Last week on July 13, marked the eighteenth anniversary of India’s iconic 2002 Natwest Trophy win. In the tri-series competition held in England with Sri Lanka as the third side, India emerged victorious after being placed in a precarious situation in the final.
England captain Nasser Hussain and Marcus Trescothick’s respective tons made India’s task stiff as the hosts posted a target of 326.
After a quickfire start, India lost their way in the middle, losing five wickets for 146. Then, young turks Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif stitched a match-winning partnership of hundred plus runs.
Moreover, the thrilling match took another turn when Yuvraj was dismissed on 69, with a large chunk of job left to do for Kaif and the tailenders.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh did his bit by scoring a 13-ball 15 and shepherding Kaif during the chase who played a few rash shots. Now, Kaif has opened up to the advice dispensed by Bhajji during the high-octane historic run-chase.
“Then, suddenly, Yuvraj fell. I was in shock, now I had to do it with the tailenders but had no experience in dealing with them,” Kaif penned down in an article for The Indian Express.
“I remember I pulled a six off Ronnie Irani – again not really the length for it but I just reacted. Irani was someone who would bowl around 120 kmph but had the attitude of a fast bowler. We two had a bit going in that game, I think.”
“Ï told Harbhajan to play his game as I didn’t want to confuse anyone. But it was Bhajji who helped me at an important moment. I had slogged Paul Collingwood and the ball went off the inside edge to fine leg for two runs. Bhaji told me, “Kya kar raha hai, what are you doing? Run-a-ball now, look at the scorecard.” I thought, yes, he is right. I just needed to watch the ball, play the ball.”
“With 25 needed from the last four, Darren Gough, who Nasser trusted a lot, came on. I hit two fours in that over – over covers and to midwicket – but even then, I knew it wasn’t over. Then in one over Flintoff got Harbhajan and Anil Kumble, who fell to a wrong decision by Steve Bucknor. Off the last ball of the 48th, with six runs needed, Hussain had the long-on and long-off in the circle. I went for a big leg-side shot against Gough but it flew off the edge to the third man boundary. Even then, I wasn’t sure of the win.”
“You never know. Because if Zak got out, we had Nehraji. I can visualise him sitting in the dressing room, scratching his head. Zaheer played out two dot balls, they didn’t want me on strike. There was a fear of losing the game till the end. But off the third ball, we went for a single but there was an overthrow and a panic run. That was it,” Kaif concluded.
In the end, India won the match by a couple of wickets and more importantly clinched the 2002 Natwest Trophy with Kaif’s effort of 87 which came of 75 balls. It was the-then highest score chased down by a team batting second in ODI cricket.