There are some matches that are etched in every cricket fans’ memory forever. Natwest final of 2002, where Sourav Ganguly’s men chased down 326, is perhaps the most iconic moment in Indian cricket’s history. Coming into the final, India had lost nine consecutive one-day international finals. Although, India weren’t completely outsiders but still taking on an inspired England was no mean task.
Batting first, England raced away and ended their innings on 325/5 with centuries from Marcus Trescothick (109) and captain Nasir Hussain (115). Andrew Flintoff’s quickfire 40 off 32 deliveries was icing on the cake which helped England post a mammoth score.
India started the chase well with Ganguly and Virender Sehwag putting up a quick 106-run partnership. Ganguly was looking ominous form as he raced to 60 off just 43 balls, which included 10 boundaries and one six. Sehwag too was brutal on the English attack, taking a special liking for Ronnie Irani by smashing him for four boundaries in a single over.
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But as soon as Ganguly departed, Indian fans worst fear came true as the team suffered a mini collapse, and slid from 106/1 to 146/5. Tendulkar, Dravid, Mongia all departed cheaply. After Tendulkar fell, most of India had given up any hopes of a revival.
Two youngsters – Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif – then came together and started rebuilding the innings. Everyone thought these two would at least save India from an embarrassing defeat, but these two had something else on their mind.
A 121-run partnership ensured that India was back in the game. Yuvraj and Kaif first batted under pressure, and then started their free flowing strokeplay. Both were finding boundaries at will. Yuvraj hit 69 off 63 balls, and Kaif remained unbeaten on 87 as the two scripted a famous win.
There were small but important contributions from Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan towards the end which helped India home. Celebrations that followed still remain in the hearts of Indian fans, as captain Ganguly waved his shirt in the famous Lord’s balcony and then went onto the field to charge down Kaif.
This victory was the announcement of the new fearless Indian team. The new generation of players knew that no target was impossible. The core of this team went onto reach the final of the 2003 World Cup, and also inspired a whole new generation of cricketers to take up the sport.