2004 review: Browne, Bradshaw blight Blighty!

A thrilling climax it was with West Indies snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

The triumphant West Indies team.   -  V. V. Krishnan

World cricket rejoiced at the West Indies overcoming England in near darkness at The Oval. It was a triumph that was welcomed by the cricket fraternity which needed a strong West Indies to match the rising power of India and South Africa. The former champion of cricket was the least favoured to win the Champions Trophy but the team, led by the charismatic Brian Lara, surprised even its most faithful supporters with an epic show.

The tournament as a whole failed to appeal. Critics pointed out the poor timing, coming as it did during the football season. And, of course, inclement weather played its part too. 

The inclusion of the United States of America and Kenya did not go down well with the spectators and came in for a lashing from some reputed players, especially Australian skipper Ricky Ponting. He was peeved at having to play USA. The issue of ambush marketing also discouraged the spectators since they could not use products which did not belong to the official sponsors.

It was symbolic of the quality of the tournament that it began with an over from Zimbabwe that included seven wides. But it all ended in frenzied celebrations as West Indies, chasing 218, stared at defeat at 147 for eight but recovered to stun England by two wickets. Wicketkeeper-batsman Courtney Browne and left-arm seamer Ian Bradshaw scripted a sensational win for the West Indies by adding 71 runs and signing off an inspired campaign on a high.

A delighted Lara summed it up well. “It’s a great achievement for the team. They have been under a lot of pressure. To come out after a dismal summer and perform like this against England — the same team that has beaten us in seven out of eight Tests — is a tremendous effort. The guys showed a lot of character and it augurs well for the future. It’s also an opportunity for the people in the Caribbean — wherever they are, whatever mood they’re in, because of the strife there — to rejoice.”

Lara was emotional when he added, “We all lay in our beds very comfortably while our people in the Caribbean were fending for their lives (from hurricanes). It was the catalyst for this very young team for what they achieved in England over the past three weeks.”

England skipper Michael Vaughan was generous in his praise of the West Indians. “To have them at 140-odd for eight was great, but sometimes you have to take your hat off to the opposition. Browne and Bradshaw came in and played sensibly, and didn’t give us a chance. We got a few that beat the bat, and a couple of lbw shouts, but you sometimes have to say that the opposition played well. Their partnership was the difference between winning and losing.”

West Indies made it to the final in style with wins over Bangladesh, South Africa and Pakistan (in the semifinal). For England, it was equally smooth as it breezed past Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Australia (in the semifinal). Pakistan’s win over India in Birmingham and England’s victory over Australia at the same venue were landmark achievements.

India suffered a huge blow when Sachin Tendulkar was ruled out even before a ball was bowled. A back sprain forced Tendulkar to pull out and his absence was felt the most when India met a strong Pakistan. Sourav Ganguly’s 90 set up India’s win over Kenya in the opener in Southampton before the next hurdle where Pakistan proved far superior.

The toss proved crucial in Birmingham as India, with the exception of Rahul Dravid, was clueless against the Pakistan seamers, especially Naved-ul-Hasan, who claimed four wickets. Ajit Agarkar struck a fine 47 to give India a chance to fight but Pakistan closed out the contest riding on the shoulders of Yousuf Youhana. His unbeaten 81 was one of the finest innings of the tournament.

The semifinals failed to make an impression as Pakistan and Australia failed to sustain the consistency that had carried them thus far. A total of 131 was woefully poor for Pakistan to put any pressure on the West Indies which was well served by its seamers. Australia managed a decent 259 against England but it was not enough to deny victory to a team that was so motivated. Superb batsmanship by Marcus Trescothick (81), Vaughan (86) and Andrew Strauss (52 not out) left Australia vanquished on a sporting pitch at Edgbaston.

Poor attendance marked the England-Australia match with Ponting admitting, “I thought we were 30 runs shy of what we should have made. The wicket was very good, and the outfield was quite quick. We can’t be too disappointed when we are outplayed. And today, we were certainly outbowled and outbatted.” But England met its match in the title match where West Indies did nothing wrong.

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