One would think that the 22 participants would be thrilled to be part of a historic event but Kapil Dev was anything but happy. “Being part of history is fine but we should have won the match,” ruefully said the Indian captain. He had a point for India did come within a run of going one up in the three-Test series. Bob Simpson on the other hand thought differently. “It’s great to be part of history again.” said the Australian coach. Yes, again, for Simpson was Australia’s opening batsman against West Indies in the first tied Test at Brisbane almost 26 years before. He had no regrets and did not touch upon the fact that Australia too were within a wicket from victory when India lost their ninth wicket still four runs short of the target of 348.
Simpson in fact had a significant role in the Test ending in a tie. After dominating much of the first four days – they had amassed 574 for seven declared and then dismissed India for 397 – Australia it appeared had let the match drift towards an inevitable draw on a pitch that had continued to stay remarkably true. Despite a lead of 177 runs they did not really press home the advantage and by stumps on the fourth day had scored 170 for five off 49 overs. At dawn of the fifth day the Aussie lead then was 347 and with only one day left there appeared to be only one result. That explained the thin attendance before play got underway but the moment cricket fans in the city came to know that Australia had declared at the overnight score leaving India to get 348 for a win in a maximum of 87 overs the spectators came in droves.
It came to light that Simpson had persuaded Allan Border to declare at the overnight score. The Australian captain needed some convincing for it was reckoned that his team did not have the attack to bowl out India within a day. In the first innings India despite a shocking start – they were 65 for three – still managed to get 397 off 94.2 overs. With the surface still good for batting an overnight declaration would be a bold decision – even a risky one – but Simpson finally was able to convince Border.
The events of the Test of course have been well chronicled. But the images are still vivid in one’s memory and as is well known there were heroes aplenty. Dean Jones dehydrated and retching by the side of the crease in the cauldron that was the MAC stadium in the city’s second summer – as September is known – but refusing to leave the crease and going on to get 210 in 500 minutes. Kapil Dev launching a thrilling counter attack on the fourth morning with his team facing the distinct possibility of a follow on and going on to get 119 with 21 fours. And finally, there is the image of an exhausted Greg Matthews sleeves buttoned at the wrist and wearing the baggy green cap sending down 40 consecutive overs in the intense heat and humidity – not to forget the tension filled atmosphere – to pick up his second five-wicket haul of the match. At 5.18 pm he gains the umpire’s final verdict in his favour and the spectators by now numbering over 30,000 already shouting themselves hoarse and on their feet finally erupt realizing that they too have had the rare privilege of being part of cricketing history. For the record there have been a further 1400 Tests played since then without another tie – emphasizing the extreme rarity of the result.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal)