Even a script-writer couldn’t have penned such a convoluted plot for the final of the Champions Trophy. There was action, drama, melodrama, climax, anticlimax and even comedy in the heavily truncated, 50-over-turned-20-over match. Thanks to rain almost playing spoilsport, lashing out ferociously before the start of the match and a couple of times during the Indian batting. It was then amidst these unpredictable weather conditions that India got the job done leaving England to rue one more missed opportunity; an opportunity, perhaps of their own making.
The hosts’ decision to put the Indians to bat first on a damp outfield, after winning the toss, reaped early results when Rohit Sharma was beaten by Stuart Broad’s ball in the fifth over, cleanly bowled. Reduced to 19/1, it was the first time in the Champions Trophy that the Indian openers had failed to put up a partnership of 50-runs or more. The Indian start to their batting also seemed eerily slow, with the Indian batsmen flailing helplessly against the line and length of the English opening bowlers: Anderson and Broad. The 20-over scheduling meant that the batsmen got just four overs of mandatory power-play with two overs of batting power-play. But unlike in the previous matches, India appeared to be extremely muted down in the power-play overs with boundaries hard to come by.
Shikhar Dhawan of course did come up with his natural game, scoring a quick-fire 31 off 23 balls. But Bopara’s introduction in the 9th over saw him playing a surprisingly loose shot and getting caught by Tredwell. India’s next three batsmen – Karthik, Raina and Dhoni – were then cheaply out in quick succession, posing a huge question as to whether their lack of appearances in previous matches cost the Indian team heavily in this last, crucial game.
Bopara, Bresnan, Broad and Tredwell were the wicket-takers for England that saw India left high-and-dry, struggling to cope with their combined might. But where these bowlers made the day for England, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja saved the day for India. Slowly but steadily, they picked the thread for India, restoring hopes yet against in the Indian fans before the loss of Kohli’s wicket saw Jadeja having to manage the pressure with a lonesome cameo towards the end.
Needing 130 runs to win and the English openers in as good a form as their opponents, the chase seemed easy enough for England. But as it was, there was a huge twist to the tale with Cook falling to Umesh Yadav in the second over contributing just two runs to the team total.
Trott and Bell then re-started the English run chase even more purposefully sending the ball all over the outfield. Twos and fours suddenly came on easily and the match yet again started to tilt in England’s favour. There was though no let up from the crowd, distinctly biased towards India over England. It seemed like playing at home, away from home as the crowds chanted themselves hoarse rooting for India.
As the Indian spinners entered the fray, the turn provided by the pitch also added to England’s misery. In-form men Trott and Root lost their wickets almost back-to-back to R. Ashwin leaving Ian Bell suddenly finding himself bereft without partners to finish the job at hand. Morgan joined Bell at the crease but even before the two could develop a partnership, a controversial third umpire decision saw Bell being given out, stumped by Dhoni off Jadeja.
The decision seemed suspect, especially as the replay showed Bell’s foot being grounded before the bails being taken off even though the stumps seemed to be rattled by the Indian keeper. There was however, no benefit of doubt given to the batsmen and as such Bell had no choice but to make his way out for a new batsman.
In order to get their plot straightened out, Bopara was promoted up the order over lackadaisical Jos Buttler. And straightened out the plot, did Bopara and Morgan. A few fours, a couple of sixes and quite a few singles and two’s saw England reach closer to the target.
Two wides bowled by Ishant Sharma didn’t help India either as the match balanced itself on a knife’s edge. But the next two balls got the Indians up and at their feet again. Morgan and Bopara fell almost back-to-back of each other in Ishant Sharma’s over, who suddenly seem to have over-compensated his initial two loose deliveries. What transpired next was a typical English cricketing meltdown, leaving England crumbling and no one left to supplement their bowling efficiency.
The last two overs – the batting power-play – saw Dhoni reverting back to his spinners. The 18th over bowled by Jadeja saw Jos Buttler disappoint yet again and Bresnan caught napping as he struggled to scamper for a much-needed run. England reduced to 113 for eight with Tredwell and Broad on strike.
A boundary and a handful of two’s saw England needing six off the last ball of the last over, bowled by Ashwin with Tredwell on strike. It was a climax as no one would have expected it to be. But as everyone watched with their hearts in their mouths, Tredwell just managed to get a single run leaving India winners by a mere five runs. England’s wait for a trophy in the 50-over format of the game continued as India and the fans gathered made merry of their Champions Trophy winnings. The team had come through again and as history will recount in the years to come, had made a complete sweep of all the tournaments that a top-ranked cricket team needs to win and brag about. The World Cup, the T20 World Cup and now, at last, an univocal win of the ICC Champions Trophy.