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Home » Specials 1996-97: A comfortable win for India

From the moment Shane Warne was forced out of contention because of a spinning finger which remained obstinately stiff after surgery earlier in the year, the Australians knew they faced a tough task on their six-week tour of India.

Mark Taylor, who had missed the limited-overs series in Sri Lanka, returned to captain Australia for the one-off Test and triangular one-day series. Steve Waugh was the only member of the 14-man party to have had Test experience in India from Australia's previous visit in 1986, and the tourists' sparse preparation for the Test – just two matches – was soon reduced to a single first-class outing when the Indian Cricket Board failed to provide a team to play the Australians upon their arrival in Bombay on September 30.

The Australians did not make a good fist of the inaugural Test for the Border-Gavaskar trophy, played at New Delhi on a pitch devoid of grass and severely under-watered in its preparation. The one change made to the touring 14, apart from the replacement of Warne with Peter McIntyre in the days preceding Australia's departure, was the summoning of wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist from Western Australia in the midst of the Titan Cup to stand-in for Ian Healy (strained hamstring).

Only Test at Delhi,10-13 October 1996

Going into the Test severely under-prepared and without their No. 1 spinner in Shane Warne, the Australians were at India's mercy at the decaying Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, staging its first international match for some years. The match was the first for the Border-Gavaskar trophy for Test cricket between India and Australia, but before a ball was bowled it was evident that conditions would overwhelmingly favour the home side.

"The elephant-grey strip cannot have seen a drop of water for days and cracks outnumber what wisps of grass there are," wrote Trent Bouts in The Australian on the eve of the match. "One Australian player took his first look at what is reportedly a recently relaid surface, laughed, and wondered aloud why the home side had picked only four spinners".

Australia mustered whatever slow-bowling resources they had, introducing left-arm unorthodox bowler Brad Hogg to Test cricket and giving Peter McIntyre, another wrist spinner, his second international in three seasons. The unlikely named David Johnson made his Test debut for India at the expense of Javagal Srinath (shoulder injury).

Australia started reasonably well upon Mark Taylor winning the toss before collapsing to the spin of Anil Kumble (4 for 63), Aashish Kapoor (2 for 30) and Sunil Joshi (2 for 36). Michael Slater's top score of 44 "was a fine knock of character and courage, showing that he is back to his exciting, best form," wrote one correspondent.

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