The score was 192 with the loss of only one wicket. South Africa needed just 70 runs to win in 13 overs. The stage was the semifinals of the Champions Trophy. The venue was the R Premadasa Stadium in Sri Lanka and the year was 2002.
As Harbhajan Singh went on to bowl his 8th over, it was all but finished for the Indian cricket team. A small portion of the crowd decided to head home as South Africa were in cruise control and were on their way to the final to face the home team – Sri Lanka. Herschelle Gibbs was carrying the team on his shoulders having scored his 2nd century in two matches. Batting on 116 of 119 balls, an unfortunate event took place as his body began to give away as he suffered from cramps in both hands.
This led to his retirement in the 38th over and by doing so, he gave India the tiniest window of opportunity. As a butterfly flapped its wings halfway around the world, the tides turned in India’s favour. It all started with Yuvraj Singh’s jaw-dropping catch to dismiss Jonty Rodes and from there on, there was no turning back for the Indians.
India had found an unlikely bowling hero in the form of Virender Sehwag who tied down the South African batsmen at the death, picked up crucial wickets and ran away with the man of the match award for his spell of 3-25.
Both, Boeta Dippenar and Mark Boucher got out to a top-edge while trying to sweep the ball – a shot which had proved to be very successful for the South Africans in the past. Jacques Kallis who scored a very patient 97 along with Lance Klusener tried turning the match back in the Proteas favour, but they failed to do so as both batsmen were dismissed in the final over of the match.
Earlier in the match, Sehwag had got India off to a good start as he scored 58 runs off 59 balls. VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar failed to get the scoreboard ticking as they both were dismissed for 22 and 16 respectively. India were in a spot of bother at 135-4, but Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid provided useful contributions with the bat as they led the recovery for the Indians. Dravid’s sensible knock of 49 along with Yuvraj’s exciting knock of 62 led to India amassing a respectable total of 261 with the loss of 9 wickets.
No one could have predicted the events which transpired in the 2nd innings of the match. The remarkable comeback by the Indian team is something which still lingers on in the mind of fans and players of both nations till date. Unfortunately, the weather played spoilsport in the final of the Champions Trophy, 2002 which led to India and Sri Lanka sharing the spoils.
The dreaded semifinals of the 1999 World Cup where South Africa managed to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” against Australia along with this particular match led to the “Choker” tag being attached to their cricket team. Since then, they have not performed particularly well in important matches in big tournaments, apart from the recently concluded ICC World Cup last year where they lost in heartbreaking fashion to New Zealand in the semifinals.
Watch the below video and relive the miracle of 2002.