India pull off thrilling win at Lord's
England vs India
When Mohammad Kaif and Zaheer Khan scampered through for an overthrow to mark an impossible win, Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly, who had sat quietly, glued to his seat, for the entire duration of the Indian innings on the Lord's balcony, leapt up, pulled off his jersey and waved it in the air, screaming words best left untold.
There was a touch of sweet revenge in that gesture. Months ago, England's young all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, after squaring the one-day series in India, ran around Mumbai's Wankhede stadium in much the same manner as a dejected Ganguly watched from the sidelines.
The revenge could not have been sweeter for the Indian captain. It came on the hallowed turf at Lord's as Ganguly lifted the NatWest Trophy, pulling off India's greatest one-day win since the World Cup at the same venue 19 years ago.
As fireworks went off and celebrations raged in the streets of Mumbai and indeed in other cities all over the country, India pulled off a most unlikely victory, by two wickets, chasing a record 326 against England, the second highest run chase in one-day cricket.
The chief architects of the win were two youngsters with a collective age of 42. Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif conjured up a surreal fightback with a mind-boggling 121-run partnership after half the Indian side was back in the hut with only 146 on the board.
It would be fair to say that youthful optimism saved India when the seniors failed to put their hands up. It was surprising to see Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid nowhere on the balcony as Yuvraj and Kaif fought hard, rewriting a new chapter in Indian cricket along the way.
India's triumph will now have the same effect on other countries as Laxman's 281 last year. No target will now seem big enough for India.
Two centuries and a faulty selection saw India facing an improbable target of 326 to win.
Opener Marcus Trescothick and skipper Nasser Hussain registered centuries against the Indians, who had dropped third seamer Ajit Agarkar and played both their spinners, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
India thus began the final with a baffling bowling imbalance. The last time India had played at Lord's, in the league phase, they had played two spinners and two seamers, and let England set up a total of 271, with Kumble and Singh giving away 96 runs off their 20 overs without a single wicket.
England dropped seamer Matthew Hoggard for the left-arm spin of Ashley Giles.
Hussain put the joy of receiving the OBE medal at Buckingham Palace from Prince Charles on Friday behind him and stayed focused on winning the larger piece of metal at Lord's.
Eng innings progress
The English skipper controlled the game right from winning the toss to the time when he became the fourth English wicket to fall, after scoring his maiden one-day hundred, in the 48th over.
Ashish Nehra sent down a wide off the very first ball of the match and the trend continued in the opening five overs of the innings.
Zaheer Khan began with a maiden, though he was the beneficiary of some lenient umpiring from West Indian Steve Bucknor, and then mixed up good balls with the regular loose delivery.
The England total, reading 18 in the third over, was helped immensely with 10 extras from the Indian bowlers at that early stage.
Knight continued dishing out his gawky brand of batting while struggling to get bat on ball. Yet, he managed to jump out of his crease occasionally and send the ball to the fence.
Khan got through his defences with a delivery that swung late in the air before crashing into the stumps. England lost their first wicket at 42. The breakthrough had seemed inevitable as Knight continued to play his unorthodox strokes.
The shot of the morning, however, was a six from Trescothick in the tenth over.
Sashaying down the track, he flicked Khan over the mid-wicket fence. Throughout this series, the left-handed opener's form has made all the difference to England's fortunes and it was imperative that he carried it into the final.
Yuvraj Singh made a great attempt to hold on to a cut at point off Trescothick, but saw the ball hit his palm and proceed some way towards the boundary before it was cut off by Harbhajan Singh. Nehra was then sent crashing through mid-wicket for four in the same over.
Kumble was introduced in the 13th over, with Ganguly placing a short third man and pulling the fine-leg fielder up for the top edge off Hussain's sweep. But the England captain danced down the wicket and picked the spinner over mid-wicket for four.
Trescothick reached his fifty inside the 15th over with a four over the long-off fielder. His 40-ball effort had 13 singles and 18 dot balls along with four boundaries and a six.
After Harbhajan Singh completed a miserly 16th over with the field spread wide, Ganguly brought himself on and saw Trescothick piercing through Kaif in the covers for a four. The pace with which the ball darted to the fence, Kaif must have considered himself lucky not to have reached it. If he had, the ball would probably have punctured him on its way to the fence.
Harbhajan, bowling a great line and length, enticed Trescothick into playing a false shot. Dancing down the wicket, the left-hander scooped the ball to mid-wicket, but Kaif grassed the sharp chance.
Trescothick then waded into Harbhajan after the offie had bowled three quiet overs, sending him with a slog-sweep for four, and then improving on the shot with a mighty heave over mid-wicket for four.
Hussain, at the other end, batted as if with a horseshoe in his pocket. Struggling to clear the ball off the square, he stitched together an innings with failed reverse-sweeps and top-edges all falling into the empty spaces at Lord's.
The game then swung England's way as the duo raced away to a 100-run partnership off a mere 88 balls, with Trescothick scoring 60 off 44. England crossed the 150-run mark in the 23rd over and Hussain registered the most lucky half-century of his ODI career with an under-edged four to fine-leg.
Hussain finally connected with the ball after half-a-dozen failed reverse sweeps and sent it to the fence. Trescothick, meanwhile, reached his third one-day hundred with a single down to fine-leg. The century, scored off 89 balls, enabled England to reach 200 in only the 32nd over of their innings. Trescothick played one of the most clinical one-day knocks, scoring all his boundaries in front of the wicket with straight-bat shots and working the ball around at other times for singles.
But after the hundred, the runs began drying up and Trescothick, feeling the pinch of some tight Indian bowling, lost his wicket to Kumble. Looking to sweep the ball, the burly opener misread the line and found his off-stump disturbed (255 for 2). But by then his 100-ball 109, and the 185-run stand with Hussain for the second wicket, had set the stage for a score well in excess of 300.
Andy Flintoff strolled out to the middle and added to the Indian agony. Kumble and Harbhajan finished their quota of overs by the 41st over, giving away 107 runs with a single wicket between them.
Hussain turned a ball from Zaheer to point to record his maiden one-day century off 118 balls with seven fours. In a touch of drama, the agitated skipper gesticulated angrily towards the press box and then his jersey, which had the number three on it.
Since the start of the triangular, the English media have been discussing the wisdom of Hussain batting at number three. With the hundred, he felt he had laid those arguments to rest.
Zaheer got through the defences of Flintoff, who made a quickfire 40 as England crossed the 300-run mark. Hussain and Michael Vaughan followed in successive overs and England had lost three wickets for five runs. But the celebrations from the Indian fielders were understated, knowing well that the damage had already been done.
England finished their innings at 325 for 5, leaving India to score the highest ever total to win at Lord's, at a rate of 6.5 runs per over.
The game could be decided in the first 15 overs of the Indian innings. From there on, it will be the 10 overs from Ronnie Irani that will decide India's fate.
Darren Gough started England's defence of their mammoth score. Ganguly, looking to put his tortured run in the series behind him, set the pace, charging him and timing a cover-drive to precision, which beat Hussain and raced to the boundary.
In the next over, he battered Alex Tudor with consecutive boundaries through cover and past point. With a Chinese cut off Tudor for four, he made the English skipper recount his fielders on the ground. Batting with his patent fluidity, he launched into an off-drive against Gough in the next over.
The English attack came off at the seams in the 10th over when Ganguly smashed Andy Flintoff through the covers and then danced down the wicket and cut an astonishing six over point.
Ronnie Irani was pressed into the attack in the 13th over. The task was cut out for India: tear into Irani, England's most consistent bowler in the series, and push their opponents into a corner.
Playing with the confidence of a veteran, Virendra Sehwag sent the first ball of the over flying wide of the mid-wicket fielder into the fence. Off the next delivery, a little wide outside off, with a deft touch, he beat the point fielder for another boundary. He paddled the next ball past the short fine-leg fielder and then worked the fifth ball wide of the square-leg fielder. Irani seemed devastated by the blitz.
Hussain, who had hurt himself trying to stop Ganguly's cover drive early on, returned to the field and brought Tudor back in Irani's place. The move struck gold as Tudor castled Ganguly, who was looking to cash in on the vast empty expanse on the leg-side. The Indian skipper had propelled the innings with his 43-ball 60, which had 10 fours and a six (106 for 1).
Ind innings progress
Sehwag welcomed left-arm spinner Giles with a reverse sweep past backward point for a four. The wily spinner, however, got through Sehwag, who tried to play the most delicate of cuts down to third man to a delivery that didn't have the requisite width, and found the ball smashing into his stumps (114 for 2).
Dinesh Mongia may have been unfortunate to be adjudged caught behind by Alec Stewart when Irani drifted one down the leg-side. The replay wasn't clear if he had got a touch, but Stewart, standing up, claimed the catch and the umpire agreed.
Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar found themselves at the crease having to chase 200 runs in about 31 overs. It was the ideal situation to have two seasoned campaigners hitting the ball around for the singles and biding their time before launching the final assault. Dravid failed to do that as he flicked Irani to offer the simplest of catches to Nick Knight at short mid-wicket.
Four wickets had fallen in the space of 26 runs and India seemed to have faltered in their record chase. And Tendulkar seemingly had a death wish, exposing all his stumps and going after Ashley Giles, as if looking to settle a personal score. It was a strange feeling, as if he had decided to throw in the towel. Soon enough, Giles had his man as Tendulkar moved away from the wickets on the leg-side and tried to cut the ball. The ball smashed into the stumps and all Indian hopes appeared to have evaporated with half the side back in the pavilion for just 146.
But not for Yuvraj Singh and Kaif. While the past haunted the Indian supporters, the two youngsters rewrote the manual on limited-overs chases. With the field spread out, they just picked gaps in the field and ran the singles.
Yuvraj finally began opening out in Giles's last over, and lofted the left-arm spinner into the screaming crowds over the mid-wicket fence. Giles's figures of 47 for 2 in 10 overs had almost doused the Indian chase.
Yuvraj and Kaif continued to amplify the singles into twos and run for singles that seemed non-existent as Hussain changed his field after almost every over, trying desperately to plug the gaps. Playing with uncommon cool, the duo kept the chase alive, though deep within everyone apart from them thought this would be another heroic fightback in vain.
Three consecutive boundaries from Yuvraj off Flintoff in the 38th over brought up his half-century and the asking rate fell below the seven-run mark for the first time since Tendulkar's departure as the duo registered their hundred-run partnership. From a position of no hope, the two greenhorns -- one aged 20 (Yuvraj) and the other 22 - had rekindled the flame for the Indians.
Kaif pulled Tudor for a six and drove him through the covers for a boundary in the next over. The mathematical possibility was rapidly beginning to be translated into a realistic prospect.
Yuvraj, looking to paddle Paul Collingwood, got a top-edge and ended his first-rate innings of 69 from 63 balls when Tudor completed the catch in the 42nd over (267 for 6). Yuvraj ran 21 singles in his 69-run knock, which was studded with four boundaries and a six.
The 121-run partnership between Yuvraj and Kaif had turned the tide in India's favour. Hussain realised he could not exhale despite Yuvraj's dismissal.
Though his partner was gone, Kaif continued undeterred, sending Irani flying into the stands for a six. The target was now down to a run-a-ball, and with Harbhajan Singh at the other end chipping in with a six off the very next over, it was about playing out the 50 overs to clinch the epic encounter.
Twenty-five runs were needed off the final 24 balls as Gough returned to the attack. Six balls and two boundaries later Kaif's blade had almost settled the match for India.
But Flintoff breathed some hope into England again by bowling Harbhajan Singh and finding the edge of Kumble's bat for a double-blow in an over that cost just three runs. The 47-run partnership between Harbhajan and Kaif for the seventh wicket had set India darting towards victory.
Zaheer edged the last ball of the penultimate over, Gough's last, down to the third-man fence to leave India needing only two runs in the last over for what would go down as one of the greatest days in Indian cricket.
Zaheer failed to put bat to ball off the first two deliveries, but then an overthrow off the third gave India the dream win.
Kaif finished undefeated on 87 off just 75 balls, with six fours and two sixes. His 31 singles against the 26 dot balls helped him keep his scoring rate at seven an over right through.