From Sachin Tendulkar's Unbeaten 117 to Sandeep Patil's 64 - India's Finest ODI Knocks Down Under

Nikhil Narain
·7-min read

There have been some great individual performances by the Indian batsmen against Australia in Australia. From Rohit Sharma's 4 hundreds against the hosts Down Under to Yuvraj Singh's 139 at the SCG in 2004, from Sachin Tendulkar's back to back knocks in the Commonwealth Bank Series' Finals in 2008 to Kris Srikkanth's unbeaten 93 at the MCG in the 1985 Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket.

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We select the 5 best based on the significance of the performance - context of the match, situation in which the innings was played, the importance of the occasion giving more weightage to tournament knockouts and finals and to world events and then of course, to the performance itself - runs scored, quality of opposition bowlers, pressure and strike rate.

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While some expected knocks do make the cut some big ones miss out. And there are a couple of surprises!

1. Sachin Tendulkar (117 not out off 120 balls), 1st Final, Commonwealth Bank Series, SCG, 2008

It was a Big occasion! It was the first final of the Commonwealth Bank Series between hosts Australia and India at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground on the 2nd of March, 2008. The Indian bowlers did well to restrict Australia to 239 for 8 in the allotted 50 overs. Tendulkar and Uthappa gave India a good start before the visitors lost two wickets in quick succession - India were reduced to 56 for in the 13th over with Uthappa and Gambhir back in the pavilion. Tendulkar soaked in the pressure of wickets falling around him and the occasion, steadied the ship with Yuvraj Singh but the latter's dismissal in the 19th over left India in a spot of bother at 87 for 3 in the 19th.

Meanwhile, Tendulkar was in a different zone at the other end and was unbeaten on 50 off 56 deliveries - not only was he keeping an end intact but also scoring quickly so that the required rate was under control.

In Rohit Sharma, the little master found an able partner and the pair put together a match-winning stand of 123 for the 4th wicket. Tendulkar went on to record his 42nd ODI hundred and his first ton in Australia (it remains so!). His unbeaten 117 off just 120 deliveries was 48% of India's total and took his team to a six-wicket win in the first final with over 4 overs remaining. India broke their 11-match losing streak against Australia at the SCG.

2. Sachin Tendulkar (91 off 121 balls), 2nd Final, Commonwealth Bank Series, Brisbane, 2008

The great man produced two master-class back to back performances in two finals in 2008. Just two days after his hundred at the SCG, Tendulkar, once-again top-scored for India in the second final at The Gabba. However, this was a more patient knock as Tendulkar, playing the role of the anchor took 121 deliveries (and hit just 7 fours) but made sure India put a competitive 258 in a high-pressure final. Praveen Kumar and the other Indian fast bowlers complemented Tendulkar's effort and bowled out the home team for 249 in 49.4 overs handing India a 9-run victory. And with it the Commonwealth Bank Series.

3. Kris Srikkanth (93 not out off 115 deliveries), Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket, MCG, 1985

It was a huge occasion! India were clashing with hosts Australia in a crucial encounter of the biggest limited-overs' tournament outside the World Cup. Having already beaten Pakistan and England, India were on a roll and wanted to continue with that momentum. It was a do or die for Australia who had beaten England but lost to Pakistan. The Indian bowlers put their team in the ascendancy and routed Australia for 163 in 49.3 overs. On a pitch where run-scoring was not easy and there was help for the Indian medium pacers, the likes of Geoff Lawson and Rodney Hogg were not expected to let India run away with the match.

But a certain Kris Srikkanth was in the mood! With Ravi Shastri at his defensive best at one end, Srikkanth tore into the Australian attack and hammered a match-winning 93 off just 115 deliveries, including 12 boundaries to take India to a thumping 8 wicket victory with almost 14 overs to spare! The sheer audacity of his knock against the hosts in the atmosphere of the MCG made this a performance to savour. Srikkanth scored at a strike rate of 80.86 in a match where the average rate of scoring of the other batsmen was a mere 50.24! His Strike Rate Impact coupled with the proportion of team runs scored and the significance of the tournament in India's ODI history gives this performance a very high impact.

4. Manish Pandey (104 not out off 81 deliveries), 5th ODI, SCG, 2016

India had already lost the series. They were 0-4 down and playing for pride in the fifth and final ODI at the SCG. Australia were all set for a sweep after posting a colossal 330 for 7 in their allotted 50 overs. However, India had other plans. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan gave India a rollicking start with a 123-run opening wicket partnership. But Dhawan and Kohli departed in quick succession. Manish Pandey joined hands with Rohit and was the aggressor in the 97-run defining stand for the 3rd wicket. Pandey then stitched another stand - 94 for the 4th wicket with MS Dhoni, again dominating the partnership with 54 off 45 deliveries. Ultimately it boiled down to 6 off 4 deliveries. Pandey held his nerve and maintained his composure and hit a four followed by a couple to take India to a record-breaking win! He remained unbeaten on a mighty fine 104 off just 81 deliveries.

It was the first successful 300-plus chase against Australia in Australia. It remains the highest successful chase by any team against Australia in Australia!

5. Sandeep Patil (64 off 70 deliveries), Benson and Hedges World Series Cup, MCG, 1980

It was a huge occasion. It was India's first ODI against Australia in Australia in the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup. India, put in, were in tatters with Dennis Lillee leading the Australian attack. At 65 for 4, Sandeep Patil, on debut, joined Vengsarkar in the middle. The latter exited soon reducing the visitors to 73 for 5 which further worsened to 111 for 6 with the dismissal of Kapil Dev.

Patil found some support in Syed Kirmani and counter-attacked with 64 off just 70 deliveries. His 92-run 6th wicket stand with Kirmani helped India to a somewhat respectable 208 for 9 in their allotted 49 overs.

As it turned out, the total proved to be more than enough and the Indian bowlers routed Australia for 142 in the 43rd over. It was a famous Indian win in their first match against Australia in Australia! And it was Sandeep Patil, who was the game-changer with his high strike rate performance. It was a quality that came to be associated with Patil and he produced some cameos for India in the historic triumph in 1983.

Note: A special mention for Rohit Sharma's majestic unbeaten 171 off just 163 deliveries (including 13 fours and 7 sixes) at Perth in 2016. Rohit scored 55% of India's total of 309. It was a great performance by Rohit as he recorded the highest score by a visiting batsman against Australia in Australia in ODI cricket (since then been surpassed by Jason Roy in 2018) but Rohit's batting impact was diminished for two reasons. One, India lost the match. And secondly, three other batsmen scored big in the match - Kohli made a fine 91 while Steven Smith (149) and George Bailey (112) also scored hundreds, thus reducing the impact of Rohit's colossal performance.