When Sourav Ganguly took his shirt off with pride and Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif became legends in Natwest Trophy final

One of the most iconic moments of Sourav Ganguly's career and everyone involved in the runchase

It has been 16 years since India won the iconic Natwest Trophy 2002 final and Sourav Ganguly waived his shirt at Lord’s dressing room. A picture that no cricket fan will ever be able to forget. One of the most thrilling chases the world cricket has ever seen in ODIs. A cricket match which was more than just another final, it was a matter of pride for Indian skipper Ganguly. Dada wanted to give an answer to England’s all-rounder Andrew Flintoff who waived his shirt at Wankhede Stadium after beating India in ODI series. A game when India etched it’s name in the Lord’s history, a day when Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh became more than just youngsters, they became legends.

The Trescothick-Hussain effect

Before we cut to the chase, we should tell you that chasing a target of 326 was a really big deal for any team in ODIs. Indian bowling attack once again had a bad day at the office as they were pounded by England’s fiery opener Marcus Trescothick and skipper Nasser Hussain as they scored centuries. Flintoff too played a cameo taking the score past 300 and giving India a target that teams only dreamed of chasing.

Seeing the target of 326 in the Natwest Trophy final, fans had lost hope that such a huge target could be chased by India and that too on an overseas pitch. But, Team India were pumped up, especially Ganguly who started the ‘Never Back Down’ attitude, in short, he led by example.

The opening partnership

Virender Sehwag and Ganguly came out to chase at Lord’s in an attempt to chase down a mammoth total. Sehwag played his usual self, scoring at almost run-a-ball. Whereas Ganguly was in ‘rage mode’ as he scored with a strike rate of almost 140. Ganguly-Sehwag put on a 106-run partnership. He struck 10 fours and 1 six giving India the perfect start they needed. Sehwag too contributed but missed out on his half-century.

Both Ganguly and Sehwag got out soon after completing the 100-run partnership. India had got the perfect start but could not convert it into a dominating one as England bowlers took the attack to the opposition.

The middle order failure

Much was not expected from Dinesh Mongia who got out after scoring just 9 runs. But, it was Sachin Tendulkar at No.4 on whom everyone had their eyes set. Rahul Dravid too was supposed to play the role of the anchor but he too could not do much getting out for 5. Tendulkar followed as he was removed by a beauty of a delivery from Ashley Giles.

In a few overs, India were back to square one as they had lost 5 wickets in a jiffy with scoreboard which barely moved according to the required run rate. With 180 runs required from 156 balls, there was a lot of burden on youngsters Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif. A few had switched off their television sets as they had not hoped India to win the game, while a few who did not, got to see a run chase of a lifetime.

The not-so-anticipated fightback

Yuvraj and Kaif started off with how they are supposed to stitch a partnership after a batting collapse. They tried to take singles and rebuild the innings. The running between the wickets was a treat to watch as they relied on them when the boundaries were hard to come by. Yuvraj tried scoring an odd boundary whenever there was a loose ball, keeping the required run rate in check. Kaif took his time and tried to take the game till the end.

Yuvraj let the opposition panic, 10 overs into the partnership Yuvraj tried to break the shackles. He destroyed Flintoff hammering three boundaries in a row in the 38th over. Kaif too took advantage of the situation and smashed Alex Tudor for a six and a four in the next over. The boundaries started coming in, by the end of 40th over India needed 69 runs from 60 balls, they could almost smell the victory from this opposition but then came a twist.

Yuvraj’s emotional departure from the field

Yuvraj was scoring more than run-a-ball and had become a dangerous player. He was batting in a way that it seemed like India would reach the target with a few overs to spare. But, then came a major twist in the story like every other movie, where one of the main characters could not get to the end of the quest. Yuvraj in an attempt to clear the fine leg fielder Tudor played an aerial shot. It took an top edge and went straight to his throat.

Yuvraj could not believe what he had done, he had thrown his wicket away at such a crucial juncture of the game. Meanwhile, Kaif who had recently reached his half-century could be seen taking a few deep breaths and backing himself to take the team home.

The never-seen-before Kaif and Harbhajan Singh’s cameo

Harbhajan Singh had walked in to bat, he had the reputation of hitting a few around the park. Similar efforts were needed here and he almost pulled off the task. Harbhajan struck a huge six on the fourth ball he faced. Kaif had carried the run chase on his shoulders in the best way possible, he scored a boundary when needed and refrained from getting carried away and lose his wicket. He had such an impact that India needed just 14 runs from 18 balls. It was India’s game to lose now and not England’s.

Flintoff sends off two back to pavilion

Flintoff was to bowl the 18th over. With 14 needed off 18 deliveries, he was under tremendous pressure but that did not affect his bowling. First, Harbhajan got out as he exposed his stumps in an attempt to go for a big shot which seemed unnecessary at the moment. Kumble too could not hold on to his nerves and nicked one to the wicketkeeper. Flintoff bowled a perfect over under pressure as Kaif watched the drama unfold helplessly.

The stroke of luck and Kaif’s determination

Darren Gough was bowling the 49th over, the game has once again turned to England’s favour with 11 runs needed from 12 balls and Zaheer Khan on strike. Khan was able to take a single from the first ball and get Kaif on strike. It was a good over for Gough until the last ball of the over.

Kaif went for an aerial shot of the last ball of the over but could not get it in the middle of the bat. Instead, he edged it, the ball went past the short third man fielder and raced towards the boundary. Kaif was ecstatic after the miscued shot as he had got a boundary. With just 2 runs needed off the last over, Flintoff was called to do the miracle. Meanwhile, Ganguly still had his legs on the Lord’s balcony railing.

Zaheer could not score a single run of the first two deliveries. The pressure was mounting on him. The third ball of the over, Zaheer played the ball towards covers and desperately ran for a single. Kaif made a dive to make it to the striker’s end. The throw was off target and with no one to back it up India got another single. India had pulled off an unforgettable win at Lord’s. Out came the shirt of Ganguly as he waved it from the dressing room.

This is what Flintoff did at Wankhede

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The celebrations

Amazing scenes at Lord’s ground as players were filled with emotions after beating England at Lord’s in the final of Natwest Trophy. Yuvraj hugged Kaif as if he would not let go of him through eternity. It is one of the games that the broadcasters still get massive TRP’s from. And if you don’t know the reason, maybe you haven’t read the whole article carefully.