The legend of Eden Gardens 2001: Possibly, the greatest Test ever
It was one of those spring times when neither sun was too hot nor frost was too cold. A fine climate reined the Indian subcontinent.
Australia were touring India, riding high on their streak of 16 consecutive test match victories. They had defeated the home team in the first match and by God they had thrashed the men in blue in style.
The teams were in Kolkata to play the second test of the Border-Gavaskar series at Eden Gardens.
Meanwhile, in a small town of India somewhere, a little boy in third grade was pretending bad health to bunk one of his final exam papers. Who does that? And why would he anyway?
DAY 1, March 11, 2001
Australia won the toss and Steve Waugh decided that his men were going to bat first. The pitch was “Eden” for the batsmen. Mathew Hayden was in sublime form. There was no better way to demoralize India than by putting on a huge score. It was no brainer.
Aussies started the way they wanted. After losing Michael Slater for 42, Langer and Hayden cruised into their fifties. After being dropped by Dravid off Zaheer Khan on 67, Hayden looked unstoppable.
Right after tea break, making his comeback, young Harbhajan Singh who had a good first test was on the other side. Hayden lofted one off to mid on and low! He was caught. Australia’s score was 193 then. He had missed his century by 3 runs.
‘Turbanator’ as Harbhajan would be known later, didn’t stop there. He had a tryst with destiny that evening.
After a while, he did the unthinkable. Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne were dismissed in three consecutive deliveries. The young Sikh lad had made history. He became the first Indian to take a test match hat-trick.
Australians were suddenly 269-8 from 193-1 within few hours. Steve Waugh, the rock solid skipper kept his temperament uptight and stood there alone while legends of Aussie middle order fell around him like dominos.
Number 10 Jason Gillespie had not much to his credit thus far. He was a good fast bowler but with bat, he was just ‘tail-ender’.
Gillespie and Waugh made sure that there were no more casualties on day 1.
DAY 2, March 12, a day of disappointments and dropped heads!
Steve Waugh did what he did best. He led the Aussie innings like a perfect sheet anchor. The pitch was still good for batting, anything less than 400 would have been an underscore for the mighty Australian standards. Gillespie was with him, supporting him like an apprentice, just sticking around there.
Waugh was a decorated player. He had nearly done it all but there were a few records that he had to accomplish. He ha a few demons in Indian subcontinent. That day, he conquered all his demons. On the way, many records tumbled.
He scored his 25th test hundred, leading his side to a mighty 445 from 269/8. After he made his first ever test hundred on the Indian land, the ever sober Waugh punched the air, as two drops rolled down his cheeks. He took out his kerchief and dried his eyes on it.
Waugh also passed Pakistan legend Javed Miandad to become the 4th highest scorer of the time in test match history.
Harbhajan ended up with 7 wickets in his pocket, announcing his arrival on the face of international cricket.
Indian batting then disappointed just like the first test. Sanjay Manjrekar, who was on microphone, pointed that it was a matter of concern that India were collapsing at home like this.
No one except VVS Laxman could really stand in front of the Aussie bowling. When the sun went west, India were tottering at 128/8.
Things had not changed much between Mumbai and Kolkata. The sight was disappointing. The faces were hung down all over the nation. It was shameful, embarrassing and utterly humiliating.
The end was near as they knew it.