13th July 2002, the day India conquered the Englishmen at their own backyard! It happened 16 years ago still everyone remembers. There must be something in it. Let’s go back and find out the reason! The Natwest series Final 2002 at Lords!
A Flashback before the showdown:
This won’t be complete without looking back at another game which may look like irrelevant now! Few months before, India playing England in a bilateral series at home. The scoreline read 3-2 in favour of India. The decider was a thriller. Home team agonisingly fell short of the target by 5 runs in a tight run chase in Mumbai. After winning it for England, Flintoff who bowled a beautiful last over did something we never saw on a cricket field. He took his shirt off and ran around the field.
On the flip side, Indian skipper, full of anguish, threw the water bottle and moved away to the dressing room.
Cut back to Lords! History was not so kind on the Indian in the finals. Under Sourav India reached almost all the finals of multi-national tournaments. But they failed to win before. Another chance to change the history
Tough beginning for India:
England won the toss and elected to bat on a good batting wicket. India got a fairly early wicket of Nick Knight but failed to stop run flow after that. Spinners didn’t get any purchase on the mecca of cricket as Trescothick and Hussian pair piled on the runs to take England to a strong position. Both batsmen notched up centuries and cameos from middle order took England to 325. Match seemed almost sealed!
Sparking start towards glory:
The mood in the Indian camp must be gloomy after that ordinary display with the ball. But skipper Ganguly would love to give it back to Englishmen. He led from the front with his aggressive approach, this time with bat. He dictated terms to the bowlers in the famous run chase. No fast bowler was allowed to settle as he gone after everybody with purpose.
This time he not just showed his graceful off-side play, there were few brutal assaults between point and extra cover. Even Viru has to play second fiddle to Dada. Captain scored a quick-fire 50 as India gone past 100 without loss. Quickly momentum swung back towards Team India.
A sudden slump:
Just when Indian camp sensed a chance to create history, a rush of blood from the skipper himself started a collapse. Dramatically things moved from 100-0 to 146-5 for India in a blink of an eye. Giles who didn’t get a chance to bowl when Sourav was at the middle got the priced wicket of the Master Sachin. Indian fans started to think that it’s just another day in the office in a final. Young Yuvraj and Kaif were at the middle. Both of them were trying to justify his captain’s 7 batsmen theory in ODIs.
A Partnership for the ages
They scored boundaries when needed and more importantly rotated the strike beautifully which kept the required run rate a manageable on e. After scoring an impactful half century, Yuvi dismissed at a crucial time for India. But Kaif stood tall on that day. He found a trustable partner in the form of Harbhajan . Again at a crucial time, England struck with wickets of Bhajji & Kumble. India was 8 down with Kaif still fighting in the company of Zaheer.
And the climax:
With some sensible batting of Zaheer and calculated hitting of Kaif, India took the game to the last over with only 2 runs to win. Khan was at the striker's end and the man who was ready to bowl the last over was Flintoff! There was a feel like history may repeat in a short span. (I hope now you can relate another game that we relived earlier!) To make everyone sit on the edge of their seat, first two balls were dots including a close call for a wide which went in favour of England. Ganguly was fuming. But it soon became jubilation as India took the winning runs in the very next ball!
Soon after India winning the game, all the attention turned towards the lord’s balcony. Sourav did something outrageous. Indian skipper started swirling his shirt. He just repaid to Flintoff who is standing on his knees in the field. Whether it is cricket or life, it is a great leveller. Flintoff would have understood it on that day. Everything came to full circle.
Meanwhile, through all the drama, India completed one of the finest run chases ever in the ODI history. India won the game by 2 wickets and lifted the trophy. This victory planted the seeds for many of the great run chases that followed. It gave the faith to the young Indian team that they can perform in tough conditions.
More than India’s performance, the debate of Ganguly’s act lasted long. Even though everyone knew that it was ignited by Flintoff. Never the less it was India’s best ever ODI win to date.
To conclude everything it was the mother of all run chases!