For Australia, there seems to be a strange connection when it comes to chasing small totals in the fourth innings of a Test match. It seems that smaller the total, the harder it is for Australia to secure a victory.
In the fourth innings of the Bangalore Test against India, Australia needed 188 to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series. However, Ravichandran Ashwin picked up his 25th five-wicket haul as Australia were bowled out for 112, helping India level the series with a 75-run win.
The loss in Bangalore opened up questions on Australia’s ability to chase down small totals in the fourth innings of a Test. The loss in Bangalore is a continuation of a worrying trend that has affected Australia since the 1980s when they have failed to chase totals in the range of 100 to 200.
Following the loss in Bangalore, here are five other instances when Australia failed to chase small totals in the fourth innings* of a Test.
1 England vs Australia, Leeds, 1981 (Target: 130, Result: Lost by 18 runs)
Australia notched up 401 and in response, England were dismantled for 174. Following on, the hosts were reduced to 135/7. Bookmakers placed the bets on an England win to 500-1. In a spectacular turnaround, Ian Botham slammed a magnificent 149 and shared partnerships of 117 and 67 for the eighth and ninth wicket to give Australia a target of 130. Bob Willis produced a brilliant bowling display as he picked up 8/43 to give England an inspirational 18-run win.
2 England vs Australia, Trent Bridge, 1981 (Target 151, Result: Lost by 29 runs)
In two consecutive matches, Australia were blown away. After taking a 69-run lead in the first innings, England were on the verge of defeat when they were bowled out for 219, giving Australia a target of 151. At 105/4, Australia were cruising but Ian Botham turned the match on his head as he picked up five wickets for one run to bowl Australia out for 121. His figures of 14-9-11-5 helped England take a 2-1 lead in the series.
3 Australia vs South Africa, Sydney, 1994 (Target 111, Result: Lost by five runs)
Shane Warne’s 7/56 and an aggressive 92 from Michael Slater helped Australia take a 123-run lead against South Africa. Some gritty batting from the Proteas in the third innings helped avoid humiliation as they set Australia a target of 117. However, in an inspired spell of bowling, Fanie de Villiers picked up 6/43 while Allan Donald snapped up 3/34 as Australia were bowled out for 111 to give South Africa an unlikely Test win by five runs.
4 England vs Australia, The Oval, 1997 (Target 124, Lost by 19 runs)
With Australia having taken a 3-1 lead in the six-match series, there was only pride to play for. Australia managed a 40-run lead and Michael Kasprowicz picked up 7/36 to give Australia a chance to go 4-1 up. Chasing 124, they were blown away by Andrew Caddick’s 5/42 and Phil Tufnell’s 4/27 as they were bowled out for 104 to give England a consolation 19-run win.
5 India vs Australia, Mumbai, 2004 (Target 107, Lost by 13 runs)
Australia had conquered the final frontier and they were aiming for a 3-0 series win against India. On an underprepared Wankhede pitch, India were bowled out for 104 and Australia notched up 203. Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman slammed fifties while Michael Clarke picked up figures of 6/9. Chasing a target of 104, Harbhajan Singh picked up 5/29 as Australia were bowled out for 93, giving India a sensational win.
(*Criteria is fourth innings of a Test and the target is in the range of 100-199)