Having appeared down and out after their resounding innings defeat at Lord’s, India’s players suddenly have the scent of an unexpected comeback in their nostrils.
Unexpected… and almost unprecedented. Should Virat Kohli’s side follow up their 203-run victory over England at Trent Bridge with further successes in the remaining Tests, they will become only the second team in history to overturn a 2-0 deficit and triumph in a five-match series.
And the side that managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on that previous occasion? England.
To compound that calamity, it came in an Ashes series. Gubby Allen led the England side to Australia during the winter of 1936-37 – their first tour Down Under since the infamous ‘Bodyline’ series four years earlier.
Bodyline, also known as ‘leg theory’, had been implemented to counter the Australian run machine known as Don Bradman and that aim was successfully achieved – albeit with plenty of collateral damage – as England triumphed 4-1.
But Bradman helped his team to regain the Ashes in 1934 and Australia’s star batsman was now handed the task of defending the urn in his first series as captain.
It did not begin well. Bradman – recently hit by personal tragedy with the loss of his baby son – was struggling for form and made a duck in the first Test at Brisbane as Australia were rolled over for just 58 in their second innings.
That 322-run defeat was followed by a heavier loss at Sydney, with Wally Hammond’s 231 not out anchoring an England total of 426-6 declared before the home side were bowled out for 80 and 324.
Bradman, who had recorded another duck in the first innings, did make 82 second time around – but his captaincy was roundly criticised in the Australian press and few gave his team any hope of clinging on to the Ashes.
The turning point came in the third Test at Melbourne, where batsmen on both sides struggled on a difficult wicket but, with conditions improving, Bradman radically changed the Australian batting order.
After sending out two tailenders to open, the skipper eventually came to the crease at No 7 and proceeded to hit 270, sharing a record sixth-wicket stand of 346 with Jack Fingleton as Australia went on to win by 365 runs.
As Bradman regained his form, so did his team – and they duly drew level in the fourth Test at Adelaide, with the captain chalking up another double hundred before left-arm spinner ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith took 10 wickets to secure a 148-run victory.
There was little doubt that momentum had shifted in Australia’s favour and Bradman, Stan McCabe and Jack Badcock all hit centuries as the home side racked up 604 in the fifth Test at the MCG before bowling England out cheaply twice to clinch an innings win and the series.
Bradman’s brilliance, coupled with the onset of the Second World War, meant it would be another 15 years before England held the Ashes again – a scenario that had seemed inconceivable when they held a 2-0 lead with three to play…