India vs Australia: From Kapil’s Melbourne Miracle to Agarkar’s Adelaide redemption, the best of Indian bowling in Australia

For years, India vs Australia Test series have been billed as a battle between India’s batting and Australia’s batting, so much that it almost sweeps under the carpet some of the most phenomenal spells of bowling by India Down Under. There is no shortage of memorable innings played by Indian batsmen in Australia, but when it comes to bowling performances, the list isn’t as big. However, each time India have performed well in Tests against Australia over the years, their bowlers have had a huge role to play. We recap some of the performances that stand out.

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1 Kapil Dev (5/28 in Melbourne, 1981)

That India managed to draw the Test series in the final Test of the series is due to Kapil Dev’s heroics in the second innings. Kapil started the series with a five-wicket-haul in Sydney, but India were brushed aside by an innings and four runs. With the second Test in Adelaide ending in a draw, India needed to win in Melbourne to draw the series. Leading the charge was India’s premier fast bowler, Kapil, who rocked Australia with a five-wicket haul. Needing 143 to win, the result was almost beyond conclusion, but Kapil single-handedly turned the course. After Karsan Ghavri and Dilip Doshi provided a fine start, reducing Australia to 4/40, Kapil rolled them over – including wickets of Bruce Yardley, Allan Border and Rodney Marsh to finish with immaculate figures of 5/28.

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2 Ajit Agarkar (6/41 in Adelaide, 2003)

After being dismissed for five consecutive ducks in his previous visit to Australia, Ajit Agarkar had taken over the mantle of India’s bowling by the time his next tour Down Under came around. After Rahul Dravid scored a scintillating double-century in the first innings, aided by VVS a ton from VVS Laxman to lead India’s strong reply of 523 to Australia’s 556, it was Agarkar’s magnificent spell in the second inning that allowed India to register their first Test win on Australia soil after 22 years. Agarkar claimed 6/41 as Australia’s batting crumbled hoping to claim a significant lead. The India quick took out opening batsman Justin Langer, double centurion from the first innings Ricky Ponting for a duck before going through dismantling the lower-middle order. Agarkar’s effort allowed Australia to stretch their lead by 229 runs as they were bowled out for 196. Indian batting produced a few nerves towards the end but a calm Dravid ensured India were over the line.

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3 Anil Kumble (8/141 in Sydney, 2004)

The Sydney Test of 2004 will always belong to Sachin Tendulkar, but it wouldn’t have been possible for India to salvage a draw had it not been for Anil Kumble. After Tendulkar’s unbeaten 241 propelled India to a mammoth 705/7 declared, Kumble cemented the team’s position in the game with his best bowling figures in a Test overseas. Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer had added 147 runs on a flat deck and with Agarkar and Irfan Pathan failing to provide a breakthrough, Sourav Ganguly handed the ball to Kumble. The leg-spinner picked up the next eight out of 10 wickets to fall to finish with 8/141 from 46.5 overs. Only Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist did not get out to Kumble. They were outdone by Pathan’s incredible reverse swing.

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4 Irfan Pathan (3/54 in Perth, 2008)

India were hurting from the controversial end to the Sydney Test match when they headed to Perth for the third Test of the 2007-08 Border Gavaskar Trophy. On the bouncy, fire-spitting pitch of Perth, no one gave India a chance, but under Kumble, they managed to do the unthinkable and beat Australia by 72 runs to stage one of Indian cricket’s most remarkable comebacks. Pathan’s effort with the ball in this Test hardly finds a mention in the Indian cricketing folklore but is equally important. India’s batsmen did a fine job to set Australia 413 to get in the fourth innings and it was Pathan who dented the host’s chase early removing Chris Rogers and Phil Jacques. This was after he had already claimed 2/63 in the first innings. Pathan ended up dismissing Stuart Clarke for his third wicket as Australia were bowled out for 340. Besides, Pathan had scored 28 and 46 with the bat.

5 Jasprit Bumrah (6/33 in Melbourne, 2018)

Jasprit Bumrah was just six Tests old when he toured Australia. Without Steve Smith and David Warner, India had a starting advantage, but still, things needed to be done on the ground. After the series was levelled 1-1 heading into the Boxing Day Test, India, batting first by posting 443/7 on the board with Mayank Agarwal excelling with a half-century on Test debut. In reply, Bumrah claimed 6/33 and rocked over Australia for 151. His pace and freakish action were something Australia had no answer to. India declared the second innings on 101/8 with Pat Cummins finishing with 6/27 himself, but the 399-run target proved enough for India as Australia were bowled out for 261. India took a 2-1 lead, meaning all they had to do in Sydney was draw the match for a historic Test series win, which they eventually achieved.

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