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Watch: When an lbw shocker and four Steve Smith overthrows cost Australia a classic Test match against India

Smith overthrows 2010 Mohali
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

India’s historic win in the 2010 Mohali Test over Australia is widely remembered for VVS Laxman’s pain-defying, unbeaten 73 and his dramatic last-wicket stand with Pragyan Ojha in the fourth innings.

In all the tension and theatrics of the last over, it is easy to forget that Steve Smith, a two-Test old rookie back then, had a small, accidental role to play in pushing India towards the win. An overthrow from Smith – a brave yet risky attempt, given the context – ended up going for four runs, bringing the equation down from six required, to two.

The Mohali Test, the first game in the two-match series, hurtled through several twists and turns, before reaching its final day. India began on 55-4, requiring 161 runs to go 1-0 up in the series. A brief resistance from Sachin Tendulkar took India past 100, but they found themselves at 124-8 before lunch, with Laxman fast running out of partners. A severe back spasm further added to the drama, before an 81-run stand with No.10 Ishant Sharma raised hopes of a miracle.


Ishant fell with India still requiring 11, bringing another twist. But Laxman, with the help of runner Suresh Raina, still kept India in the hunt, almost instructing No.11 Ojha through every step. And while they crawled towards the finishing line, a seemingly plumb lbw call in the 59th over almost brought the curtains down.

Mitchell Johnson steamed in with six runs remaining. The hit the length and shaped in just enough to hit Ojha on the front pad. It seemed like he was done for – the Australia fielders went up in unison – but Billy Bowden instantly shook his head. Amidst all the din, Smith – substituting for Doug Bollinger – hurled the ball from backward point. Had he hit, Ojha would have been run out. Ojha received an uncharacteristic verbal barrage from Laxman – but that was all.

Unfortunately, no one had been backing up, and the ball raced to the deep mid-wicket fence. India got four runs out of nowhere. Replays proved to be a double whammy for Australia – Bowden was incorrect: the delivery would have gone on to hit the middle and leg stump, with no inside edge to save Ojha. Two balls later, Johnson drifted down leg, the ball catching a bit of Ojha’s pads and rolling down to the fence. India had sealed one of their most famous home Test wins of the century.

In hindsight, Smith would have been a hero if the risk pulled off. “You feel sorry for Smithy,” said Australian captain Ricky Ponting after the game. “Young bloke always looking for ways to win the game. Had he hit the stumps it would have been game over. That’s what we expect from our guys. If there is a half chance we are going to take it. If that was me, I would have done exactly the same thing. I wouldn’t have worried about who is behind the stumps. If I have a chance to hit the stumps and win a Test match, I am going to take it. There is certainly no blame going Smith’s way. That‘s a great attitude for the young bloke to have.”

Far from being an international star back then, a young Smith was disappointed at having missed out on the chance, pushing India closer to the win. “We have all spoken to him [Smith],” said Ponting. “He was a bit disappointed coming off the ground, but there is no need to be, he saw the stumps, he saw the win there, he had a go and missed. Cost us four runs. Not much more you can say.”

The scars of Mohali might have long healed for Smith, now the sixth-highest run-getter for Australia in Tests, and one of the finest batters of his era. But it is still worth looking back at that ball: the right lbw call, or a direct hit, would have given Australia their first win on Indian soil since 2004. Since that match in Mohali, India have been beaten at home only four times, by England (Mumbai, 2012/13; Kolkata, 2012/13, and Chennai, 2020/21) and Australia (Pune, 2016/17). Ironically, it was a Smith century that played a part in that Pune win.

Watch the lbw appeal and Smith throw here:

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