The famed 2001 India vs Australia Test series occupies a special place in the history of Test cricket. There are many narratives tied to this series which many often term as the 'greatest Test series to have ever been played'.
Hayden’s bounty of 549 runs remains, to date, the most scored by a batsman in a three-Test series in India. The fact that Harbhajan Singh, who had a breakthrough series with 32 victims to his name, averaged 150 for his two wickets is enough to validate how effective he was.
Having made his Test debut in 1994 against South Africa, it wasn’t until this series that Hayden became a mainstay of the Australian cricket team till the end of the decade.
Though India ended up winning the series 2-1 in the most anticlimactic of circumstances, the burly opener was the cornerstone around which Australia’s batting revolved throughout the series.
1st Test – Mumbai – Australia win by 10 wickets
Australia’s push to conquer the final frontier got off to a fantastic start as they scored a massive win in the series opener. The bowling quartet of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Damien Fleming, and Shane Warne put forth a clinical performance that saw the visitors dismissing India for 176 and 219.
The Aussies were superb with their batting as well. Man of the Match Adam Gilchrist's century was the standout performance of the match. But, he wasn't the only Australian player to notch up a century.
In response to India’s 176 in the first innings, the visitors had lost half of their batsmen with just 99 on the board. Hayden stood strong amidst this collapse and stitched together a 197-run partnership with Gilly, his partner-in-crime.
By the time he was dismissed (after scoring 119), Australia were in a formidable position. In his first-ever innings in India, Hayden showed remarkable confidence and was boisterous in his approach (something he carried on throughout the series).
The southpaw went on to delight the crowd some more in the second innings with a quickfire 28 off 21 balls to take his side home in a mere seven overs.
2nd Test – Kolkata – India win by 171 runs
Known to many fans as the 'VVS Laxman Test'. We all know the story of the mammoth partnership between Laxman and Rahul Dravid (that lasted an entire day), Harbhajan Singh’s hat-trick, and it being only the second time in Test cricket history that a team won after following-on.
However, this was yet another Test in which Hayden left his mark, scoring twin fifties. An enterprising 97 from his willow in the first innings ensured that Australia got off to a good start, with Steve Waugh’s dogged century leading them to a total of 445.
Chasing a stiff target of 384 runs in the fourth innings, a win was pretty much out of the equation for the visitors. Hayden played a sedate knock (by his standards) of 67 before getting out to Sachin Tendulkar.
Hayden’s twin fifties would probably not even get a mention in footnotes when people talk about the Kolkata test. But, in reality, if not for the Laxman–Dravid partnership, the southpaw's contributions could have very well won his side the match (and the series as well).
3rd Test – Chennai – India win by 2 wickets
It seems Hayden was saving the best for last as he bullied his way to a double century in the first innings of the final Test. Scoring nearly 60% of Australia’s total of 391, he stood tall against India’s trio of spinners – Harbhajan Singh, Nilesh Kulkarni, and Sairaj Bahatule. Though the total seemed daunting, the Indian batting contingent combined for the first time in the series, putting together a total of 501.
Hayden, though, failed to continue from where he left off, scoring a lowly 35 -- his only 'failure' in the series. He was declared the 'Co-Man-of-the-Match' with Singh, who had picked up 15 wickets in the Test.
Hayden finished off with a remarkable 549 runs in the series at an average of 109.80. Even though Australia lost the series, they had found an opener who would be the mainstay of their batting line-up for a good part of the decade.
For a batsman who was regarded as a misfit in his early attempts at cracking the Australian Test team, he finished off as one of the most formidable opening batsmen of his period.