By Tapabrata Banerjee
India’s most anticipated Test series in Australia is starting on December 6 at the iconic Adelaide Oval, one of the premier venues down under. Let’s look into some statistical highlights of this ground.
We will start with the history and geography of the ground. Established in 1871, Adelaide Oval is the only Test ground in the state of South Australia. Along with cricket this ground has hosted many other sports including Australian rules football, rugby, tennis, football, field hockey and even sports like lacrosse, quoits and cycling. Interestingly the Indian army hockey team played on this ground in 1926 and beat South Australia 14-0.
The first-ever Test match in this ground dates back to December 12 to 16, 1884. This was the 17th Test match overall and the first on Australian soil outside the famed duo of the Sydney Cricket Ground and Melbourne Cricket Ground. A well fought out match saw a couple of centuries and a five-wicket haul and a win for Arthur Shrewsbury led the England team over Australia captained by Billy Murdoch. Since then Adelaide Oval remained one of the key Test match grounds and hosted touring sides regularly. Specially post 80’s the ground hosted at least one test match every year, barring 1988, 2007 and 2011.
One of the most memorable, although infamous incidents in this ground was during the Bodyline Test when on the third day in front of a 50,000 plus vociferous crowd Harold Larwood hit Australian captain Bill Woodfull on the chest and wicket keeper Bert Oldfield in the head knocking him out. It was the lowest point of that most controversial tour and mounted police had to be deployed to control the crowd.
Adelaide Oval was again in the history books when in November 2015 it became the first ground in the world to host a day-night test match between Australia and New Zealand, their trans-Tasmanian neighbour.
Enough of history and now let’s move into some numbers.
The ground has hosted 76 test matches all of them involving Australia. 57 of these Test matches or 75% ended with a result and rest 19 were drawn. Australia won 40 of those 57 matches with a in/loss ratio of 2.35. Rest 17 victories were divided between England (9), West Indies (5), South Africa (2) and India (1). New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the other teams to play test cricket in this venue without any success. Interestingly, Australia won all the three day-night Test matches at this venue, but could not organise a pink ball Test this time as BCCI and Indian team is not so keen to venture into this yet.
In 1992, Adelaide Oval witnessed the closest test match victory when West Indies beat Australia by 1 run.
The average first innings total is 387 however, in recent times, Adelaide has the reputation of being the most batting-friendly tracks in Australia and the first innings average goes up to 448 if we consider last 15 test matches starting from 2003 with eight 500+ scores put up in the first innings of the test match. The average second innings total is 359.
Batting and Bowling Highlights:
Ricky Ponting has played the most number of test matches in this venue and leading the run scorers’ table with 1,743 runs in 17 test matches followed by three more Australian captains, Alan Border (1,415) Michael Clarke (1,414) and Steve Waugh (1,056). First 18 spots are all occupied by the Australians with Brian Lara boasting the highest aggregate among foreigners with 610 runs in just four Test outings. Among Indians Rahul Dravid has the pole position with 401 runs from four matches. However, Virat Kohli has already scored 393 runs in his two Test matches and should definitely cross that if his love story with Adelaide Oval continues, more of that later.
Clarke holds the record of scoring the maximum number of Test centuries in this ground with seven followed by Ponting with six. The highest score in this ground is 299 unbeaten by Don Bradman. As usual Don has a 100 plus average in this ground while scoring 970 runs in seven Test matches.
Bowling charts are led by certain Shane Keith Warne with 56 scalps followed by three Australian fast bowlers of different eras, Glen McGrath (46), Denis Lillee (45) and Craig McDermott (42). Again in an Aussie dominated list Kapil Dev appears in 18th position as the foreigner with highest test wickets with 19. For the best bowling figure we have to go back when 123 years ago the sensational Australian all rounder Albert Trott took 8 for 43 against England, a country he would represent in the later part of his career.
India at Adelaide Oval:
India played their first test in the Adelaide Oval in their first tour down under in 1948. Don Bradman’s Australia handed them an innings defeat as part of a 4-0 series loss. Bradman himself scored a double century and Lindsay Hassett remained not out on 198. For India, Vijay Hazare made his mark with his twin centuries in the match. It was the first instance of an Indian batsman scoring centuries in both innings of a test match and still considered one of the finest displays of batting by an Indian.
India has played 10 more Test matches and their record reads one win, seven losses and three draws. The famous win was achieved in 2003 in the test match which can be safely called ‘Dravid-Agarkar’s test’. Dravid scored 233 and unbeaten 72 to take India to a win after the stage was set by Ajit Agarkar with his 6 for 41 in Australia’s second innings. Australia’s first innings total of 556 remain their second highest total to lose a test match and 4th overall. It was a moment of redemption for Agarkar who got the nickname of ‘Bombay Ducks’ thanks to six consecutive ducks in the previous tour and was in the middle with Dravid when the winning boundary was hit.
Among the seven losses, couple of them were pretty close with margin of victory for Australia was less than 50 runs. In the 5th test match of the 1977-78 series, chasing 493 for an improbable win, Indian team got contributions from everyone as all the batsmen except number 11 BS Chandrashekhar reached double figure. But the fight was in vain with India getting all out for 445. Also India had a great chance in the first test match in their last tour. However Nathan Lyon’s 12 wickets ensured a 48 run victory for the hosts. The test match saw debutant captain Virat Kohli scoring two hundreds in the match and getting hold of all sorts of records. His match total of 256 is the highest for any player on captaincy debut and he also became the second captain and the first overseas player to score two hundreds on captaincy debut. It was also the sixth instance of an overseas batsman scoring twin hundreds in a Test match in Australia and second for India.
Kohli has a great record in Adelaide Oval with three Test centuries, one ODI ton (against Pakistan in a World Cup fixture) and a 90 in T20s. So, going into the series-opener, the hopes will be pinned on the Indian skipper to provide his team an ideal start in this much-anticipated series.
(Tapabrata Banerjee is a Kolkata-based cricket enthusiast. He loves number, loves cricket… not in that order always… loves the most when it comes to cricket related numbers. He can be contacted via Facebook.)