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Toota hai Gabba ka ghamand day: Pant’s legend grows, India conquer Brisbane | Cricket

Gabba. 329. Rishabh Pant. On this day, three years ago – January 19, 2021 – these three terms became immortal in Indian cricket history. India, fielding a depleted side – Virat Kohli had returned, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin were injured – with their backs against the wall – achieved the unthinkable when they beat Australia by three wickets in arguably their greatest Test win of all time. Imagine this. A venue that had been Australia’s fortress – they were last beaten at Brisbane in 1989; Kohli was a year old and Pant yet to be born – India snatched it away in some style. Chasing 329 to win, on the final day of the final Test match of a gruelling series, India, on the backs of batting epics from Pant, Cheteshwar Pujara and Shubman Gill beat Australia to record a second straight Test series win on their soil.

Rishabh Pant played the innings of his life at the Gabba three years ago today(Getty)

You had to be there to witness the thrill of it. The momentum shifts, teams going back-and-forth, Pujara taking body blows, the Washington Sundar no-look six, and Pant doing… well, Pant things. It had all the makings of a modern-day blockbuster. India had ticked their biggest box in the MCG Boxing Day Test itself, where they defeated Australia after being rolled out for 36 in the previous Test, and escalated their threat even further when Ashwin, with a bad back, and Hanuma Vihari, with an injured hamstring – batted out of their skins to secure a draw in Sydney. The stage was set for a beautiful finish to a riveting Border-Gavaskar Series.

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Mohammed Siraj, playing only his third Test, was promoted to be India’s bowling spearhead. Bumrah had to pull out of the Test at the last minute due to a stress fracture on his back, Umesh Yadav had pulled a hamstring and Mohammed Shami had suffered a broken arm at the Adelaide Oval itself. Heck, T Natarajan was drafted into the squad and subsequently the Playing XI. One more casualty… and the last man, a net bowler, Kartik Tyagi would’ve had to come in. They were hanging by a thread.

The Test began. Marnus Labuschagne’s 108 propelled Australia to 369 even though Indian bowlers put up a fight with Natarajan, Shardul Thakur and Washington taking three wickets each. India’s reply was a bit of a dampener. At 6/186 – Rohit Sharma’s 44 was the highest score by a top-order batter – before help came from an expected young duo. Who would have thought that Shardul, playing only his 2nd Test – technically first, since his participation on debut was limited to four balls due to a hammy he pulled up – and debutant Washington would tame the fierce Aussie trio of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc with a stubborn 123-run partnership for the seventh wicket. It frustrated Australia like nothing ever did before.

Not only did the stand got India to avoid the follow on, but also pushed them closer to taking the lead. But Australia, buoyed by their blood-sniffing hound mentality – shut the door once the partnership was broken, getting India all out for 336. Sensing that India had closed in, Siraj put a stop to Australia’s rampant approach, picking up a maiden five-wicket haul. Shardul, to go with his gritty 67 with nine boundaries and two sixes, chipped in with four scalps himself as Australia were bowled out for 294, a pretty intimidating score for a third innings of a Test match.

The target was set. Over 300 to get in four sessions and 10 wickets in hand. India’s record at the Gabba, truth be told, was abysmal – they had never won a Test here since their first tour Down Under way back in 1947 – and forget a target of over 300, their highest successful chase in a Test match in Australia was 233 in 2003 when Rahul Dravid had emerged India’s star. So undoubtedly, the worst was feared. Would the final day bring an anti-climax? What if another batting collapse unfolds? After all, it was nothing new in Indian cricket.

NO… said Gill, Pujara and Pant. After Rohit perished for 7 during the fag end of the penultimate day, Gill and Pujara thwarted the Aussies with a defiant 114-run stand. Gill was merciless in his assault – cutting and pulling the likes of Starc and Hazlewood with disdain and even stepping out in an attempt to unsettle Nathan Lyon. For 145 balls, he managed to do so as India began to sense victory… before nicking Lyon to first slip and miss what would have been a special century by nine runs.

If Gill was attacking, Pujara was resilient as always. After Rahane was dismissed with the score at 167, and Pant just in, runs did not come easy. The situation was ideal for Pujara to grind, grind and grind. And grind he did. Pujara copped 3-4 blows across his helmet, abdomen, chest, and fingers. But like a battle-hardened warrior carried on. In between, Pant began to motor along. He was constantly dancing down to Lyon and getting the boundaries. He had already saved the SCG Test for India, but this was a bigger obstacle. Australia had a chance to cut short Pant’s exploits but captain Tim Paine’s wicketkeeping woes kept India in the hunt.

After Pujara’s exit for a solid 56 off 211 balls, India panicked. Mayank Agarwal, who had a double century in Tests – was out at No. 6 but was overwhelmed by the Australia pace battery, eventually perishing for 9. With Washington as Pant’s new partner, India could have done with even half his runs from the first innings… and for a while, seemed to be on track as he pinched 29 off 22 balls. One shot too many though led to his dismissal as Sundar, attempting a reverse sweep, was castled. And when Shardul chipped Hazlewood to Lyon third ball, India’s chances slipped and the ghosts of their troubled past hovered.

The one man who didn’t think so was Pant. With Navdeep Saini in, India four away and Hazlewood running in, all eyes were on Pant to sneak a single out of somewhere to put him back on strike. Instead, he connected a low full toss, saw the ball heading towards the boundary cushion – it probably could have been the longest 5 seconds of his life – and finally leapt in joy, knowing he had played the innings of his life. Players rushed in from the dugout, fans watched with tears of joy. Australian greats such as Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Mark Waugh had to eat their words. The fortress of Gabba was breached, giving India a 2-1 series win. Rightfully enough, who could even blame Vivek Razdan for saying ‘Toota hai Gabba ka ghamand‘. After all, India had broken Australia’s spirit, roughly a month after their own confidence was shattered following the Adelaide horror. It’s the kind of stuff that dreams are made of.

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