Twenty years back on this day, India pulled off a nail-biting two-wicket victory to script a 2-1 series triumph over Australia on the eventful fifth day of the final Test at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
The 2001 Test series win remains a watershed moment in Indian cricket because from then onwards the team started believing that they can beat any team anywhere in the world. Arguably the greatest Test series India have been involved in – also believed by many to be the series that changed the landscape of Indian cricket. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid’s record partnership along with Harbhajan and Anil Kumble’s bowling performances saw India register a historic win.
Steve Waugh’s Australia were virtually invincible in the summer of 2001. They had come to India on the back of 16 successive Test victories and their mere presence in the sub-continent sent shivers down the spine of millions of fans. Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist turned on the heat in Mumbai, decimating Sourav Ganguly’s men inside three days.
Australia were all over India like a rash at the Eden Gardens and were on course for another victory before VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) played two of the most memorable knocks in Indian cricketing history. Then there was that Harbhajan Singh hat-trick too and his 13 wickets in the match which sealed a dramatic Indian victory in the dying moments of the match.
Even the Australia skipper on the day, Steve Waugh, who led the visitors on that tour of India, later said that if it wasn’t for Harbhajan Singh, Australia would have gone on to win the series. Harbhajan Singh took 32 wickets at 17.03 while his teammates took 17 between them, at 63.24.
“He won the series for India in 2001. 32 wickets in 3 Tests. We just couldn’t counteract his bounce. He got this amazing bounce off the length. Every spell he bowled against, he dominated us.
“ Incredible strike rate, bowled a lot of overs and was consistent. Hayden probably took him on and did well, but the rest of us really couldn’t find a way to get on top of him. Without him, we would have won the series. A very influential figure, particularly against us,” Steve Waugh told cricket.com.au.