“Comeback of this era” would be the better term to recall the memory of NatWest Final, 2002. The triangular tournament between England (hosts), India (Visitors), and Sri Lanka (Visitors). While Team India and England have been featured in the finals of the triangular tournament at the famous Venue “Lords” on 13th, July 2002.
It was still those days for team India when reaching the finals was considered a milestone and winning the finals out of nowhere was not less than a “Surreal" memory. The Natwest final 2002 was all about drama, emotions, twists, and turns as team India was still considered as “minnows” against the A-list teams of that era.
Saturday was all set for the blockbuster final between India and England as the host (England) had won the toss and decided to bat first without any surprise. The lush-green batting surface of Lord's ground has something for the bowlers to take advantage of hostile conditions. But the England openers set to repeat the flow of runs to laid the foundation for the big score.
Where Indian bowlers have taken the slight advantage of hostile conditions, it was Zaheer Khan who strikes first and ripped off the stumps of Nick Knight who had contributed 14 runs off 29 balls and got out cheaply on the full toss delivery in attempted to hit over leg-side region area and left the England scoreboard at 42 runs with the loss of the one wicket.
Rather than open floodgates for the visitors it had reverse the plan as dependable batting order pair of Marcus Trescothick and Micheal Vaughan have added on 185 runs partnership for the 2nd wicket to put the hosts (England) back into the driver seat (team India baked the idea of seven bowlers to stop this partnership but no were successful including the captain).
At first, Marcus Trescothick (109) has hammered brilliant century then joined him as the captain leading from the front Nasser Hussain (115) who has smashed his first ODI century after the 72 innings (Second Century of the day). While after the century, Nasser Hussain got a bit emotional and expressed his gestures and responded towards the pundits in the stands who were questioning his abilities to bat at No.3 for England.
From the early wicket to 307/2, the hosts have ended up their first innings at the score of 325 runs for the loss of 5 wickets in the 50 overs. Indian fans were analyzing that how team India will going to reach this impossible target – is there a possibility of rain so that target would be revised?
Where the Indian dressing room has been looked a bit out of ideas that day about the chase, but the team India captain had other thoughts on that day. In response, team India has started the chase with Virender Sehwag (Once-In-a-lifetime-player) and Sourav Ganguly (fearless Captain). Not Sehwag (who was known for destructive hitting in the opening hour of the game) but this time Sourav Ganguly has taken the one step ahead and announced himself.
As Ganguly, moved down the pitch to clear the team India intentions with some “Surreal" hitting against the England quality pacers and that six against Andrew Flintoff over the cover region area was the message “England this picture is not over yet”.
With this top-notch hitting, team India was very much in the chase with 106 runs on the scoreboard in just 14.3 overs without the loss of any wicket. The target was looking almost reachable to every extent, with this start but what have happened next had almost ended the hopes and expectations of everyone from team India who, have crumbled down to 106/0 to 146/5 by the end of 24 overs.
Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid were back to the pavilion and all were like we have lost another final. Let’s not continue this and drop the hopes here. The two new young players Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif were on the crease who have to rescue team India from the shambles of the impossible task of 179 runs required off 150 balls with only 5 wickets in the hands – an impossible target – nobody could have thought about this target to be achieved in any imagination.
The Television sets around the world were switched off as hopes were ended, as this was next to impossible or a miracle for team India who back in those days only rely on someone like Rahul Dravid or Swashbuckling Virender Sehwag. But two new rookies have other ideas in their minds who with the determination and fighting spirit to make possible what was impossible at one stage.
The counter-attacking punch from Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad kaif out of nowhere who both have added on 121 runs off 106 balls for the sixth wicket to put team India back into the hunt (the rise of underdogs to dependable middle-order batsman for team India). It was still vivid in my mind to watch this quality of batting from team India in that era which was only witnessed from invincible Australia. Yuvraj Singh’s flamboyant innings of 69 run off 63 balls have been come to an end by Paul Collingwood. With Yuvraj Singh’s wicket, team India still required 59 runs with 4 wickets in hands, and from 267/6 to 314/8, the match has been moved into the drama of the last two overs with still 12 runs were required.
The hosts England team has decided to brought their frontline to bring Darren Gough to bowl the penultimate over and it was going all according to their plan but he had ruined it all on the last ball of 49th over which was hammered for four by Mohammad Kaif another twist in the match.
The equation has boiled down 2 runs required off 6 balls which team India has chased down with 3 balls to spare although there was drama continued in the last over too of Andrew Flintoff’s first three balls but team India has kept his nerves and won the Natwest Final 2002.
Andrew Flintoff at once made sure that England team will not let this go away at all but the fourth ball of final over was the history which was hit by Zaheer Khan over the covers region area in attempted to take the single (not the perfect cricketing shot it was) and England fielder has rushed to removed the bails and missed the stumps completely which was went for overthrow as team India has taken another and final run to at last sealed the victory in the most dramatic finals ever in Indian Cricket History.
The victory was very special and the team India fearless captain Sourav Ganguly couldn't control his emotions before he has taken off his t-shirt from Lord's balcony and waves it off in the air towards the England team and their crowd with the intentions that “the underdogs era had begun”.
Many match-winning performances in the match but it was for his unbeaten knock of 87 runs off 75 balls, Mohammad kaif was awarded Man of the match.