New Zealand celebrate with the ICC Mini World Cup in the dressing-room © Getty Images
New Zealand celebrate with the ICC Mini World Cup in the dressing-room © Getty Images

October 15, 2000. India, hit by the gloom of match-fixing, and New Zealand, without a single major trophy under their belt, entered the final. India held upper-hand for the most of the match, well into the New Zealand innings as they stuttered several times during the chase. Then Chris Cairns, who was not a certainty for the match, played a once-in-a-lifetime innings to mastermind a historic chase as Chris Harris kept company. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back.

The success of the 1998 edition had caused quite a stir. They decided to make the next edition a grand one — to the extent that prize money worth $340,000 was announced. To put things into perspective, Australia had pocketed $318,000 after winning the World Cup the year before.

The 2000 edition was hosted by Kenya. Thankfully, Disney World was not considered this time. Of course, the ten Test-playing nations (Bangladesh had recently attained Test status — though they were yet to play their first Test) were all included. Unlike the 1998 edition, ICC decided to rope in the hosts as well, making Kenya the 11th team of the contest.

There were three rest days, after the first round, and one after every semi-final. The football-style bowl-out was there to choose a winner in case of an abandoned or tied match.

All 10 matches were scheduled at Gymkhana Cricket Club in Nairobi, which rose to the challenge with five pitches, with two matches played at each ground. A whopping £400,000 went to improve the ground.

Andy Atkinson, ICC pitches consultant and former groundsman of Edgbaston and Newlands, was appointed especially for the tournament. Atkinson changed things around, making truer pitches with better carry: it was nothing like the slow wickets of Bangabandhu Stadium.

Unfortunately, truer wickets are typically flatter, which made life miserable for bowlers. The short boundaries (70 metres from the central of the five pitches) did not help things. But then, that was what the crowd wanted, and the tournament was played with revenue and popularity of cricket in Kenya in mind.

In stark contrast with the flood that preceded the previous edition in Bangladesh, the country was hit by the worst drought in 16 years (which made the lush green outfield even more surprising). That might have led to the feeble attendance throughout the tournament — once again in stark contrast with the Bangladesh crowds, who had braved floods to turn up in thousands.

Kenya Cricket Association also erred by pricing stand tickets between £19 and £28 (reasonably high amounts) to make up for the enormous expenses. As a result about 8,000 turned up for Kenya’s first (and only) match, against India. In fact, India versus Australia drew more people. Some matches drew about a thousand people.

Cricket, as Geoffrey Dean pointed out in The Cricketer International, was considered chiefly an Asian sport in Kenya — despite there being significant representation of cricketers of African origin.

Eyebrows had been raised when Bangladesh had got Test status ahead of Kenya — after all, Kenya had already beaten multiple Test-playing nations — but there were valid reasons behind that.

Given the crime rate of Nairobi, there was also the problem of security. The Intercontinental Hotel hosted all 11 teams: there was no issue there. The security at the ground, complete with armed men and German Shepherds, was extremely stringent.

Unfortunately, the journalists had a tougher time (though they reported from what Dean described as “the biggest media centre in world cricket — with only five telephone lines!”). They had to make their own arrangements. Three Bangladeshi journalists were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi rank after the second quarter-final got over.

There was no well-defined opening ceremony, but Daniel arap Moi delivered a welcome speech. He also tried a hand at batting. On the first day a cohort of Masai dancers ran across the outfield. On another day “a parachutist landed with probably the largest national flag ever seen at a cricket ground, a Kenyan one several times the size of his canopy and attached to his foot.”

The Kenyan team song — a calypso with captain Maurice Odumbe as lead singer that impressed Ian Bishop (a Trinidadian, remember?) in the press-box — was played during lunch time every day.

The first round 

The first round, the pre-quarter-finals, comprised of 3 matches involving the six lowest-ranked sides. Interestingly, Zimbabwe were in the top five, which meant they entered the quarter-finals directly.

India were without three major names — Mohammad Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, and Nayan Mongia — all of whom were caught in the murk of match-fixing. They gave out ODI caps to Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, and Vijay Dahiya; the first two would go on to play major roles in Indian cricket for over a decade-and-a-half, and would be instrumental in helping India lift the 2011 World Cup.

It turned out to be a mismatch: Zaheer took 3 for 48 on debut; Ajit Agarkar, Venkatesh Prasad, and Anil Kumble got 2 each; and Kenya struggled to reach 208 for 9 after being 145 for 3 in the 38th over before Zaheer unleashed two yorkers to derail them. The delightful Ravindu Shah compiled 60, Odumbe got 51, and Thomas Odoyo got a few boundaries, but that was not enough.

The Indian chase was clinical. Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar — having already placed a claim as the greatest opening pair in ODIs — added 47. Then Rahul Dravid came out, while Vinod Kambli provided the fireworks. Kenya were eliminated in the 43rd over.

The second match — Sri Lanka versus West Indies — was easily the top draw of the first round. West Indies did begin well, reducing Sri Lanka to 10 for 2 after 5 overs, but came up against an unexpected onslaught from the burly Avishka Gunawardene, who beefed his to a 146-ball 132. Mahela Jayawardene got a 71-ball 72, Russel Arnold ran hard for his 35-ball 41, and Sri Lanka reached 287 for 6.

West Indies had an unlikely leader in Sherwin Campbell. They got off to a flier, adding a run-a-ball 34, but they kept losing wickets thereafter. The match was as good as over at 85 for 6, and it took a 74-run seventh-wicket partnership between Laurie Williams and Mahendra Nagamootoo to take them to a face-saving 179.

The fast bowlers got the early wickets, but it was really the middle overs from Muttiah Muralitharan (10-4-9-0) and Sanath Jayasuriya (10-1-30-2) that killed the match. West Indies, runners-up in the previous edition, did not even make it to the top eight.

The match between England and Bangladesh passed without much stir. The only incident in the Bangladesh innings of 232 for 8 came when Andy Caddick hit Javed Omar on the index finger. Omar returned later to top-score with 63 not out. England’s six dropped catches certainly did not help their cause. England won with 37 balls to spare thanks to a 175-run between Alec Stewart (87*) and Nasser Hussain (95).

The quarter-finals

Things heated up as the top-ranked five teams entered the fray, and the first quarter-final between India and Australia set the tone for the round. It began with Tendulkar launching a furious, almost uncharacteristic onslaught on Glenn McGrath, including three sixes: an edge over third-man; one over the head of the great man; and a lofted pull, out of the ground of which cricket would witness an encore off Caddick in the 2003 World Cup.

However, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee rose to the occasion, taking out Tendulkar, Ganguly, and Dravid in quick succession. India were reduced to 90 for 3.

Then, without a warning, Australia ran into the blade of an 18-year-old Yuvraj. He was not making his debut, but it was his first international outing with the willow. He decided to celebrate the occasion, and how!

There were cover-drives. There were pulls. There were booming drives past and over mid-wicket. All three would become his trademark shots in years to come. Unfortunately, Australians had the first taste of his talent, and were certainly taken by surprise.

Yuvraj fell for an 80-ball 84. And to round of the Indian innings in spectacular fashion, Venkatesh Prasad lofted Ian Harvey for six off first ball he faced — the last of the 50th over. And to add to Australia’s woes, they were docked 2 overs for slow over rate: they had to chase 266 in 48 overs.

The first time the world got a glimpse of Yuvraj Singh © Getty Images
The first time the world got a glimpse of Yuvraj Singh © Getty Images

What followed was a tremendous display of fielding — the kind Indian cricket had rarely witnessed before, especially from an entire team. Australia were looking on course at 86 for 2 in the 16th over when Ian Harvey, promoted up the order, hit Prasad uppishly towards extra-cover: Yuvraj flung himself to his left: he was airborne when he completed the catch.

Then Robin Singh struck: Tendulkar bowled a rank long-hop; Ricky Ponting pulled the way he has been doing since the beginning of time; but Robin, placed at square-leg, dived to his wrong side to pull off the second stunner.

Then Yuvraj did the unthinkable: he picked one up at mid-off and threw the stumps down, running out Michael Bevan at the non-striker’s end.

Damien Martyn was bowled shortly afterwards. Then Steve Waugh pushed one towards square-leg; Ganguly, running in from mid-wicket, heard the call from Kumble, turned towards his right, and broke the stumps at the non-striker’s end with a direct throw: Shane Lee fell short.

Brett Lee hit two humongous sixes, but Zaheer struck with the ball of the match — a yorker that hit leg-and-middle to send Steve Waugh back.

And Brett Lee followed soon, mistiming a short-pitched delivery from Agarkar that grew on him: once again Ganguly ran in from mid-wicket, dived forward, and came up with the catch. Australia fell 20 short when the last wicket fell.

For the second consecutive time India had knocked Australia out of the tournament in the quarter-final.

The other quarter-finals turned out to be drab, one-sided contests after the high-intensity India-Australia encounter.

Sri Lanka became 8 for 2, and a 41-ball 39 from Jayasuriya and some lower-order cameos could not take them past 194, Wasim Akram and Azhar Mahmood taking 3 wickets apiece. Pakistan lost only Imran Nazir (that too to a run out, for 40); Saeed Anwar (102*) and Yousuf Youhana (42*) almost sleepily guided Pakistan to a 9-wicket win.

Zimbabwe did little better against New Zealand. Roger Twose (82) and Craig McMillan (51 in 51) first took New Zealand to 265 for 7. Zimbabwe reached 88 for 1 in the 20th over before the slower bowlers took over: Nathan Astle got 1 for 39 and Chris Harris 1 for 37, but Paul Wiseman, with 4 for 45, was the pick of the lot.

There was only one hitch: Chris Cairns injured his right knee while batting, and could bowl a solitary over before hobbling out of the ground.

England, strangled by South Africa in the fourth quarter-final, were bowled out for 182 — and that included a 68-ball 65 from Graeme Hick. England never got going. So tight were Shaun Pollock and Roger Telemachus with their line and length — backed by fielding of South African standards — that they conceded a mere 5 runs from the first 8 overs.

Allan Donald and Jacques Kallis tightened the noose further. Some runs came when Nicky Boje and Lance Klusener bowled, but it was never going to be enough. Four England batsmen fell to cross-batted heaves towards leg and two were run out, succumbing to the runlessess.

South Africa did not need even 40 overs. Gary Kirsten gave the start with a 34-ball 32 before Kallis (78*) and Boeta Dippenaar (65*) shut England out of the tournament.

The semi-finals

Pakistan were a stronger side on paper when the two sides met in the semi-final. A year before the match, Pakistan had brushed New Zealand aside in the World Cup semi-final. There was no reason to believe that this would work otherwise — more so because Cairns had not yet recovered.

As things turned out, Pakistan were bowled out for 252. Only one man scored fifty — but that man was Anwar, whose 104 came in 115 balls. It was a shame that the strokes, especially the ones square of the wicket on either side, were watched by a sparse crowd.

Pakistan had reached 237 for 6 before Shayne O’Connor took 4 wickets in 8 balls to mop up things. He finished with 5 for 46, rounding things off with a terrific catch off his own bowling. Scott Styris, playing for Cairns, conceded 41 from his 10 overs.

New Zealand lost Craig Spearman for 1. Stephen Fleming hit two boundaries but fell cheaply. At 15 for 2 it was evidently an uphill task.

But New Zealand did not hurry. They went the chase bit by bit, running singles, keeping the asking rate under control. Then, with 103 to score from 120 balls, Astle edged one to Moin Khan to become Mahmood’s third wicket.

Then Twose, hero of the previous match, top-scorer in the current chase, holed out for a well-compiled 87. Adam Parore became Mahmood’s fourth wicket. Mahmood then hit Harris on the pad with his next ball; amidst a stifled appeal, the ball rolled towards point and Harris attempted to steal a leg-bye.

Unfortunately, he had picked out Nazir, Pakistan’s finest fielder. Nazir knocked down the stumps with a direct hit to send Harris back for a golden duck.

New Zealand needed 65 from 73 balls as Styris walked out to join McMillan. The job was theirs to finish, for Wiseman, O’Connor, and Geoff Allott were the only ones to follow.

Despite the short boundaries, McMillan and Styris resisted the temptation to go for the big shots. At the same time, they ran hard, ensuring the strike rate never reached insurmountable proportions.

Then, with 15 to score off 16 balls, Styris decided to break the shackles by lofting Arshad Khan for a six over his head. He finished things off by hammering Wasim straight past him for four. There was still an over left in the match.

Those two were the only boundaries Styris hit in his unbeaten 31-ball 28. McMillan, on the other hand, had 3 fours in a 56-ball 51. The numbers indicate how well they ran between wickets to seal the match against odds.

Craig McMillan and Scott Styris celebrate the win against Pakistan © Getty Images
Craig McMillan and Scott Styris celebrate the win against Pakistan © Getty Images

As defending champions, South Africa had entered the tournament as favourites. Most would have predicted a South African win before the match. Unfortunately, they did not consider the Indian top-order: Tendulkar got 39, Dravid 58, and Yuvraj a 35-ball 41.

Of course, the star of the show was Ganguly. The attack consisted of six fast bowlers (Donald, Pollock, Telemachus, Kallis, Klusener, and Andrew Hall) plus Boje, but that had no impact on him.

Ganguly hit. And hit. And hit. He batted through the 50 overs. His 141 came off 142 balls. He hit 11 fours. The drives through off pierced the gap they always had, despite the acrobatics of the South Africans.

But more emphatic were those 6 sixes, all of which crossed the ropes by considerable distance: a slog-sweep, a straight drive, and one over mid-wicket, all off Boje in a span of 2 overs; over long-off, off Telemachus; and a pull and an on-drive, both off Kallis.

But despite those towering sixes, two boundaries stand out. One, off a short-pitched delivery from Kallis: Ganguly did not bother to pull; instead, he calmly flat-batted it past the vacant mid-on for four. The other, off Telemachus: Jonty Rhodes, anticipating the shot, moved to his left; Ganguly hit the ball exactly where Rhodes was originally standing.

India finished on 296 for 6 despite Donald’s fantastic last over, in which he took 2 for 3 and ran out Robin. There was, however, job to be done.

Zaheer took out Hall with a yorker that had become his trademark by then. South Africa had no option but to go for runs, and were reduced to 50 for 4 in the process. There were not much left in the chase after that despite Mark Boucher’s 60 and cameos from Rhodes and Klusener.

South Africa were bowled out for a round 200. The highlight of the innings was the ninth wicket: the lofted pull from Telemachus was headed for the crowds — before the gigantic figure of Prasad leapt up out of nowhere, timing the jump to perfection, and plucking the ball out of thin air.

India and New Zealand — unlikely contenders for the top two spots going into the tournament — stormed into the final.

The final 

New Zealand’s biggest problem was Cairns. Or, to be specific, it was his injured knee, which had not fully healed. He passed the fitness test only the day before the final.

Of course, Cairns had to play. It was too big a match for him to miss. True, Styris had done well as replacement. True, New Zealand had decent reserve bowler in Astle. But Cairns was too valuable for the side.

He was still not fully fit. He would bowl with a shorter run-up. He was unlikely to bowl the full quota either. Even if New Zealand had him for the match, he would be only half the bowler he was. Of course, there was his batting too… but would his knee survive the test of playing the role of the MVP of his side?

In the end he played. Wiseman was left out. New Zealand went in with an assortment of seamers of various styles and pace.

There was no such qualm for India. The top four were in form. The three fast bowlers were more-than-ably supported by Kumble. The fielding, as a unit, had reached near-unprecedented standards.

They also got off to the smoothest of starts. Ganguly caressed the first ball of the match, from Allott, past cover-point for four. Tendulkar drove the fifth to the straight boundary.

They went after the left-arm pacers, Allott and O’Connor. The tone was set. India raced to 37 in 4 overs. Fleming brought on Cairns, but to no avail. Tendulkar welcomed Styris with an enormous six over mid-wicket. And India waltzed along happily, flirting with the 5.50-an-over mark.

Meanwhile, Cairns refused to give up after the 5 overs he had promised himself. He asked Fleming for another over, then another — and ended up bowling 10 on the trot. He did not take a wicket, but 10-2-40-2 was an excellent show by a fast bowler uncertain to play.

Then, in the 27th over, Ganguly pushed one towards cover-point; both men set off for a run before Ganguly sent Tendulkar back; and Styris’ throw found Tendulkar short.

Tendulkar had scored 69. India were 141 for 1. It was a blow, but there was little to worry: India had the firepower to take the score to 300.

Ganguly continued with the carnage. He did send back Dravid to run him out, but he more than made up for it. He hit 4 sixes here as well, the biggest of the lot coming when he stepped out to Harris and sent him goodness-knows-where, high over Harris’ head. There were also 9 fours in that 130-ball 117.

Unfortunately, none of the others went past 22. Worse, almost no one managed to force the pace when it mattered. India, 202 for 2 after 39 overs, could add a mere 62 in the last 11. Barring the openers the others collectively hit 4 fours in 89 balls.

India finished on 264 for 6 after threatening to pile up 300. New Zealand had won the first battle.

Zaheer’s swift rise and near-unplayable yorkers had pushed Prasad into the background. In fact, as Spearman and Astle walked out, Ganguly tossed the ball to Zaheer. It backfired, for Zaheer did not show the rhythm of the previous matches, and was taken for 30 from his first 3 overs and 41 from 5, mostly to Astle. He would suffer worse in a bigger tournament two-and-a-half years down the line.

But Prasad rose to the challenge: he had Spearman caught at point and trapped Fleming leg-before. New Zealand were going at a-run-a-ball, but Prasad had reduced them to 37 for 2.

That brought Twose to the crease. With already two match-winning innings under his belt, he was supposed to be India’s biggest threat. When ICC calculated their retrospective ratings, Twose was ranked third in ODIs in the match before the final — after Bevan and Tendulkar. Yes, he was in a nick that good.

Agarkar went for runs too, and Kumble was treated with disdain. Astle and Twose marched on, getting those fours but not neglecting on singles.

Kumble provided the breakthrough, having Astle caught at bat-pad (Ganguly had one despite the onslaught) for 37. Fleming promoted Cairns, and New Zealand kept scoring happily, getting to 109 for 3 in the 19th over.

Cairns was clearly enjoying the battle. He had lofted Agarkar over mid-off in the 18th over. Ganguly back-tracked a couple of steps, leapt in the air, but found it too high. Cairns saw the ball reach the fence — then winked at Twose.

It took a googly and a remarkably swift stumping from Dahiya — the other Indian debutant of the tournament — to send Twose back. McMillan came out to hit Kumble out of the attack: he started well, sweeping Kumble twice for four — but ended up hitting Tendulkar to point.

New Zealand’s asking rate was under control, but someone had to anchor the innings; and despite his injury, it had to be Cairns. And when it came to finishes, who better than Harris?

As they have done throughout the tournament, the New Zealanders did not take risks. They made sure they had brought the target to a reasonable distance before they began the onslaught.

They needed 130 from 150 balls. In the next 10 overs they got a mere 31, letting the equation reach 99 from 90. They let the asking rate climb… it did not matter. Cairns backed himself: he knew that if he was there he would seal it.

Cairns reached a sedate fifty in 63 balls before hitting Tendulkar straight for six. Tendulkar bowled out with 1 for 38. Yuvraj completed his 10 overs too, for 32, albeit without a wicket. They had more than made up for those expensive overs from Zaheer and Agarkar.

Kumble replaced Tendulkar with 79 to score off 11 overs. Harris took 10 off that over. 69 from 60.

Then, in the next over, Cairns and Harris had a misunderstanding, but Ganguly’s throw was wide, and Cairns survived. He was on 68 at this stage.

Zaheer returned with 52 to score from 42 balls. He bowled an excellent over, accounting for 4. At the other end, Prasad conceded 4 as well (thanks to a Cairns boundary off the last ball), which brought the target down to 44 from 30.

Zaheer continued. The first ball was a full-toss, and Harris flicked it in the air. It flew over a leaping Robin to the fence. Ten came off the over. 34 from 24.

Ganguly replaced Zaheer with Kumble. The first 4 balls yielded 4 (1, 2, dot, 1). With New Zealand requiring 30 from 20, India probably held the upper hand.

Then Cairns hit Kumble straight into the car park, and gently paddle-swept the next ball for four. 20 from 18.

Ganguly, desperate for a wicket, now recalled Agarkar. They ran 7 in his over. 13 from 12.

Prasad returned. After Harris ran a leg-bye, Cairns dropped the second ball at his feet to get to his 100 — the greatest innings of his illustrious career — in 110 balls. But more importantly, New Zealand needed 11 from 10 balls.

But more drama was to follow: Harris drove the next ball, only for Robin to leap up and catch it. India had broken the partnership. New Zealand still needed only 11 from 9 balls, but they had a new batsman, and he would be on strike.

Unfortunately for India, Prasad’s next ball brushed Parore’s thigh and sped to the boundary. There were two other leg-byes and two runs off the bat, with left Agarkar to defend a near-impossible 3 in the last over.

He did his best, giving away 2 from the first 3 balls. Off the third, with fielders still outside the circle (why?), Cairns flicked one to round off probably the greatest innings the tournament has seen in its not-too-short history.

As Fleming punched the air in ecstasy in the pavilion, Cairns ran and ran, all pain forgotten; Parore did not remember it either, for he jumped on to Cairns for a hug.

After all, New Zealand had never won anything of this magnitude.

And they did that without Dion Nash and Daniel Vettori — and a half-fit Cairns.

Brief scores: 

India 264 for 6 in 50 overs (Sourav Ganguly 117, Sachin Tendulkar 69) lost to New Zealand 265 for 6 in 49.4 overs (Chris Cairns 102*, Chris Harris 46; Venkatesh Prasad 3 for 27) by 4 wickets with 2 balls to spare.

Man of the Match: Chris Cairns.