lower middle order. Heading into the Brisbane Test, India was basically fielding a ‘B’ team. Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihari, and Ravichandran Ashwin were ruled out due to injuries. Already, India were without Virat Kohli ever since Adelaide.
In comparison, Australia fielded an unchanged 11. Their bowlers had thousands of overs of experience. The combined match experience of the Australia team was four times more than India. But, in a brilliant exhibition of talent depth, and fearlessness, India turned the tables on Australia in a spectacular fashion.
T Natarajan and Washington Sundar made their debuts as Australia opted to bat. Navdeep Saini had made his debut in Sydney while Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj were two Tests old. But, the visitors started well with David Warner and Marcus Harris being dismissed cheaply. India’s injury woes mounted when Navdeep Saini pulled up with a hamstring injury.
Marnus Labuschagne hit a brilliant century and he was well supported by Matthew Wade. But, Natarajan got Labuschagne and Wade in quick succession to jolt Australia. Cameron Green and Tim Paine stitched a 98-run stand, with the Australian skipper posting a fifty. Some good contributions from Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood helped Australia reach 369.
India was in massive trouble at 186/6 when one partnership changed the course of the match. Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur stitched a brilliant 123-run stand. For impact, it was equivalent to the partnership that VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid shared in Eden Gardens 2001 worth 376. Then stand minimized the damage and India trailed by 33 runs.
Australia looked to maximize the advantage gained by the 33-run lead. The pitch was still assisting the bowlers. Marcus Harris and David Warner started brilliantly with an 89-run partnership. The game seemed lost for India. But, Australia lost wickets in bunches. Warner and Harris fell in quick succession. Labuschagne and Wade followed suit. Steve Smith hit fifty and looked to be taking the game away from India.
But, Mohammed Siraj struck again, having run through the top order. The lower-middle order contributed again and dragged Australia past 250. But, Shardul Thakur struck in quick succession and ended up with four wickets. Siraj came back and took his fifth wicket as Australia were bowled out for 294. It was a splendid performance from Siraj, who was impressive in Melbourne and Sydney. Siraj’s 5/73, combined with Thakur’s 4/61 gave India a target of 328.
India suffered a big jolt when Rohit Sharma was dismissed by Pat Cummins for 7. But, no one realized it at that time. The seeds of India’s famous wins were already sown and two youngsters led the charge along with one veteran.
Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara were in fine form on the final day of the Test. Pujara followed his usual template. He weathered the blows on his body and stood firm. His main task was to wear the Australian bowlers down. Throughout the series and since 2018/19, Pujara had made it his responsibility to ensure opposition bowlers could not run through sides.
This allowed Shubman Gill to play with much more freedom. The youngster took a liking to Mitchell Starc, whom he hammered for a couple of sixes and fours. Starc looked off-color and leaked plenty of runs as India had the advantage. Gill looked good for a century but on 91, he was dismissed by Nathan Lyon. Skipper Ajinkya Rahane slammed a quick 24 but he was stranged down the leg-side by Cummins.
This got Rishabh Pant into the equation. Pant had created a record of 10 consecutive double-digit scores in Australia. In Sydney, his blazing 97 had given India an outside chance of winning in Sydney. In the past, Pant and Pujara have often dented Australia, notably in Sydney 2019 and 2021. Now, it was their turn in Brisbane.
Pujara reached his fifty and Pant was in his aggressive elements. He found the boundary on a regular basis and the target boiled down to under 100. Pujara fell for 56 but Pant was hanging in there. He survived a few anxious moments from Lyon as he played and missed. Paine even missed a potential stumping chance as nerves shattered in the Australia camp.
Pant continued to hammer the Australian bowlers and he got great support from Washington Sundar. Australia tried to fight back with a couple of wickets but India was nearing a win. Pant smashed a low full toss from Hazlewood to the long-off fence and India had secured their highest successful chase in Australia. All the hurt of 1977, 2004, and 2008 was now eliminated in that one blow.
It was one of the greatest moments in history. India then became the second nation after South Africa to win all three formats in Australia more than once. It was a win that characterized the staggering depth of talent in India. It also showcased the credentials of Rahane as captain. In 2017, he helped India win a tense series at home against Australia in Dharamshala.
Documentaries have now been made as to how India conquered the Gabba. In the future, it might become part of school curriculums and management sessions. January 19, 2021, will forever be remembered as a day the final fortress in world cricket fell down. India can be the proud nation to have achieved it. It will remain a golden chapter in the history of Indian cricket.