Euro 2020 Special

Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2021: Revisiting ‘The Ultimate Test Series’

India’s tour of Australia in 2020-21 is regarded as one of the finest moments in the history of cricket with the Men in Blue firmly establishing themselves as a world-conquering force with their resolute display in the longest format of the game.

India’s 2-1 victory over Australia to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy brought out the best qualities of Test cricket, with the series being labelled ‘The Ultimate Series’ by the International Cricket Council for revitalising the interest in the format.

As Australia and India prepare to embark on a month-long contest in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, let’s revisit the historic win by India down under in 2021.


First Test – India’s collapse

Ahead of the first Test at the Adelaide Oval, Australia won the ODI series while India bagged the T20 series to put both teams on equal terms going into the Test series.

While Australia were considered the overwhelming favourites due to their home advantage, Virat Kohli’s men were confident of putting up a solid fight as they previously won the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia in 2019.

After electing to bat, Virat Kohli’s partnerships with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane ensured that India put up a decent total of 233/6 at the stumps on day one.

But Australia’s pace attack, led by Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, tore through India’s tail-end in the opening session of day two. India could only put together 11 runs more on the second day, posting a total of 244 on the scoreboard.

Jasprit Bumrah’s remarkable spells, combined with Ravichandran Ashwin’s spin magic ensured that Australia were bowled out for just 191 runs with overs to spare on the second day. India took the crease once again, with Prithvi Shaw falling in the fourth over of the spell to end the day.

What came next was a collapse of astronomical proportions as India collapsed for just 36 runs in the second innings.

The Men in Blue posted their lowest-ever total in a Test match with no batsman reaching the double-digit mark. Australia chased the total with relative ease, taking a 1-0 lead in the series.

The confidence levels in the Indian dressing room were shattered as the team received immense criticism from fans and pundits alike.


Second Test – India bounce back

With India’s skipper Virat Kohli taking paternity leave for the remainder of the series, Ajinkya Rahane was appointed the team’s captain.

The job before him was difficult since he had to salvage India’s series in the absence of experienced players. Australia won the toss and elected to bat first, but could only manage to score 195 runs in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test.

Mayank Agarwal’s wicket in the opening over of India’s innings portended a repeat of the Adelaide Test for India, but Ajinkya Rahane led the team from the front by scoring an unbeaten century to give India a 131-run lead.

In reply, Australia’s batsmen failed to spark once again, posting 200 runs on the board and giving India a target of 69 runs. Ajinkya Rahane and Shubman Gill finished India’s chase as the Men in Blue levelled the series 1-1.


Third Test – A fine draw

In contrast to the previous two games, the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground was a run-fest. But the scoreline hardly tells the story, with the five-day fixture seeing an intense battle between both sides on the final day to claim a victory, but settling in a draw.

Australia won the toss and elected to bat first, posting a total of 338 on the board courtesy of Steve Smith’s 27th Test century. Rain delays hampered the progress of the game, bringing time-factor into the game already.

India’s top-order were steady at the crease, posting 96/2 at the end of day two. Cheteshwar Pujara became the anchor for India’s innings as the team posted 244 runs. Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, and Cameron Green shone for the hosts as they declared their innings at 312/6, giving India a target of 407 runs. India lost both Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill by stumps.

The Men in Blue required 309 runs on the final day and the match was overwhelmingly going the way of the hosts after Ajinkya Rahane’s wicket in the second over of the day. Rishabh Pant became the star for India with his 148-run stand with Cheteshwar Pujara, as India looked like they could win the Test outright.

But the dismissal of both batsmen meant that India had to play for a draw. Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari dug into the ground, securing India a memorable draw to keep the series alive.


Fourth Test – India break Australia’s fortress

India entered Australia’s fortress The Gabba as underdogs with injuries to both Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin. Thangarasu Natarajan and Washington Sundar made their Test debuts in the all-important game.

 India were so depleted that just two of the eleven players present in the Adelaide Test were still playing in the series, and the odds of defeating Australia at The Gabba looked highly unfavourable.

Australia won the toss and elected to bat first on their favourite ground, posting a total of 369 in the first innings courtesy of a century from Marnus Labuschagne. India’s bowlers looked ineffective in the first innings but were able to bowl out Australia by lunchtime of the second day.

In reply, India’s batsmen managed to stay in the chase through defensive batting techniques. Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar’s 123-run partnership was the surprise of the innings as India reduced the deficit to 36 runs.

Australia once again were effective with the bat, but Mohammed Siraj’s five-wicket haul in the third session of day four meant that Australia had to settle for 294 runs. India had to score 328 runs to win the Test, or battle out 114 remaining overs to keep the series level and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara put together a 114-run partnership on day five, intending to play for a draw. India ended the second session with 183/3 on the board with India’s chances of victory looking slim.

But Rishabh Pant lit up the sky with his brilliant innings, scoring 89 runs in just 138 balls. Washington Sundar’s quick cameo of 29-ball 22 took India closer to victory with India reaching the target with three overs remaining in the day.

This was the first time that any team defeated Australia in Tests at the Gabba in 32 years. Rightly regarded as India’s greatest overseas triumph, the series was the high point of India’s domination in Test cricket. 




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