A target of 326 to win a 50-over One-Day International is nothing extraordinary today.
But in 2002 such a run-chase seemed beyond all but the most inspired of batting line-ups. Only twice before had a team made over 300 in an ODI at Lord’s, and one of those had been in a 60-over contest during the 1975 World Cup. So when England racked up a total of 325 for 5 against India in the Final of that year’s triangular NatWest series at Lord’s, they looked to be sitting pretty. Halfway through India’s reply, their position seemed even more secure. “I never believed we could win,” recalled Indian captain Sourav Ganguly later. His watching uncle, meanwhile, left the Ground, collected his car and began the long drive home up the M40. Less than an hour, and one swift u-turn later, Ganguly was rooted to his seat on the Pavilion balcony and his uncle was racing back to Lord’s as one of the most dramatic turnarounds in one-day cricket history unfolded.
The foundation of England’s innings was a second wicket partnership of 185 between Marcus Trescothick and captain Nasser Hussain. None of the Indian bowlers could stem the tide and when Trescothick fell for 115, Andrew Flintoff joined Hussain to blast 40 off 32 balls and take England past the 300 mark. India’s run-chase got off to a good start with Ganguly and Virender Sehwag putting on 109 in 14.3 overs. But then came a slump, and five wickets fell for just 40 runs in the middle of the innings. When Sachin Tendulkar was bowled by Ashley Giles for 14, India were tottering on 146 for 5.
“One [more] wicket and we would have been done,” said Ganguly later. Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif knew that as well as anyone as they joined forces for a crucial sixth-wicket partnership. Their response was all-out attack. For the next hour, they carved England’s increasingly exasperated bowlers to all parts of the Ground; 15 fours and three sixes cannoned from their bats. On the Indian balcony tension and cricketing tradition combined. Nobody, Ganguly included, was permitted to change position. With the partnership at 121 Yuvraj fell to Paul Collingwood, but Kaif kept going, martialling the tail until India had made it home by two wickets with three balls to spare. Jubilant in his moment of victory, Ganguly ripped off his shirt and whirled it around his head. It was a celebration, and a match, that Indian fans will never forget.