Conquering the Gabba – Five visiting players who made an impression

TD Paine will be hoping Australia can continue their impressive record at the Gabba when Australia take on India in the 4th Test.

India fought valiantly in Sydney to secure an unlikely draw against Australia and they now head to the Gabba with an injury list as long as your arm to face the Aussies who have not lost a test match at the venue since I was in year four. 

In that time however, there have been visiting players who have made their mark achieving individual success at the ground which has become a fortress for the home side. 

To set the scene, I have started with what was an eventful Test Match at the Gabba in November 1988 with the imposing force of the West Indies reigning supreme with a dominant 9 wicket victory thanks to some handy work from their pace attack, in particular the great Curtley Ambrose. 

Since then there have been a number of other overseas players who have made their mark claiming man of the match honours despite their team not getting over the line.

1988 – CEL Ambrose

After winning the toss and batting, it was tough going for the home side with the Windies pace attack led by Ambrose, Walsh and the late great Malcom Marshall wreaking havoc with the ball. Patrick Patterson was the other member of the pace quartet however, he sustained an injury in his fourth over not bowling again in the game.

Mike Veletta was the best performer in the Aussie innings lasting 3 hours for his 37 before falling to the much more friendly off spin of Carl Hooper. Sir Vivian Richards who was playing his 100th Test Match claimed his 100th catch in test cricket when he snared Tony Dodemaide off the bowling of Courtney Walsh to wrap up the innings. This would be the first wicket of a hat trick that was completed on Day 3 in Australia’s second innings when he dismissed Veletta and Wood in successive deliveries.

It was Curtly Ambrose however who claimed man of the match honours with first innings figures of 16.5 overs 5 maidens 3-30 (only 23 of these off the bat having bowled 7 no balls) including the wickets of Marsh, Wood and Border. He chimed in with a handy 19 not out with the willow and snared another 3 wickets in the second innings with Marsh and Border his two big scalps for the second time in the match.

This was just one of the many times the big West Indian paceman imposed himself on batsmen all around the world with his pace and bounce collecting over four hundred test match wickets.

1989 – PA De Silva

Growing up I had a lot of love for Sri Lankan all rounder Aravinda de Silva. One of his finer moments playing down under came when he notched up 167 against Australia in the drawn Test Match of 1989. Facing the Australian attack of Alderman, Lawson, Rackeman, Hughes and Moody, the likable tourist became the first Sri Lankan to score a hundred against Australia. 

His epic innings lasted over 8 hours after Merv Hughes dropped a return catch not long after his arrival at the crease. De Silva patiently built an innings, eventually bringing up his ton off a thick outside edge that went past the outstretched right hand of Mark Taylor at second slip, down to the boundary for four. 

After playing some wonderful back foot strokes, including landing one on the famous dog track, he eventually hooked a Carl Rackeman delivery straight down the throat of Geoff Lawson who was fielding on the fine leg boundary. 

It was his second of twenty test hundreds in a distinguished career that netted over six thousand test match runs. 

2003 – SC Ganguly

I was fortunate enough to be living in Brisbane in 2003 and was on hand at the Gabba to witness Justin Langer put Australia in a commanding position registering 121 at the top of the order for the home side.

It would be the visiting captain Sourav Ganguly though, who would make his mark with a magnificent 144 bringing up his first test match hundred against Australia with a sweep shot off MacGill for 2. He sweated on anything with width outside the off stump, playing through the off side with precision. 

He would eventually fall to a well flighted delivery from MacGill that he drove straight to the safe hands of the ever reliable Jason Gillespie at mid off. This helped the tourists take an 86 run lead in a match that would finish in a draw with inclement weather seeing play interrupted on numerous occasions. 

It was the only hundred that Ganguly scored on this tour but certainly sent a message that he was ready to take the game to the Australians. It proved to be a very competitive series with India going on to beat Australia in Adelaide before the home side bounced back in Melbourne with a draw in Sydney leaving us with a 1-1 result.

2010 – AN Cook

Brisbane 2010 is the test match probably most remembered for PM Siddle’s birthday hat trick which was started by the dismissal of Alistair Cook who fell for 67 after a lengthy stay at the crease. However it was Alistair Cook who claimed man of the match honours in a game that ended up finishing a draw.

After winning the toss and batting first, England were bowled out for 260 which did not look like it would be enough. The Aussies were in trouble though at 5-143 but Brad Haddin joined Michael Hussey at the crease for an incredible 307 run stand, which restored order and put the home side back on top.

Day 4 however belonged to the visitors with twenty five year old Alistair Cook batting the entire day returning to the sheds at stumps unbeaten on 132 after resuming the day’s play on 6 not out. 

Cook went on to surpass his previous highest test score of 173 against Bangladesh which he had scored earlier in the year on his way to a magnificent 235 not out as part of a phenomenal unbeaten 329 run partnership with Jonathan Trott.

Cook’s innings at the time was the highest individual score in a test match at the ground surpassing DG Bradman’s 226 v South Africa in 1931. It has since only been eclipsed by Michael Clarke’s superb 259 not out against South Africa in 2012.

His thirst for runs continued throughout the tour finishing top of the tree on the run scorers list with 766 runs at 127.66 helping the visitors to win the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time in 24 years.

2016 – Asad Shafiq

The pink ball was a feature of the Gabba test in 2016 when Pakistan was set a near impossible target of 490 in the fourth innings of the game.

After winning the toss and batting Australia were on the front foot posting 429 on the back of centuries to Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb. This was backed up by the Australian pace trio of Starc, Hazlewood and Bird each claiming 3 wickets to have the visitors well behind in the game as they were bundled out for 142.

The Australian’s then upped the tempo in their second innings scoring at over 5 an over declaring with a session to go on day three. Pakistan negotiated the final session finishing just two down heading into day 4.

With some inclement weather on day 4 there looked to be a slim chance of Pakistan surviving for a draw but the prospect of a win would require a minor miracle. When Asad Shafiq came to the crease at 4-165 there were still 335 runs required and plenty of overs left in the game. 

The runs started ticking over and productive partnerships were formed. Bringing up his 50 with a push to the on side coincided with a 50 partnership with Mohammed Amir off just 67 balls. 

Australia had their chance to dismiss Shafiq when Starc found the edge of his bat on 72 with Smith not able to complete the catch in the slips. A well struck cut shot for 3 off Jackson Bird brought up his ton just prior to stumps on Day 4 with his team still needing a further 112 runs with 3 wickets in hand. It was Shafiq’s 10th Test Match hundred and his first against Australia.

His fighting knock eventually came to an end when he got a sharp rising ball from Mitch Starc bowling around the wicket that he ballooned to David Warner at gully. Out for 137 he had earned the respect of many and almost pulled off a miracle for Pakistan. Australia soon took the final wicket and won the game by 39 runs with Shafiq named man of the match.

India will need to defy the odds to stop Australia in Brisbane. Will we see some similar heroics from the visitors or will the home side maintain their invincibility at the Gabba fortress?


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