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Australia v India

When Sourav Ganguly opened the bowling in a high-stakes Test match – and it worked

Sourav Ganguly
by Josef Rindl 5 minute read

Sourav Ganguly: one of India’s greatest captains, a serial winner, handy batsman… and an occasional opening bowler.

Yes, the man who sits eighth on the all-time ODI run charts once ‘led’ the attack for India against Australia in the early days of his Test career at Eden Gardens in 1998. India came into the second of three Tests against the great Australia side with a 1-0 lead, and threw the new nut to Ganguly to press home their advantage.

Australia were coming in off the back of five consecutive series wins, and boasted the core of one of the greatest batting orders of all time; their top six would end up with 130 Test hundreds between them. But on that day, they were no match for Ganguly.

In truth, Dada’s gentle seamers were only utilised to extract whatever swing was on offer, with India going into the game with a spin-heavy attack, and Javagal Srinath the only specialist quick. It was he who had Australia in early trouble, taking two wickets in the opening over of the tie, only the second time such an incident had occurred at that point.

Harvinder Singh, unimpressive on Test debut, was left out of the side, and India captain Mohammad Azharuddin gave the ball his 25-year-old No.6 to try and capitalise on the inroads.

Remarkably, Ganguly nearly had the wicket of opener Mark Taylor off his second delivery, the batsman edging behind off a brute of a delivery, but the umpire called no-ball. But, after Srinath had taken a third wicket, Ganguly finally got the scalp his man, forcing the Australia skipper to nick a wide one through to the keeper.

It was, in fact, something of a working-over, Ganguly having beaten Taylor’s edge on numerous occasions. Always up for a celebration, he sprinted towards the slip cordon as Eden Gardens erupted and Australia slumped to 29-4. This time the shirt stayed on, however.

Steve Waugh (80) and Ricky Ponting (60) rebuilt Australia’s innings but once they departed, it was Ganguly who cleaned up Australia’s tail. After tempting Michael Kasprowicz with a number of fuller deliveries, the future skipper bowled a vicious bouncer which the Australian bowler helplessly prodded to Azharuddin. Two overs later and Ganguly trapped Gavin Robertson plumb lbw to leave Australia 233 all out. The part-time bowler finished with personal, career-best figures of 3-28 off 13.4 overs including five maidens.

Ganguly backed up his heroics with the bat, notching 65, although remarkably that was the lowest score among India’s top six as the hosts racked up 633-5.  Their first-innings lead of 400 allowed them to wrap up the game inside four days, with Australia collapsing to 181 all out in their second go. Ganguly took the new ball again, but managed only 0-9 off his four second-innings overs.

India won the match by an innings and 219 runs, they took an unassailable 2-0 series lead.

They tried to repeat the trick a few more times, with Ganguly opening the bowling in another five Tests, but never with the same success, although Dada did dismiss New Zealand opener Matt Horne in the fourth over of a 1999 Test at Kanpur. And after he took the new ball without success against South Africa in 2004, the great Barry Richards called the move “a blot on Test cricket”.

But for one brief moment Ganguly, batsman-extraordinaire, looked like an opening bowler.

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