The Dharamsala Test, the venue for the fourth and final clash, will be a rare occasion in the last 15 years for the Australian team when the fate of the series (featuring three matches or more) will hang on the outcome of the deciding battle.
And going by the way Australia’s last six deciding clashes have panned out, one can expect a cracker in the Himalayan foothills to end the thrilling series.
Hindustan Times takes a look Australia’s six classic series deciding clashes.
Australia v India, SCG, 2004
India only needed a draw in the fourth and final Test to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. India almost secured the Test when they posted a mammoth total of 705 for seven in their first innings, thanks to Sachin Tendulkar’s epic unbeaten 241 to break his form drought, VVS Laxman’s 178 and Anil Kumble’s 8/141 to restrict Australia to 474.
Australia were set a target of 443 runs with a little more than a day of play. The challenge of taking 10 wickets was too much for India as Australia did the smart thing to go for the draw with 357 for six in their second innings.
Brief scores: India 705/7 decl (S Tendulkar 241 n o, VVS Laxman 178) and 211/2 decl drew with Australia 474 (A Kumble 8/141) and 357/6 (Waugh 80, Katich 77*; Kumble 4-138)
England v Australia, The Oval, 2005
This remains one of the all-time classic Ashes contests. Australia needed a win in the fifth Test to retain the Urn, but England denied it in the end to provide a splendid finale to a thrilling series.
England managed to hold on to a slender six-run advantage going into the second innings. The rain breaks only added to the tension and slowed the proceedings. However, Shane Warne triggered an England batting collapse to put the Aussies back in the match. Dropping a sitter when England’s Kevin Pietersen was on 20 proved too costly a miss for the Aussies as the Test rookie smashed a maiden ton to deny Australia a chance to level the series as England won 2-1.
Brief scores: England 373 (A Strauss 129; S Warne 6/122) and 335 (K Pietersen 158; S Warne 6/124) draw vs Australia 367 (J Langer 105, M Hayden 138; A Flintoff 5/78, M Hoggard 4/97) and 4/0.
Australia v India, Nagpur, 2008
There is a lot of resemblance between the 2008 series and the on-going one. After Ricky Ponting’s men won the first Test in Bangalore, they lost the second at Mohali and drew the third in Delhi where Anil Kumble announced his retirement as MS Dhoni took over the leadership reigns for the final Test in Nagpur.
India posted 441 in their first innings, thanks to Sachin Tendulkar’s 109. Debutant spinner Jason Krejza was the pick of the bowlers for Australia with 8/215. Australia scored 355 in their reply with a ton from Simon Katich (102) and a 90 from Mike Hussey.
India scored 295 in their second dig to set 382-run target. The visitors slumped to a 172-run defeat with Harbhajan Singh (4/64) and Amit Mishra (3/27) restricting the Aussies to 209.
Dhoni unofficially handed the captaincy to Sourav Ganguly, who was playing his final Test.
Brief scores: India 441 (Tendulkar 109, Ganguly 85, Sehwag 66, Laxman 64, Dhoni 56, Krejza 8-215) and 295 (Sehwag 92, Dhoni 55, Harbhajan 52, Watson 4-42, Krejza 4-143) beat Australia 355 (Katich 102, Hussey 90) and 209 (Hayden 77, Harbhajan 4-64, Mishra 3-27 ) by 172 runs.
England v Australia, The Oval, 2009
Stuart Broad’s 5-37 helped England tighten the grip on the final Test as Australia were bowled out for just 160 — a 172-run first-innings deficit.
Jonathan Trott’s century on debut helped England set 546-run target for Australia. Despite a fighting century from Michael Hussey, England emerged victorious in the end with a 197-run win to reclaim the Ashes.
Brief scores: England 332 and 373/9 decl beat Australia 160 and 348 (M Hussey 121, R Ponting 66; G Swann 4-120) by 197 runs.
Australia v South Africa, WACA Ground, 2012
Australia were keen to give a fitting farewell to Ricky Ponting, who had announced that the third Perth Test will be his final appearance.
Australia did well to bowl out South Africa for 225, but Dale Steyn’s fiery 4/40 and Robin Peterson’s 3/44 helped the Proteas restrict the Aussies to 163. Hashim Amla’s 196 and AB de Villiers’ 169 ensured the match was beyond Australia’s reach as SA posted 569 to set a 632-run target.
The hosts were bowled out for 322 to crash to a 309-run defeat as Ponting (4 & 8) ended his Test career on a losing note while the Aussies surrendered their No 1 spot to South Africa.
Brief scores: South Africa 225 (du Plessis 78*) and 569 (Amla 196, de Villiers 169, Smith 84; Starc 6-154) beat Australia 163 (Wade 68; Steyn 4-40) and 322 (Starc 68*, Cowan 53; Steyn 3-72, Peterson 3-127) by 309 runs.
South Africa v Australia, Newlands, 2014
The No 1 spot was once again on the line with the three-match series tentalisingly poised at 1-1. Blistering centuries from David Warner and a fighting 161 not out from skipper Michael Clarke helped give Australia post 494 for seven declared. Mitchell Johnson’s 4/42 then helped restrict SA to 287.
Australia then set a target of 511 and the Proteas were well on course to a grinding draw. However, the course of the match changed in the last 15 minutes of play on the final day with Australia still two wickets away from the win. Ryan Harris bowled Dale Steyn (1) and Morne Morkel (0) in the space of three balls to ensure a remarkable series win for Australia. Vernon Philander was gutted as he remained unbeaten on 51 at the other end.
Brief scores: Australia 494/7 decl & 303/5 decl beat South Africa 287 and 265 (Philander 51*; R Harris 4-32, M Johnson 3-92) by 245 runs.