Was this Test cricket's greatest comeback?

Australia 556 & 196 India 523 & 233-6 India win by four wickets
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Australia, still reeling from England's triumph in the Rugby World Cup, may be in a state of national shock again after India's staggering comeback victory in the second Test match in Adelaide yesterday but the world champions can console themselves at least with having participated in another of the greatest Test matches in cricket history.

India's four-wicket win, completed in the early hours of yesterday when the man of the match, Rahul Dravid, cut the leg-spinner Stuart MacGill to the boundary for four, joins the tied Test in Brisbane in 1960, England's stunning win at Headingley in 1981, the West Indies' 308-run chase at Bridgetown in 1999 and the Centenary Test at Melbourne in 1977 among the finest matches ever played, all of which featured Australia.

There are others worthy of inclusion and India's achievement at the Adelaide Oval will refresh the debate. Certainly, there can be little dispute that it deserves to be spoken of in the same company, given the extraordinary position from which Sourav Ganguly's team recovered. Australia are the first team to have lost a Test match after topping 500 in the first innings since they did so themselves against England more than 35 years ago.

Having watched helplessly as Australia piled up 400 for 5 on the opening day, going on to reach a daunting first-innings total of 556, in which Ricky Ponting made a brilliant 242, India's captain, Ganguly, was himself a casualty - run out for two - as the tourists' reply wobbled precariously at 85 for 4.

But India turned the match around with a 303-run partnership between their vice-captain, Dravid (233), and VVS Laxman (148), remarkably conceding a first-innings deficit of only 33 before Ajit Agarkar produced the best bowling of his career, finishing with 6 for 41 as the home team collapsed to 196 all out in their second innings.

Chasing a target of 230, India began the final day apparently cruising at 37 for 0 only to be pushed hard by a determined Australia before Dravid came up with the key innings, keeping his head to make a patient 72 not out.

Ganguly and Australia's captain, Steve Waugh ,were united in lavishing praise on Dravid after the right-hander enjoyed the finest moment of his career. Ganguly said: "He batted like God here once again and I'm not surprised the way he's played. I've always said he was one of the greats." Waugh added: "He has a great technique and a great temperament. We always knew he was a good player but now we're going to have come up with a new plan to get him out."

Dravid now has 16 Test hundreds, including four doubles, and a career average of 56.54. His 233 in the first innings was the third highest score by an Indian in Test cricket, the largest overseas, and the fourth highest by a foreigner on Australian soil.

He compared it with his 180 in the Calcutta Test in 2001, when India also produced a staggering recovery to beat Australia. "This would definitely have to be my best Test performance," he said. "But I look back on Calcutta and it still gives me such joy. I have great emotion, but maybe when I've finished and I have a chance to sit back this victory will mean a lot as well."

The Test at Eden Gardens two years ago was dubbed the "Miracle of Calcutta" after another rare moment of frailty interrupted Australia's otherwise triumphant march as they set a world record for squandering a first-innings lead to lose a Test. They forced India to follow on 274 runs behind before another brilliant stand between Laxman and Dravid, who put on 376, sent Waugh's team to their first defeat in 19 Tests.

India's triumph yesterday was their first in Australia since their success at Melbourne in February 1981 and Australia's first defeat in Adelaide since England won by 106 runs in the fourth Test in 1995.

Australia are the first team in more than 35 years to lose a Test match after scoring more than 500 in their first innings, since West Indies did it against England in March 1968. But in a series in 1894-95, Australia scored 586 in the first innings against England in Sydney only to lose after enforcing the follow-on.

Australia will point out in mitigation yesterday that they were without their front-line bowlers, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Brett Lee, and suffered another setback before lunch when the pace man Jason Gillespie left the field with a groin injury.

Gillespie had given Australia a good start when he trapped Akash Chopra leg before wicket with the total on 48 but limped off soon afterwards. MacGill kept Australia in the game when he had Virender Sehwag stumped before lunch, then Sachin Tendulkar went lbw before tea without offering a shot.

Simon Katich held a sharp catch at gully to get rid of Ganguly and the pace man Andy Bichel dismissed Laxman and the wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel after tea but the magnificent Dravid, offered two lives by Adam Gilchrist on nine and Ricky Ponting on 20, kept his cool.

Although India have still won only six Tests out of 69 on foreign soil, three have come in the last two years. Last year they beat England by an innings and 46 runs in Leeds and the West Indies by 37 runs in Trinidad.

For Australia it is the first time in almost 10 years they have been 1-0 down in a home Test series since losing to South Africa in the second Sydney Test by five runs in January 1994. Australia have not lost a home series since going down 2-1 to the West Indies in 1992-93.


First Test: Australia v W Indies
Brisbane, 9-14 December, 1960
West Indies 453 & 284; Australia 505 & 232. Match tied.
In the first Test to finish in a tie, Australia entered the last eight-ball over needing six runs to win with three wickets left. After losing two levelling the scores, Ian Meckiff was run out off the penultimate delivery.

Third Test: England v Australia
Leeds, 16-21 July, 1981
Australia 401-9 dec & 111; England 174 & 356. England won by 18 runs.
England were quoted at 500-1 to win after Australia had jumped to a first-innings lead of 227, but Ian Botham's 149 not out (148 balls, 27 fours, one six) enabled England to set Australia a target of 130 to win after being seven down for 135, paving the way for Bob Willis to take 8 for 43 as Australia collapsed to 111 all out.

Third Test: W Indies v Australia
Bridgetown, 26-30 March, 1999
Australia 490 & 146; West Indies 329 & 311-9. West Indies won by one wicket.
Brian Lara's 153 ensured the West Indies recovered from a first-innings deficit of 161 to win. Set 308 to win, the home side were reduced to 248 for 8 before Lara took control.

Centenary Test: Australia v England,
Melbourne, 12-17 March, 1977
Australia 138 & 419-9 dec; England 95 & 417. Australia won by 45 runs.
After being bowled out for 95, Derek Randall led England in the second innings with 174 to give them asniff of victory. His innings featured a duel with Dennis Lillee in which Randall, having been knocked over by a bouncer, got up and doffed his cap. Australia had the last laugh.


Australia won toss; fifth day of five

AUSTRALIA - First Innings
J L Langer c Sehwag b Kumble 58
M L Hayden c Patel b Pathan 12
R T Ponting c Dravid b Kumble 242
D R Martyn c Laxman b Nehra 30
S R Waugh b Nehra 30
S M Katich c Sehwag b Agarkar 75
A C Gilchrist c Sehwag b Agarkar 29
A J Bichel c Chopra b Kumble 19
J N Gillespie not out 48
B A Williams b Kumble 0
S C G MacGill lbw b Kumble 0
Extras (b3 lb5 w1 nb4) 13
Total (127 overs) 556

Fall: 1-22 2-135 3-200 4-252 5-390 6-426 7-473 8-556 9-556

Bowling: Agarkar 26-1-119-2; Pathan 27-3-136-1; Nehra 25-3-11502; Kumble 43-3-154-5; Sehwag 5-0-21-0; Tendulkar 1-0-3-0.

INDIA - First Innings
A Chopra c & b Bichel 27
V Sehwag c Hayden b Bichel 47
R Dravid c Bichel b Gillespie 233
S R Tendulkar c Gilchrist b Bichel 1
S C Ganguly run out 2
V V S Laxman c Gilchrist b Bichel 148
P A Patel c Ponting b Katich 31
A B Agarkar c MacGill b Katich 11
A Kumble lbw b MacGill 12
I K Pathan c & b MacGill 1
A Nehra not out 0
Extras (b4 lb2 w2 nb2) 10
Total (161.5 overs) 523

Fall: 1-66 2-81 3-83 4-85 5-388 6-447 7-469 8-510 9-518

Bowling: Gillespie 40.5-13-106-1; Williams 23-7-72-0; Bichel 28-3-118-4; MacGill 44-8-143-2; Katich 16-3-59-2; Waugh 9-2-15-0; Ponting 1-0-4-0.

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings
J L Langer lbw b Agarkar 10
M L Hayden c Sehwag b Nehra 17
R T Ponting c Chopra b Agarkar 0
D R Martyn c Dravid b Tendulkar 38
S R Waugh c Dravid b Tendulkar 42
S M Katich c Nehra b Agarkar 31
A C Gilchrist b Kumble 43
A J Bichel b Agarkar 1
J N Gillespie c Patel b Agarkar 3
B A Williams not out 4
S C G MacGill b Agarkar 1
Extras (b2 lb2 w1 nb1) 6
Total (56.2 overs) 196

Fall: 1-10 2-18 3-44 4-109 5-112 6-183 7-184 8-188 9-192

Bowling: Agarkar 16.2-2-41-6; Pathan 7-0-24-0; Nehra 7-2-21-1; Kumble 17-2-58-1; Tendulkar 6-0-36-2; Sehwag 3-0-12-0.

INDIA - Second Innings
A Chopra lbw b Gillespie 20
V Sehwag st Gilchrist b MacGill 47
R Dravid not out 72
S R Tendulkar lbw b MacGill 37
S C Ganguly c Katich b Bichel 12
V V S Laxman c Bichel b Katich 32
P A Patel b Katich 3
A B Agarkar not out 0
Extras (b3 lb6 w1) 10
Total (for 6, 72.4 overs) 233

Fall: 1-48 2-79 3-149 4-170 5-221 6-229

Did not bat: A Kumble, I K Pathan, A Nehra.

Bowling: Gillespie 10.2-2-22-1; Williams 14-6-34-0; MacGill 24.4-3-101-2; Bichel 11.4-1-35-1; Katich 8-1-22-2; Waugh 4-0-10-0.

Umpires: R E Koertzen (SA) and D R Shepherd (Eng).