The Sydney Test of 2008 between India and Australia was surrounded by controversies, as much as the thrill and drama of five-day cricket.
Seldom can one Test have been so simultaneously thrilling and disturbing. A game of name calling and finger pointing, this was the second fiery encounter in a series that was beginning to rival Bodyline for bad feeling between two sides.
Going into the final session at Sydney, Australia required seven wickets – including those of the two stalwarts at the crease, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly – to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
There was ill-feeling as it was – Andrew Symonds, Australia’s only Black player, claimed he had been called a “monkey” by Harbhajan Singh and Ricky Ponting backed him up. There were riots and recriminations – and an ICC tribunal – about this later, but in a further layer of controversy Symonds’ match-shaping 162 not out came after he knocked the cover off one to the keeper whilst on 30. It was not the only umpiring blunder.
In this last innings, Dravid was given caught behind off the pad after another concerted Australian appeal, then the verbals and the accusations continued as Ganguly was adjudged caught at slip by Michael Clarke (who had refused to take the fielder’s word whilst batting earlier in the game himself) after some ugly finger-wagging persuasion of the umpires by captain Punter, who was revelling in the swirl of adrenaline the game had now become.
Harbhajan and captain Anil Kumble were edging India towards safety with three wickets left and overs running out fast, and perhaps a draw would have calmed things a little. That didn’t happen.
“Australians are … they produced a lot of great players but are very bad losers.”
Aye or nay? ?https://t.co/VBlIQOxdE3
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 7, 2020
Requiring three wickets, Ponting chucked the ball to Clarke – the skipper’s last throw of the dice – to have a go with his part-time slow left-armers on a wearing Sydney strip. He’d taken 6-9 one evening against the Indians in Mumbai back in 2004, and, as the Australian fielders and evening shadows crept ever closer around them, the Indians succumbed again. In his second over Clarke snared Harbhajan, caught smartly at slip by Hussey, then had RP Singh lbw first ball. Nine down, nine minutes left.
Then three balls later, Ishant Sharma prodded forward, another edge; another Hussey catch, and as the Aussie fielders swarmed the still-blonde, baby-faced Pup, Australia had equalled their own record of 16 straight Test wins. A game that had been variously poisonous, unpalatable and unedifying eventually ended in cricketing drama of the highest order.
First published in July 2012