India vs Australia, 1st Match, VB Series, MCG, January 9, 2004: Sourav Ganguly was leading India against the world-beating Australian side captained by the great, Ricky Ponting. Irfan Pathan was making his ODI debut. Australia won the toss and elected to bat. Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden gave the home team a splendid start adding 59 for the opening wicket before Gilchrist was dismissed in the 9th over by Ajit Agarkar – the spearhead of India’s pace attack. The right-arm fast-medium bowler who was deceptive with his speed and often made the batsman hurry saw the back of Hayden and Damien Martyn off successive deliveries in his next over – the 11th of the innings. Australia had been reduced to 70 for 3 and were in a spot of bother. Agarkar was on a hat-trick!
Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke put together a counter-attacking partnership of 143 for the fifth-wicket. Agarkar returned to dismiss the top-scorer of the innings – Symonds – for 88. He also bagged the wickets of the dangerous all-rounder, Ian Harvey before getting the last man, Brad Williams out for a duck. Australia were bowled out for 288 in 48.3 overs.
Agarkar had returned with figures of 6-42 in 9.3 overs – the best bowling figures in an ODI match in Australia! He bowled as many as 34 dot deliveries which meant that a majority of his deliveries weren’t scored off. He was also the most economical bowler for India (and the match, min. 4 overs).
Sachin Tendulkar gave India a fine start and was the aggressor in the 103-run opening wicket stand with Virender Sehwag. But apart from his 69-ball 63 and Sourav Ganguly’s 83-ball 82, there were no other substantial contributions from the Indian middle order. The visitors kept losing wickets at regular intervals. However, from 257 for 4 in the 46th over and with skipper, Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh at the crease, India were still favourites to win the match but both of them fell off successful deliveries – the former run-out by Harvey. The pressure mounted and lower-order collapsed. India lost their last 6 wickets for just 13 runs! They were ultimately bowled out for 270 in 49 overs and were beaten by 18 runs in a match they should have won.
Harvey picked three wickets while Symonds bagged two and was also the most economical bowler for Australia. The latter was adjudged the Player of the Match for his splendid all-round effort.
Agarkar’s fine performance with the ball could not quite result in a victory for India but it remained the best bowling performance by any bowler in Australia in an ODI match till Yuzvendra Chahal replicated the (almost) same figures against the same opposition at the same venue some 15 years later.
Agarkar is the third-highest wicket-taker in India’s ODI history with 288 wickets in 188 bowling innings at an impressive average of 27.85 and strike rate of 32.9 including 10 four-fers and two five-fers.