Australia toured India to play a two-Test series in 2010. This was an important series for the Australian skipper, Ricky Ponting, who had never won a Test as a captain in India. He also wanted to wipe out memories of a 2-0 defeat to MS Dhoni’s India a couple of years previously.
Things got off to a good start for the Australians who won the toss at Mohali and posted an imposing total of 428 on the back of Shane Watson’s 126, Ricky Ponting’s 71 and Tim Paine’s 92. However, India fought back, with Sachin Tendulkar’s 98 backed up by Suresh Raina’s 86 and Rahul Dravid’s 77. They ended trailing the Australian total by only 23 runs.
Even though Australia got off to a good start in the second innings, the Indian bowlers led by Zaheer Khan, were able to exploit the conditions and choke the Australian batting. India were set a target of 216 runs.
However, Australian quicks Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus rattled the Indian line-up in the chase reducing the home side to 124-8 – at this point the game looked to be all but out of India’s grasp.
However, VVS Laxman combined with tailender Ishant Sharma to resist the Australian attack. Together the two survived the relentless Australian effort and several close calls, adding 81 runs for the ninth wicket. Ishant Sharma fell to a contentious lbw call after the drinks break and prompting the last man, Pragyan Ojha, to stroll to the crease to join Laxman and his runner, Raina.
As the game was heading towards its conclusion with India needing six runs with just one wicket in hand, drama struck. A Mitchell Johnson delivery swerved in and struck Ojha on the pads. As the Australians launched into an appeal, Ojha was unaware of where the ball had gone and ran for a non-existent run. It had in fact gone towards the point, where a young Steve Smith was placed as a substitute. He picked the ball up quickly looking to take advantage of Ojha’s confusion and took a shot at his stumps.
Unfortunately for Smith and Australia he missed and the subsequent overthrows cost Australia four runs. The replays showed that it was an extremely close appeal, while Smith’s throw had missed the stumps by inches.
Ravi Shastri, on-air, could hardly contain himself: “What a Test match this is. Could we have the third-ever tie? That would have crashed into middle and leg. So, one goes India’s way [referring to Ishant’s dismissal, where the ball was seemingly going down leg]”
India were two away from a win, and the fourth ball of the over was a wayward delivery, which hit Ojha’s pads and drifted down to fine-leg giving India victory.
Some may argue that Smith shouldn’t have gone for the throw, but he had the post-match backing of his skipper, Ponting. Speaking in the post-match conference, Ponting said: “You feel sorry for Smith. 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 that was me, I would have done 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.”
India would end up winning the series 2-0 after a comfortable win in the Bangalore Test. Ricky Ponting would finish his career having never won a Test in India as a captain.