A close encounter is always thrilling and more so when it occurs in a big tournament that is followed across the globe and hence it remains attached to memory all through one’s life.
With the eighth edition of the Champions Trophy starting in England from 1st June, let us stroll through the almanacks and re-visit five of the toughest see-saw battles that the championships have witnessed in its 19-year history with a total of 100 games part of its folklore.
New Zealand v Zimbabwe, Dhaka, 1998:
The very first game of the inaugural Champions Trophy (then called as Mini World Cup or ICC knockouts) saw one of the adrenaline pumped games in the history of the competition. The knockout format of the tournament – comprising nine teams – had the lowest ranked teams fight out for a one-off pre-quarters with the winner joining the seven top teams for the quarter-finals. Zimbabwe decided to bat first and with their skipper Alastair Campbell scoring a ton at the top – keeper Andy Flower too chipped in with a valuable 77. Although they were going over seven runs an over in the first 10 overs, Zimbabwe failed to capitalize on the start and could manage 258 in their stipulated overs.
The Kiwis lost their openers for a paltry before leader Stephen Fleming took control – scoring a marathon 96 with just three fours and a six. Adam Parore – contributing 52 with a solo boundary – partnered Fleming to give the second century stand by the skipper-keeper duo. Parore’s dismissal by Heath Streak required his side to get 43 from 20. All-rounder Chris Harris played the finishing role as he took 18 off Neil Johnson to bring parity. A poor final over – New Zealand still needing 12 – from the Zimbabweans tilted the game in favour of their rivals as Harris hit the winning boundary the last ball.
Brief scores: Zimbabwe – 258/7 (50.0); New Zealand – 260/5 (50.0)
South Africa v West Indies, Colombo, 2002:
Virtually a knock-out game between the sides, Shivnarine Chanderpaul opened and scored a turtle-like 45 off 98 as the Caribbeans failed to fulfill the deficit despite some acceleration down the order. South Africa were set 239 to win from one over less on account of slow bowling. Shaun Pollock’s men had a lukewarm start that almost turned nightmarish when the trio of Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis returned to the hut inside 17 overs. Boeta Dippenaar (53) and Jonty Rhodes (61) added 117 although the two perished in space of three deliveries in the 40th over to rival captain Carl Hooper. Requiring 60 off the final nine overs, the batsmen kept going at run-a-ball with 13 to get from the last Mervyn Dillon over. Pollock smashed a six at the onset but the pacer removed him and Lance Klusener without much ado. Three needed off last and with the Windies going favourites, Dillon bowled an agonizing wide delivery with Nicky Boje and Allan Donald changing their ends. The re-take saw Donald managing a single to the joy of the Protea fans.
Brief scores: West Indies – 238/8 (50.0); South Africa – 239/8 (49.0/49)
India v Pakistan, Birmingham, 2004:
In what could be the tightest Indo-Pak battle in the format at a world event, the Indian batters failed to keep in check the Pakistan pacers – Naved-ul-Hasan and Shoaib Akhtar both picking up four each. Rahul Dravid remained the saving grace managing 67 and added 82 with Ajit Agarkar – the latter making a 50-ball 47. After folding out India for 200, the Pakistan too had a poor start – if not poorer. At 27 for three in the 11th, skipper Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf (then Youhana) controlled the avalanche. While the captain struggled to get 41 at just a strike-rate of 51, Youhana batted till the end for an unbeaten 81. “Boom Boom” Shahid Afridi (25 off 12) joined in for a late cameo – picking up Irfan Pathan for consecutive sixes – to bring down the asking rate from 5 to 3.57. Eventually, India got knocked out of the event with this loss.
Brief scores: India – 200 (49.5); Pakistan – 201/7 (49.2)
England v West Indies, Oval, 2004:
Given a choice, this would be my match of the Champions Trophy history. With both the sides coming unbeaten to the final – though England remained the favourites after Marcus Trescothick (104) rode on a one-man show to pile up 217. An opening batsman otherwise, Wavell Hinds impressed the crowd with his medium-pace as he managed his career-best 3 for 24 from his 10 that included three maidens. Brian Lara and co started poorly with the opening pair adding 19 – 16, 14, 23, 8, 34, 21, 12 were added by the subsequent stands as the inaugural runners found themselves at 147/8 with 16 overs still to play. With the asking rate well-under 4.5, all that the Caribbeans needed was to stop the fall and just stay there in the middle. Wicket-keeper Courtney Browne (35) and number 10 bat Ian Bradshaw (34) did exactly that as the duo took the islanders to their first ICC event win in almost 25 years – the victory celebrated with some memorable revelry in the middle.
Brief scores: England – 217 (49.4); West Indies – 218/8 (48.5)
England v India, Birmingham, 2013:
Rain almost denied India a chance to win the title with the talks of 2002 shared champions after 110 overs of play doing the rounds at the day of final that had no day in reserve. It was then that the nature stopped playing havoc and with the little time remaining, the sides decided upon 20-overs a side game for the coveted trophy that neither of the sides did win outright. Shikhar Dhawan (31) and Virat Kohli (43) added some worthwhile up the order before Ravindra Jadeja (33) took India to 129 – a total that looks always gettable in general but was fighting under the challenging conditions that late evening. After initial hiccups, Eoin Morgan (33) and Ravi Bopara (30) almost sealed the game before Ishant Sharma – who went for plenty – bowled two successive deliveries that perished them.
With 19 needed off final two, MS Dhoni overlooked his pacers and passed the cherry to his spin duo of Jadeja and Ashwin. Jadeja picked up Jos Butler for just four from his over. With 15 to win from Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Broad could only manage a boundary. As the offie dodges James Tredwell who required to hit it to the stands for a victory, Dhoni completed his ICC triplet while England drawing another blank in an ICC final.
Brief scores: India – 129/7 (20.0/20); England – 124/8 (20.0/20)
Photo by nedrichards