Those present at the Brabourne Stadium on 25th February 1998 witnessed an onslaught which none would ever forget. It was only a trailer of the upcoming action-packed blockbuster, but it was the spiciest trailer.
The historic venue witnessed a duel between cricketing wizards where the local hero pulverized the visiting one. It also resulted in an Indian first-class team defeating a mighty Australian Test side in just under two and a half days.
The Australian team snatched the Test cricket crown from the Windies back in 1995.
Since then, the Kangaroos had won every series till 1998 with the exception of a one-off Test against India in 1996. They arrived on the Indian shores with the expectation of settling the score.
This was a team of champions eager to conquer the Indian fortress.
Before Australia faced India, they had to see off the Mumbai team in a three-day practice match. The giant of Indian domestic cricket was the reigning Ranji Trophy champion. With Sachin Tendulkar captaining the side, it was a power-packed team with names like Sanjay Manjrekar, Vinod Kambli, Amol Muzumdar, Nilesh Kulkarni, and Abey Kuruvilla.
Mark Taylor, the Australian captain, won the toss and chose to bat first. He was the first man out, but Michael Slater (98) and Greg Blewett (47) carried Australia to 103/1 at the stroke of lunch. Later, Ricky Ponting’s 53 and defiance from lower middle order helped the Aussies pile up the score of 305/8 by the end of day one.
An overnight declaration was announced.
Mumbai would bat the next day.
Mumbai’s target was locked on blunting the confidence of one man – Shane Warne. In his autobiography ‘Playing it my way’, Sachin states his directions.
“The most important thing was to attack Warne. I had instructed all our batsmen to take Warne on whenever he came on to bowl. I did not care if we lost wickets, but there was no way we would allow Warne to settle into his groove and dictate terms.”
”At this point, Warne had 315 wickets in 68 Tests.
Mumbai batsmen were going to attack the world’s best spinner on a spin-friendly track.
Sulakshan Kulkarni was out early and Sanjay Manjrekar, who was playing his last cricket match, now joined Amit Pagnis in the middle. The duo saw off the speedsters without giving away a wicket. Mark Taylor tossed the ball to Shane Warne as the first change. Thousands at Brabourne and those watching the live telecast on TV sensed something special was about to happen.
It was the opener Amit Pagnis who fired the first shots. The left-hander treated Warne with disdain and smashed him for four boundaries in his first two overs. Manjrekar, standing at the other end, exclaimed that Pagnis did not even care to keep the ball down.
This came like a starter. The main course would follow and would be served like blistering cannons by none other than the Master himself; Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Although, it can’t be said whether Warne enjoyed the meal one bit. Pagnis was dismissed after a quick-fire 50 from 60 balls with nine boundaries.
Out came Sachin Tendulkar.
He stuck to his preaching with a six off Warne in his very first over at the crease. While Mumbai kept losing wickets at the other end, Sachin remained true to his cause of neutralizing Warne. The ferocious attack ended with a double-century scored in just 192 balls. The little master had struck 26 fours and two sixes.
This was Sachin Tendulkar’s highest score in first-class cricket and the first double century.
Mumbai concluded its inning on the second day with Sachin’s double ton and a 105-run lead. Shane Warne’s bowling figures at the end of the inning were a grand 16-1-111-0.
Australia lost three quick wickets to finish the disappointing day on 36/3.
Third and the last day belonged to Mumbai’s left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni.
He provided the first breakthrough by getting Ponting caught behind. Rajesh Sutar then accounted for Lehmann which kick-started a batting collapse. Kulkarni with his 5/23 scythed through the Australian middle order to get them all out for just 135 runs. Mumbai knocked off the required 31 runs in just 34 balls and defeated World’s best Test team inside three days.
What happened next?
India won the following Test series 2-1 with victories at Chennai and Kolkata.
Sachin played a herculean knock of 155 not out in the Chennai Test. He was named Man of the series for his spectacular tally of 446 runs from three Tests.
Shane Warne managed to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar only once in the series. He conceded 540 runs to take his 10 wickets.