If you look back in the history of Indian cricket, then you are bound to recall Sourav Ganguly’s shirt waving celebrations at the iconic Lord’s balcony after the Men in Blue clinched a sensational victory against England in the final of the 2002 Natwest Trophy.
On this very day 15 years ago it was an exceptional display of batsmanship by two unexpected names in the form of Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif who played out of their skin and helped India clinch a two-wicket victory in the final over.
Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain Lay England’s foundation
English captain Nasser Hussain had won the toss and elected to bat. Openers Trescothick and Nick Knight played some delightful shots up front to get England off to a solid start before Zaheer Khan castled Nick Knight in the 10th over to provide India with the initial breakthrough. From thereon, it was an exceptional display of strokeplay by the duo of Trescothick and Nasser Hussain.
They literally toyed with the Indian bowlers and kept on depositing them to different parts of the ground. The Indian bowlers were left clueless, as Trescothick went berserk. The southpaw gained from strength to strength and looked well set for a much deserved century. He eventually reached the elusive three-figure mark in the 34th over of the bowling of Harbhajan Singh and was eventually dismissed by Anil Kumble in the 37th over with England’s score reading 227/2 in 37 overs.
On the other hand, Nasser kept on rotating the strike to keep the scoreboard moving. He reached his maiden ODI century in the 45th over which came in 118 balls and made some gestures pointing towards the dressing room that the No. 3 position in the batting order belonged to him despite experts criticising him in the past.
The captain struck two consecutive boundaries off Zaheer Khan in the 47th over and finally gave away his wicket on 115. Flintoff then struck some lusty blows towards the end, as England ended their allotted 50 overs on 325/5. Zaheer was the pick of the bowlers finishing with match figures of 3/62 in his 10 overs.
India Get Off To A Sensational Start
Captain Sourav Ganguly came out to partner Virender Sehwag and the duo looked in ominous touch from the outset. Ganguly, in particular, smashed the English bowlers all around the park during the fielding restrictions, as India looked well in pursuit of the huge total. The blazing blade of the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ kept the English bowlers on their toes and Nasser Hussain was left to ponder on that situation.
The southpaw completed his half-century in a mere 35 deliveries and shared an unbroken 100-runs stand with Sehwag. On the other hand, Sehwag smashed Ronnie Irani for four boundaries in the 12th over, as India raced to the 100-run mark in the 13th over. Ganguly’s innings finally came to an end when he went for a wild heave on the leg side of the bowling of Alex Tudor but couldn’t quite connect which resulted in his downfall.
The Middle-Order Collapse
Following a sensational century partnership, the Men in Blue were pushed to a corner with a flurry of wickets. First, it was Virender Sehwag who was castled by Ashley Giles and Ronnie Irani removed Dinesh Mongia and Rahul Dravid in double quick time. The final nail in the coffin was put when India lost Sachin Tendulkar with the score reading a mere 146/5 and it was now left to two youngsters Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif to do something out of the ordinary.
Yuvi and Kaif Rewrites History
The two young guns Yuvi and Kaif were now left in a precarious situation but the southpaw didn’t quite show his nerves and belted the England bowlers all around the Lord’s. Kaif also started gaining in confidence and started finding the gaps on regular occasions. They complemented each other tremendously and never allowed the required rate to creep up. The duo kept on finding the gaps on regular intervals and slowly but surely England were now feeling the heat.
Yuvi smashed a hat-trick of boundaries in the 38th over and Kaif followed it up with a six and a four of Tudor in the very next over. A mere 61 runs were required from the final nine overs when Yuvraj top edged a delivery from Paul Collingwood straight to the fine leg fielder.
The Final Drama
Harbhajan Singh joined Kaif in the middle and struck a six almost immediately to get his innings going. Kaif also struck the occasional boundaries, as India was within touching distance of a famous victory. Later, Flintoff ignited England’s hopes in the 48th over when he dismissed Harbhajan and Anil Kumble conceding just a mere three runs.
11 runs were required from the final two overs and it was Kaif who brought the calculation down to two of the final over after edging a delivery from Darren Gough through the 3rd man region for a boundary. It was Zaheer who struck the winning runs on the 3rd delivery of the final over which handed India their most memorable victory in ODI cricket.
Captain Sourav Ganguly was ecstatic and taking off his shirt just to give Flintoff a dose of his own medicine proves the audacity of the man with which he played the game. The victory will definitely rank among the best Indian wins which laid the foundation of India winning more series outside the subcontinent.