India vs Zimbabwe, Prudential World Cup, Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells, 18 June 1983
India won by 31 runs
Kapil Dev’s script at Tunbridge Wells could have been straight out of Ripley’s. The cliché goes that no match is won till it is lost and Kapil proved that by writing a script that fiction writers would hesitate for fear of taking exaggeration beyond acceptable limits!
Batting first after winning the toss, India lost Sunil Gavaskar, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil and Yashpal Sharma with just 17 runs on the board! It was the perfect recipe for disaster. And with the Zimbabwean new ball combine of Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran getting copious encouragement from the wicket, India were in deep trouble.
The stage was set for Kapil to author what many agree as the finest comebacks in One-Day International history. He quickly realised that seeing off Rawson and Curran off was paramount to India’s recovery.
Once Rawson and Curran were taken off the attack, the Kapil-Roger Binny partnership steadily pushed the Indian score along and added 60 for the sixth wicket when Binny fell. India were now 77 for six. A lot respectable than what they were but still not out of trouble.
The mild recovery Kapil orchestrated threatened to be nipped quickly when Zimbabwean skipper Duncan Fletcher dismissed Ravi Shastri to put India in a soup at 78 for 7.
The Indian innings was in danger of folding up under hundred, but Madan Lal held one end up as Kapil unleashed his repertoire of stroke in a fashion only he can. He cashed in on the small boundaries at Tunbridge Wells and found them with ease.
He lost Madan Lal at the score on 140, but in Syed Kirmani he found someone who allowed him to farm the strike and play his natural game. The Kapil-Kirmani took the Zimbabwean bowlers to the cleaners. The hunted turned hunters. And how! Rawson and Curran, who destroyed the Indian top-order, were annihilated and their figures marred by Kapil’s blitzkrieg. The undefeated 126-run 9th wicket stand propelled India to a score of 266 for eight (60 overs) – a score nobody, however optimistic, would have fancied when India were 17-5.
Zimbabwean openers Robin Brown and Grant Paterson provided a solid start putting 44 before Binny had Paterson leg-before wicket. Jack Heron and Andy Pycroft made their exits early as Zimbabwe were floundering at 61 for 3.
It was important from Zimbabwe’s perspective that Robin Brown batted through, especially since he was well set and their top-order had caved in meekly. But Brown ran himself out after compiling a hard-earned 35 with the score on 86 for 4.
Zimbabwe struggled to keep themselves in the match after Brown perished. They plunged to 113 for six with big-hitting Dave Houghton and skipper Duncan Fletcher failing to fire with the bat.
India now looked poised to win the match. But Kevin Curran strode out and set in motion a Zimbabwean recovery with a 55-run 7th wicket stand with Iain Butchart.
After Butchart fell with the score on 168, Curran kept the momentum going with wicketkeeper Gerald Peckover and the partnership was exuding promise when Madan Lal castled Peckover with the score on 189.
Curran joined forces with Rawson and yet again raised Zimbabwean hope of victory. Curran’s domination of the 41-run stand with Rawson can be gauged by the fact that the latter contributed just two runs.
Curran’s knock gave India a real scare, but Kapil’s men breathed a huge sigh of relief when Curran misjudged Madan Lal’s long-hop and lobbed a catch to Shastri. His 73, off 93 balls, was laced with eight boundaries.
Curran’s departure at the score on 230 signalled the end of the Zimbabwean challenge and the final rites were performed when Kapil caught and bowled Traicos to spark off frenzied Indian celebrations.
Kapil’s phenomenal innings drew a lavish praise from Sunil Gavaskar: "When you had lost half of your side with less than 20 runs on the board, obviously it was not looking good. But Kapil went out and played his innings... the best innings I had seen in limited overs international.”
But the biggest disappointment in the Indian win was that Kapil’s epic innings could not be captured for posterity BBC TV was on strike that day and did not cover the match.