After a thrilling Sydney test match, 2008 that India lost with few minutes of the last hour remaining on the final day Perth test became a stage for India to bounce back.
On January 19, 2008, India won their 5th test match on Australian soil in Perth. The victory was significant and vital for the Indian team due to a lot of reasons.
2008 Sydney test match saw one of the most controversial encounters between India and Australia. On the 5th day of the match, Australia scored 333 runs and declared innings just before the lunch. With only two sessions left to chase that massive target, India lost 3 quick wickets including Laxman and Tendulkar with just 54 on the board, although one of those was on a No-ball. Dravid and Ganguly batted together for more than 15 overs and added 61 runs. Then Dravid was given out caught-behind when his bat was nowhere close to the ball. Few overs later Ganguly was given out caught in the slip but the catch by Michael Clarke was not at all conclusive. But instead of checking with the third umpire, Mark Benson checked with Ricky Ponting and gave out. India collapsed at the last moment and got all out with just 9 minutes of play remaining. Later in the post-match press session a visibly upset Indian captain Anil Kumble asked a question on Australian team’s integrity. In fact, BCCI made an official complaint about incompetent umpiring.
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During the same match, Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds went into racism controversy. The entire scenario is known as the ‘Monkeygate’ saga almost threatened to affect the relations between the two countries.
When men in blue appeared for the Perth test match, they were definitely not in the best of their mental state. However, Indians were keen to prove their metal with an inspired performance which could have been the best possible reply to the yellow brigade. Elected to bat first India were soon 59 for 2 when Rahul Dravid took the charge. Rahul Dravid (93) and Sachin Tendulkar (71) with a steady contribution from lower order helped India to reach 330. The partnership of 139 between Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar was all that India required at that stage. In reply, Australia were all out for 212. Only Symonds (66) and Gilchrist (55) could perform decently against India’s outstanding bowling. Only RP Singh took 4 wickets in the first innings and secured a 118 lead for India.
India were struggling in the second innings when VVS Laxman again showed his very very special skill against Australia and scored an elegant 79. Indians finally put a target of 413 for the mighty Australians. Indian bowling side had everything in store to trouble Ponting and co. Irfan Pathan was devastating. He picked up the openers in Australia’s both innings and finished the match with 5 wicket haul. A young, 18-year old Ishant Sharma’s spell kept troubling Ponting and gave him memories that he would probably never forget. The angry Indian captain poured all he had on the track and took four wickets in the match and joined the club of 600 wicket takers along with Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. Australia kept trying to defend but in the end, on day five, 19th Jan, India won the match by 72 runs.
This was a much-needed victory for the Indian team after those couple of troubled weeks. This was even the first win for any sub-continental team at Perth and a memorable comeback for India in the series. In fact, this was the second time that India denied a consecutive 17 test win for Australia after they did the same in 2001 Kolkata test.