If all of us suffer from ‘Brain Fade’ at some point in time, there are few moments from the lovely game of cricket that never fades off, instead, gets etched in the memories and we cherish it for ever. Be it sheer joy after victory or be it feeling of revenge and vengeance. At this point, let’s go back down to the memory lane, straight back to the 2002 Natwest Trophy’s final match in our latest edition- Settling the scores-From Wankhede to Lords.
Even in the middle of his dream, Saurav Ganguly would never have thought that he could ever do the most shocking thing in his life. Never will he will ever do this in future. I clearly recall Dada’s action as a response to Andrew Flintoff’s shameful act at Wankhede, which is considered as Mecca of Cricket in India. It all started in January 2002 when England came down to India to play 6 ODI’s. India was leading the series 3-1. One victory for India could have helped to seal the series. 5th match (at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi ), England posted 271/5 in their stipulated 50 overs.
Skipper Hussain missed out on his half century by one run while Nick Knight got run out at 105 Runs. Flintoff scored a quick fire 52 of 39 deliveries. In reply to England’s total, India fell short by 3 runs even after a good start at the top order. Flintoff managed to get rid of Dinesh Mongia.
England had won the 5th game and the last match was at Wankhede- Mumbai. Harbhajan Singh was on a song and took a Fifer, restricting England to 255-10. Indian openers Sachin and Sehwag out early. The match was evenly poised and results could have been in favour of either of the teams. Skipper Hussain brought Freddie Flintoff toward the 39th over. He was in good form and his luck with the batting had made him confident. He was charging down and his body language was very different. He dismissed Mohammed Kaif at 20, who was trying to build his innings. Ajay Ratra and our very own Bombay Duck- Ajit Agarkar got out in quick succession. He didn’t manage to trouble the scorers and went off for a duck.
England needed 3 wickets. The stage was set for Freddie Flintoff. The only way he could salvage back pride for his team was by taking wickets and winning the game. He managed to dismiss Bhajji in the 48th over. India needed 11 runs of the last over with 2 wickets remaining. Hussain had saved Flintoff for the death overs and possibly for the last over. Freddie was pumped up and raring to finish off the Indian innings. From the looks of it, it gave a feel that he was on some energy enhancing substance.
Anil Kumble was on strike and Hemang Badani was on the non- striker’s end. First ball, Kumble hit towards the extra covers. The ball was traveling quickly towards the boundary until the Ashley Giles gathered it. It fetched 2 runs for Kumble. Badani was still not on strike. Next Badani sent him back.
8 runs needed of 4 balls. That was the equation for India. Badani was on strike. There was some hope left. He stepped towards the off side and hit the ball on the leg side towards long on and scampered through for 2 runs. Now then, India needed 6 runs of 3 deliveries. It could have been anyone’s game.
Hemang took strike. Flintoff came charging in. Badani missed and the ball went to the keeper. Kumble had made it half way towards the pitch. The keeper tried to throw the ball on the stumps and missed. Flintoff was clever enough to gather the ball in his follow through ran towards the stumps and threw himself along with the ball on the stumps before Kumble could cover his ground. The umpires were in doubts and hence called for third umpires decision. The replay confirmed that Kumble was run-out by a mile.
The score card looked 250 for 9 with India wanting 6 runs of 2 deliveries. In came Javagal Srinath. Flintoff had planned to bowl him an in-swinging Yorker. Srinath went towards the offside and tried to glance it through leg side, ended up getting yorked. The entire Mumbai crowd went silent. Flintoff was running towards the keeper, removed his T-Shirt and propelled it in the air and was running on the ground. It was the most shocking and heart-breaking scene on the cricket ground for the Indians and it certainly didn’t go down well in the minds of the Indian players and supporters. Many a times, people don’t remember what was outcome of the series. The only thing they remember certain moments and actions happening on the field. The series was tied yet they were under shock after the Flintoff’s T-shirt incident feeling as if India had lost the series.
Later in the year in June, India were traveling to England to play the Natwest Series. Out of the 5 matches till the finals, India had lost only one match, and one match was washed out. The expectations were high to win the finals.
It was 13th July 2002 in Lords, India were up against the host in the Finals of the Natwest 2002 Series Naseer Hussain had won the toss and elected to bat. Marcus Trescothick and skipper Hussain had taken the complete measure of the Indian bowlers and compiled good partnership. Andrew Flintoff scored a quick fire 40 of 32 balls. Captain Hussain was in complete control and was guiding the team to a big total in the big final.
England managed to score 325/5 in 50 overs. This was a highest total for a team to chase back then in the ODIs. In reply to England’s innings, India were at 314/6 and needing 12 off 16 balls. In came the big Freddie steaming from the bowling end. The memories from Wankhede were still very fresh. He had already created scars in the minds of the Indians with his act in Mecca of Indian cricket- Wankhede.
Flintoff had taken 2 quick fire wickets dismissing Bhaji and Anil Kumble in the 48h over. The score didn’t move. India still need 12 runs of 13 balls. Kaif was playing sensibly and positively and was not missing a single opportunity to grab a single. India still had to score 6 runs of 7 deliveries. Defeat was staring at India’s feet. A wicket there would have been the final nail on the coffin. It was 49th over and Darren Gough was running quickly to finish off his over. Kaif tried hitting the ball towards Mid-off but it took an outside edge and went up in the air towards the boundary at the third man region and Flintoff could not cut it off. It was a sigh of relief as
India needed 2 runs of 6 balls. Zak (Zaheer Khan) was on strike. The situation in the dressing room was very intense. Dada was standing at the famous balcony of Lords biting his nails. Like in the last match at Wankhede, Flintoff came to bowl the final over. He was charging towards his bowling mark-up He had already created a dent in the Indian innings by striking twice in the his last over (48th over). It was as if he had come out to rub salt over the injury. There was something else running in Saurav Ganguly’s mind. Freddie came steaming towards Zak. He wanted to bowl a Yorker, ended up bowling a full toss. Both batsmen ran for a quick risky run. It was a throw and a miss and Kaif had to dive and stretch full length to cover his ground. Kaif got up and charged back for another run as it was an over throw. India managed to chase the highest total back then. Ganguly had glued his eyes on the victory run. As soon Kaif took the second run, he took off his T-shirt, propelled in the air and of course gave a mouth full and returned the insult done by Flintoff in India’s Mecca of cricket- Wankhede.
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