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India had played their very first One-Day International (ODI) against England; the two teams had also met for the first World Cup encounter ever. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the finest innings of one of the oldest but less frequent contests.
Just like their first Test, India’s first ODI had also come against England — in 1974 at Headingley; the tourists did a commendable job, putting up 265, but lost the match comfortably. In a year they also played the first ever World Cup match — at Lord’s; a match remembered mostly for Sunil Gavaskar’s mysterious 36 not out.
Here, then, is a list of some of the greatest ODI performances from the history of India-England encounters (no, Gavaskar’s innings does not feature here):
1. Chris Old, 51 not out (30), Lord’s, 1975 World Cup: In a match that saw a wide range of firsts in World Cup (Madan Lal bowled the first ball in the history of World Cup, while John Jameson faced it), Dennis Amiss, perhaps the first great ODI batsman, scored a sublime 137; Keith Fletcher contributed 68, and the pair put up 176 for the second wicket (44 more than what India scored).
The Indians, however, were used to long innings being scored against them, especially during the “Summer of 42” the previous year. What they were not prepared for was Old’s onslaught: captain Mike Denness was content to give Old the strike as the Yorkshireman launched himself into the hapless Indians, already worn down by Amiss and Fletcher.
The bare-headed Old, armed with obnoxious-looking mutton-chops and ogre-like forearms, lofted Karsan Ghavri into the stands over wide long-on and then over the sight-screen. He hit four boundaries as well, and by the time he was finished with poor Ghavri and Madan Lal, India had been psychologically demolished.
2. Kapil Dev, 60 (37), Headingley, 1982: Kapil Dev’s innings at Headingley was perhaps a trailer of what was going to happen at Tunbridge Wells the following year. Bob Willis, Paul Allott, and Ian Botham turned out to be more than a handful for the Indians, and Gavaskar played a lone hand as India collapsed to 113 for six when Kapil walked out, and lost another wicket on 114. It was as good as over.
Then Kapil pulled out the kind of innings that only he could: with Syed Kirmani, Suru Nayak, and Madan Lal for company, Kapil bludgeoned his way to a 37-ball 60 with five fours and three sixes, taking apart the English bowlers who had seemed unplayable till then; the other three batsmen managed a mere 15 between them from 44 balls. Kapil was eventually run out as the last man as India collapsed to 193. Thereafter, Barry Wood, Chris Tavare, and Allan Lamb guided England to a comfortable nine-wicket victory.
3. Graham Gooch, 115 (136), Wankhede, 1987 World Cup: The World Cup semi-final is the answer to a common quiz question: it was perhaps the only time that Gavaskar, Kapil, and Sachin Tendulkar (okay, as a ball-boy) had taken field in an international match for India together. India, after losing the first match, had been on a roll throughout the tournament and were easily the favourites to play the final at Eden Gardens.
Unfortunately for them, Gooch had come to the match with a plan: India’s strength lay in their left-arm spinners — Maninder Singh and Ravi Shastri — and Gooch had decided to sweep them without any discrimination; and sweep he did, and how! England lost Tim Robinson and Bill Athey (they scored 17 between them), but Gooch, who had practiced hard against left-arm spin before the match, was determined to take the England score beyond India’s reach.
Mike Gatting chipped in with a quickfire 56, but in the end it was Gooch’s 115 on a slow pitch against Maninder and Shastri that turned out to be the difference between the sides. Lamb provided some fireworks towards the end, and England reached 254 for six. India, already crippled by the absence of Dilip Vengsarkar — the man with a phenomenal record against England — were bowled out for 219 after being 204 for five.
4. Chetan Sharma, 101 not out (96), Green Park, 1989-90: It was one of the most outrageous hundreds in the history of ODIs, at least till then, but few performances have been as joyous and bizarre at the same time. England piled up 255 for seven in the Nehru Cup encounter, and though India reached 65 for two the required rate had been rising: then Krishnamachari Srikkanth shocked everyone by sending Chetan Sharma at the centre.
After a few steady hits, Navjot Sidhu let Chetan do the scoring: it was certainly not a purist’s delight; in fact, the most stunning part of the hundred was that he actually remained unbeaten. Sidhu fell, as did Vengsarkar, and Kapil walked out to hit a boundary to level the scores.
Chetan (after surviving at least three chances) still required three to reach his hundred, and Gooch, in a sporting gesture, brought himself on: he was hammered for a four, and that was that.
5. Navjot Sidhu, 134 not out (160), Gwalior, 1992-93: It won’t be an exaggeration to call Sidhu’s innings the finest in all India-England limited-overs contests in the 20th century. The series became a five-match encounter after the first ODI at Motera was abandoned without a ball bowled, but an extra ODI was added at Gwalior; India were as good as out of the contest after they trailed 1-3 with two matches (both at Gwalior on consecutive days to fit the schedule) to go.
England scored 256, mostly banking on a belligerent 129 from Robin Smith. India were soon reduced to four for two before Sidhu added 175 with Mohammad Azharuddin for the third wicket. The drama began after Azhar’s departure: a flurry of wickets left India reeling at 205 for seven, and the series was as good as lost.
But Sidhu was there, unvanquished, right from the beginning. Wisden called him “magnificently imperturbable”; England had gone in with a five-pronged seam attack, but Sidhu carried India on his shoulders in the company of Anil Kumble (with only Javagal Srinath and Maninder to follow). The match was eventually won with two overs to spare as Sidhu and Kumble — neither known for their running between the wickets — almost “did it in singles”.
6. Mohammad Azharuddin, 95 not out (62), Gwalior, 1992-93: Despite Sidhu’s effort India were still 2-3 down, and were up against a target of 266 off 48 overs this time. Neither Sidhu nor Vinod Kambli lasted, and when Azhar walked out India required 167 in 144 balls — a nigh-impossible target given the era and the reputation of Indian chases.
Despite Manoj Prabhakar’s diligence India were not on track; Tendulkar played a cameo, but he fell when India still required 21. Azhar kept on coming at the bowlers, and though Kapil and Ajay Sharma fell in quick succession, he hammered the English bowlers to lead his side to victory with eight balls to spare. The series was drawn.
7. Marcus Trescothick, 121 (109), Eden Gardens, 2001-02: It was yet another six-ODI contest, and after India scored 281 for eight in the series opener England kept on losing wickets at regular intervals. Nobody managed to go past the 25-mark — nobody but “Tresco,” that is. The experienced Indian attack — consisting of Kumble, Srinath, Harbhajan Singh, and Ajit Agarkar — looked clueless in front of Trescothick’s controlled aggression as he calmly decimated the Indians on his way to a dominant hundred. He cut, he pulled, he drove, he swept, and he did everything with clinical precision.
It was then that umpire SK Sharma struck: he had already given Nick Knight leg-before for a golden duck in Srinath’s first over when the ball had clearly pitched outside leg; now, with a mere 58 to score from 86 balls with six wickets in hand, it was déjà vu as Sharma gave another leg-before, ruling Trescothick out when the ball had clearly pitched outside leg: it was a decision so bad that the spectators on either side of the pavilion could realise it, but not umpire Sharma. A derailed England lost their last six wickets for 35 runs.
8 & 9. Yuvraj Singh 69 (63), Mohammad Kaif 87 not out (75), Lord’s, 2002: It is not always that a team with two hundreds ends up losing to a team with none, but that was exactly what happened in the NatWest Trophy final that has earned a place in the history of India’s run-chases. Once again it was that man Trescothick (109) who added 185 with Nasser Hussain (115), the latter showing some emotion on reaching three figures. He would not be the only captain in the match to make an unconventional burst.
After an outstanding start (106 in 87 balls), India lost Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag in quick succession: with Dinesh Mongia, Rahul Dravid, and Tendulkar following suit, India were left in the hands of two men, both in their early 20s, to chase 181 in 156 balls. Below them were four bowlers, none of whom could be classified as all-rounders.
But they batted on. Yuvraj broke the shackles first with a shot through mid-wicket that would go on to become his trademark stroke; Kaif responded with a lofted cover-drive; Yuvraj swept Ashley Giles over deep mid-wicket into the stands and played yet another stroke that would later define him — the cover-drive through the 45-degree line.
Then, just as things seemed to be under control, Yuvraj top-edged one to fine-leg; but Kaif pulled Ronnie Irani into the stands over deep mid-wicket. Harbhajan played a hand, but both he and Kumble fell in quick succession, before some frantic running from Kaif and Zaheer Khan sealed it for India.
Of course, Ganguly stole the show with a, err, rather unconventional display of emotional outburst, but that is another story.
10. Robin Uthappa 47 not out (33), The Oval, 2007: India were trailing 2-3 in the series, and England, after being reduced to 137 for five, were rescued by a Owais Shah (107 from 95) and Luke Wright (50 from 39). Dimitri Mascarenhas provided the finishing touches, hitting Yuvraj for consecutive sixes in the final five balls of the innings. England reached 316 for six.
Ganguly and Tendulkar began in style, adding 150 in 134 balls, but though Gautam Gambhir played a good hand India were left to score 83 from 58 balls once he departed. Out walked the unheralded Uthappa to join MS Dhoni, whose reputation as one of the greatest finishers was yet to be established.
Young Uthappa looked unfazed: he paddle-swept Monty Panesar and pulled Collingwood for two fours, but Dhoni, despite being dropped by Kevin Pietersen, could not get going at the other end. Then Uthappa took control: with the first slip taken away he walked down the pitch against James Anderson, and flashed hard at him for four. Things, however, took another turn as Stuart Broad ran through Dhoni’s defence.
With 23 to score off the last two overs, Uthappa walked down the track and flashed hard against Anderson again: the calculated risk resulted in a boundary through third-man. He walked down again, and the ball raced past Matt Prior’s left glove for four more. They ran frantically for the second run two balls later, but Agarkar was run out.
With eight to get off four balls (Zaheer had managed to get run out meanwhile), Uthappa walked down the pitch — this time against Broad — and leg-glanced him for four; the next ball was calmly driven past mid-off. A 21-year old had literally walked India to victory.
11 & 12. Sachin Tendulkar, 120 (115), Andrew Strauss 158 (145), Chinnaswamy, 2011 World Cup: There were a few voices of protest in Kolkata after the match was shifted from Eden Gardens to Chinnaswamy, but they were too engrossed once the match went underway: Sehwag began with the customary boundary, but the real onslaught started after his dismissal: Gambhir played the perfect foil as Tendulkar tore into the English attack.
Boundaries raced across Chinnaswamy, bringing the crowd on his feet as the Indian run rate crossed six; the onslaught did not stop even after Gambhir departed; Tendulkar, having brought up his fifty off 66 balls, reached his ton in 103, but there was no stopping him — till he auto-destructed: he tried to play across against Anderson, the ball took the leading edge, and he was caught at cover. Tim Bresnan took five wickets as India were bowled out for 338 after being 305 for three.
But the match was far from over: after a rollicking start Pietersen hit one back to Munaf Patel, who came up with the catch of his career. Jonathan Trott perished soon, but the English captain, having started off with three boundaries off the first seven balls he faced, carried along. Ian Bell survived a much-disputed Decision Review System (DRS) appeal, and the pair kept on piling runs.
Strauss, having reached his hundred in 99 balls, scored his third fifty in a mere 33 and the match looked as good as sealed. Then Bell committed hara-kiri, playing a strange lofted shot to mid-off, and Strauss fell next ball to the ball of the innings: it reverse-swung, turned out to be the perfect yorker, and crashed into the Strauss’ boots before hitting the stumps.
Graeme Swann and Ajmal Shahzad smashed 13 in the last over to tie the match. Strauss could not finish it off, but was the unanimous choice for the Man of the Match — which was saying something, given the quality of Tendulkar’s innings earlier in the day.
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