ICC Champions Trophy: The day Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly stunned England at Colombo

One cannot keep Virender Sehwag (right) quiet for too long and his boundary fest commenced in the fifth over. He played the ball on the rise and dispatched it with his typical power © Getty Images

On September 22, 2002, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag bludgeoned a hapless England attack into submission during an ICC Champions Trophy encounter at Colombo. Nishad Pai Vaidya recounts that amazing partnership.

Sourav Ganguly’s ascendancy to the leadership heralded a new era for Indian cricket. He instilled confidence and inspired a side to challenge any opposition in their way. Numerous youngsters such as Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag blossomed under his leadership to become critical assets to India. More importantly, there was more to the Indian team than Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and the captain himself.

In 2002, Indian one-day cricket had got a major shot in the arm with the thrilling win over England in the NatWest Series final at Lord’s. A few months down the line, both teams clashed at Colombo in a tournament of bigger stature — the ICC Champions Trophy 2002. Nasser Hussain’s men knew they had a task on their hands against this confident Indian unit.

It was a virtual quarter-final as the winner would go through to the semis. England won the toss and elected to bat first. Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan, the young Indian pacers, bowled disciplined spells and caused a few problems. The English innings kept stuttering as the spinners built on the base set by the pacemen. India looked in firm control when they had England at 153 for five in the 34th over.

Ian Blackwell, playing only his second One-Day International (ODI), pounced on the opportunity on the big stage. He took on the Indian bowling and sped away to a brisk half-century. Alec Stewart gave him good support as the youngster enjoyed his day in the sun. His effort of 82 came off 68 balls as England posted 269 on the board.

Chasing under lights at the Premadasa Stadium has never been an easy proposition and England would have backed themselves to finish the job and qualify for the semi-finals. But, they knew the strength of the Indian batting — having suffered at their hands on a sunny day at Lord’s in July that year.

India had tweaked their opening combination that year as Tendulkar dropped down to number four to add stability to the middle-order. Ganguly started things off with the aggressive Sehwag. The duo started off cautiously against the England seamers. Ganguly in particular was sedate and was comfortable in playing the overs out.

One cannot keep Sehwag quiet for too long and his boundary fest commenced in the fifth over. He played the ball on the rise and dispatched it with his typical power. As usual, there was minimal footwork and his typical hand-eye coordination was at its unfailing best. He also managed to cart a six off an upper cut — a shot made popular by Tendulkar and him.

Sehwag kept toying with the England bowlers as their fielders were mere spectators. He got to his half-century with a four in the eleventh over and it had taken him only 37 balls to get there. At the other end, it looked like a Test match was going on. Ganguly had scored only 13 and had consumed 26 deliveries.

The fast-bowlers were not doing the job for England. Hussain decided to take the pace off the ball and brought in Ronnie Irani and Ashley Giles. That did not affect Sehwag’s rhythm as the boundaries kept coming. There was a boundary almost every over in the first 20 (barring the initial four overs). Ganguly was a mere spectator at one end as his protégé took centre-stage. India had stormed past 100 in 16 overs and were on 133 at the 20. Sehwag had scored 90 of them.

Irrespective of his score, Sehwag bats with the same approach. If it is there in the zone, he will give it everything. On 96, he smashed a four to get to his 100, which came off 77 balls.

It was Sehwag’s day. Anything outside the off-stump was bludgeoned with great power. If the bowlers over-pitched, he drove them down the ground with authority. When they strayed on the pads, he had no trouble in tucking them around square. One such flick almost hit the leg-umpire Steve Bucknor.

ICC Champions Trophy: The day Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly stunned England at Colombo

Sourav Ganguly (batting) played with his trademark authority and dominated the bowling. The ball sailed to all parts of the ground as Ganguly looked in a hurry to finish things off. In the process he got to his hundred and finished the game off in style with a six and a four © Getty Images

After a long hibernation, Ganguly finally came to the party as he lofted Giles for a six. Sehwag’s blaze continued until Blackwell got the better off him by snapping a return chance. The Premadasa stood up to applaud this great effort. India had stormed to 192 inside 29 overs and it was a cakewalk from that point onwards. Sehwag’s 126 had taken him only 104 balls. In comparison, Ganguly had crawled to his fifty.

At the dismissal of Sehwag, Ganguly decided to take control. VVS Laxman and Tendulkar were his subsequent partners and they went almost unnoticed. Ganguly played with his trademark authority and dominated the bowling. The ball sailed to all parts of the ground as Ganguly looked in a hurry to finish things off. In the process he got to his hundred and finished the game off in style with a six and a four. It took him only 41 balls to move from 51 to his eventual score of 117.

India were slowly but surely building for the 2003 World Cup. In their semi-final, they snatched the game from South Africa’s grasp to seal a spot in the final against Sri Lanka. Sadly, rain had the final say as the trophy had to be shared. Nevertheless, Ganguly has succeeded in building a side and his youngsters had given ample evidence that the big stage did not overawe them.

Brief scores:

England 269 for 7 in 50 overs (Ian Blackwell 82, Nick Knight 50; Ashish Nehra 2 for 49, Anil Kumble 2 for 58) lost to India 271 for 2 in 39.3 overs (Virender Sehwag 126, Sourav Ganguly 117 not out) by 8 wickets.

Man of the Match: Virender Sehwag

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with cricketcountry.com and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)