Record Book – The lowest total by a Test nation in the Champions Trophy

  New Zealand and Bangladesh, fresh from playing each other in the tri-series in Ireland last month, are set to face off in a Champions Trophy match at Cardiff on the coming Friday. This will be the second time that the two teams will meet in the Champions Trophy; the first instance being in the 2002 edition in Sri Lanka.

  The format back then allowed only one of the three teams in each pool to enter the semifinals, and as it turned out, Australia breezed into the final four from Pool 1, courtesy of resounding wins over New Zealand and Bangladesh. The final pool game between the two losing teams, played at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club Ground on September 23, 2002, was thus reduced to an inconsequential affair.

  New Zealand, looking for consolation after having failed to defend the title they won in 2000, were inserted in to bat on a slow track by Bangladesh’s wicketkeeper-captain Khaled Mashud. Left-arm pacer Manjural Islam provided an early breakthrough for the Tigers, scalping the key wicket of Nathan Astle with the score at 11 in the third over.

  Skipper Stephen Fleming and Matthew Sinclair produced a second-wicket stand of 66 at nearly six an over, before Khaled Mahmud pulled things back with a double strike. The medium pacer first got rid of Fleming, who was looking composed on 31, and then had Lou Vincent caught behind in his next over. New Zealand were now 79/3 in the 16th over and needed someone to play a long innings.

         Scott Styris plays a shot during New Zealand’s innings as Bangladesh captain Khaled Mashud looks on (source – gettyimages/icc-cricket.com)

  Sinclair held fort, but the Bangladeshi bowlers ensured that runs were not easy to come by. The fourth-wicket partnership between Sinclair and Scott Styris had progressed to 40, when the latter was caught short of his crease for a promising 26. This setback further dented the run rate, and even though Sinclair and Chris Harris added 48 for the fifth wicket, their stand consumed 85 balls.

  When Sinclair was sixth out for a stodgy 70 from 122 balls to the part-time leg spin of Mohammad Ashraful, who had already dismissed Harris earlier, the scoreboard read 198 in the 45th over. A final flourish from Jacob Oram, who became Ashraful’s third victim, and Daniel Vettori enabled New Zealand to accumulate 46 runs in the last five overs.

  Yet, it was a commendable effort from Bangladesh to restrict their opponents to 244/7. Manjural and Mahmud bowled with control to take two wickets each, while left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique returned tidy figures as well. The 18-year-old Ashraful, who had become Test cricket’s youngest centurion a year earlier, finished with a career-best of 3/26.

  The target was by no means a daunting one, but Bangladesh needed to put in a highly improved effort with the bat compared to the game against Australia – in which they had painstakingly crumbled for 129 in the 46th over – if they harboured hopes of notching a rare victory; they came into this match on the back of 19 consecutive ODI defeats.

       Shane Bond ripped through the Bangladeshi top order to set up a crushing win for New Zealand at the 2002 Champions Trophy (source – espncricinfo.com)

   A 20th defeat on the trot was a foregone conclusion just five overs into the Bangladeshi innings. The top order had absolutely no answer to the express pace of Shane Bond, who was in the thick of things from the first over itself when he had Al Sahariar trapped leg-before for a duck. At the other end, Oram sent back the other opener Javed Omar to leave Bangladesh at 8/2 after two overs.

  The ferocious Bond, backed by Fleming’s attacking field, had figures of 3-0-9-4 at this point. Bangladesh had suffered their lowest ODI total at the same ground just over a month earlier, when they were skittled for 76 by Sri Lanka. At 19/5, a bigger embarrassment was on the cards. The top scorer of the innings was Tushar Imran (20), who was sixth out to Oram with the score at 37.

  The last four wickets managed to double the score and also – just – avoid a record ODI low for Bangladesh, but nevertheless, the final outcome made for sorry reading. Kyle Mills and Vettori too chipped in with two wickets apiece, as the Tigers were shot out for 77 in 19.3 overs to concede a 167-run defeat. Bond finished with 4/21 in five overs and was rightly named man of the match.

  Bangladesh’s total of 77 was then the lowest in the Champions Trophy, and till date, remains the lowest by a Test nation in the tournament. In the next edition in 2004, Bangladesh were bowled out for another sub-100 total – 93 against South Africa at Edgbaston. The lowest Champions Trophy total overall is 65 by the United States of America against Australia at Southampton in 2004.

Match Scorecard 

VIEWPOINT – A farcical final that was a fitting end

  It was only apt that the last match of the 15-year old Champions Trophy was in effect a Twenty20 game. For as we all know, the main reason of the ICC for bumping off this tournament is that they can cram in more irrelevant Twenty20 leagues into the calendar. The Test championship is of course, nothing but hogwash.

  The Champions Trophy final lost its significance as the final match of a ‘global 50-overs tournament’ the moment it got converted into a 20-over affair. In other words, it became just another Twenty20 international, like the ones that unnecessarily pepper the international schedule, like the one which has been bizarrely scheduled between England and New Zealand for tomorrow. It became nothing but a lottery, and the side which gambled more smartly ultimately won. It was as ridiculous as having a six-a-side final for football’s Confederations Cup. Especially after this fiasco, I wonder if anyone is going to miss the Champions Trophy at all.

2013-06-23T120258Z_1_AJOE95M0XH000_RTROPTP_2_OZASP-RAIN-DELAYS-START-OF-CHAMPIONS-TROPHY-FINAL      The dark clouds and rain covers made for a depressing sight at Edgbaston on the day of the Champions Trophy final (source – yahoo.com)

  All the ICC needed to do was schedule a reserve day for today, i.e June 24th, so that even if the game got interrupted yesterday, it could have been simply continued from where it stopped, on the reserve day. At least there would have been scope for a full 50-0vers final. But the ICC were keen on adding to their list of poorly-organised finals in multi-nation ODI tournaments. The most embarrassing instance was the 2007 World Cup final, where in spite of having a reserve day, it was insisted upon that the two teams, Australia and Sri Lanka, contest a 38-over match which ended in near darkness. In 2002, the Champions Trophy was shared between Sri Lanka and India when the game was re-started on the reserve day instead of just continuing it, leading to a double wash-out. Will the ICC ever learn?

  The final itself was not short of controversy. The decision which resulted in Ian Bell’s dismissal was shocking – even the commentators could not believe it. I wonder what third umpire Bruce Oxenford was thinking when he decided to give Bell out when it was clear to all and sundry that his foot was alright after all, and that the benefit of any doubt goes to the batsman. The decision might have cost England their first major 50-overs trophy. India won after some strange ‘out-of-the-box- thinking by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni – his  decision to give Ishant Sharma an extra over ultimately proved to be the turning point, as the lanky seamer took two wickets in two balls to begin England’s slide toward a 5-run loss, when the hosts had the match in the bag, needing 20 runs to win off 16 balls with 6 wickets remaining. 

IanBell_out_AP     Ian Bell was given out after a highly dubious decision by the third umpire (source – firstpost.com)

  The pitches on offer for quite a few of the games (including the final) were unusually ‘sub-continental’ in nature. Nevertheless, India no doubt played fearless cricket throughout the tournament, having been regarded by many as deserving winners, and I would certainly like to believe that. Hopefully, the farce was limited to just the organisation of the game.

IN FOCUS – Solid England against resurgent India

  After two weeks and fourteen games of cricket in the 2013 Champions Trophy, there are two teams left standing to contest the 99th and last match of this tournament, which first began as a knock-out competition in 1998. Hosts England and world ODI champions India will lock horns at Edgbaston this Sunday hoping to lay hands on the second-most coveted international 50-overs trophy. 

  While India have been unbeaten so far, having recorded convincing group stage wins over South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan followed by an equally dominating performance over Sri Lanka in the semi-final yesterday, England had a blip when they failed to defend a big score against Sri Lanka in the group stage, the loss sandwiched between victories against Australia and New Zealand which were enough to see them through to the semi-final, where they signalled their intent by beating South Africa in a canter. 

  India’s march to the final has been quite surprising, given that of late, they have flattered to deceive when it comes to playing in alien conditions, especially in England, where they were steamrolled in both the Test series and the ODI’s in 2011. However, the current ODI team have shown renewed zeal, which had been missing ever since India lifted the 2011 World Cup. Struggling senior players have been rightly sidelined and replaced with those who truly deserve to be in the squad. The selectors were repeatedly panned for not taking bold steps after India lost at home to England in the Test series and to Pakistan in the ODI series, but at last some gumption has been shown on their part and the results are here to see.

39c317d8-9b47-4422-839d-a11080d30563HiRes         Shikhar Dhawan has been by far the leading run-scorer in the 2013 Champions Trophy (source – hindustantimes.com)

  India’s biggest success story has been Shikhar Dhawan. The 27-year old Delhi southpaw, who stormed into Test cricket with a blitzing knock against Australia in March, has continued his rich vein of form into the Champions Trophy, and has been a godsend for the team in relation the opening slot, which was an area of deep concern to the think-tank until recently. Even if he fails in the final, he is a strong candidate for being the  player of the tournament. His starts at the top along with the talented but inconsistent Rohit Sharma – who has also found the opening position to his liking – have been pivotal in ensuring that the good work of the bowlers has not been wasted. Another player who appears to be improving with every game is Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. The lanky medium pacer’s ability to swing the ball both ways has led to him taking key wickets at the top while maintaining an impressive economy rate, and has risen to become India’s pace spearhead just six months after his debut. Ravindra Jadeja’s stifling spin bowling and the side’s sudden transformation into a high-class fielding side have also contributed to the India’s unbeaten run thus far. 

  On the other hand, hosts England will come into the final as the only top team not to have won an ICC 50-overs tournament. Over the last couple of years, England have developed into a solid ODI team and at present are a much more improved unit than they have ever been since they pioneered one-day cricket more than four decades ago. Even in the absence of Kevin Pietersen, England have exploited familiar conditions, with the main performers being Jonathan Trott and James Anderson. Trott has made a mockery of those who consider his batting as ‘slow’ and ‘unattractive’ by churning out vital knocks at a strike rate of close to 90. His presence in the middle order in combination with England’s latest talent Joe Root have ensured that the team has not found wanting while batting in testing situations. 

Anderson_2579611b     James Anderson’s nagging length and generous swing has enabled him to deliver the goods for England (source – telegraph.co.uk)

  In the bowling department, spearhead James Anderson’s form is sure to worry the Australians ahead of the Ashes. He was outstanding against New Zealand and South Africa, and has found support from the under-rated off-spinner James Tredwell. Anderson, who has been bowling quite splendidly this summer, has given England the sort of value that someone like Dale Steyn brings to South Africa, and quite a lot will depend upon his bowling spells in the final. The rest of the bowling attack has blown hot and cold though, and over-dependence on Anderson may prove costly against the in-form Indian top-order. Besides giving England their first major ODI title, a win will also put them in a very confident state of mind with the Ashes around the corner, though that is not to say that the focus of the team can afford to be shifted.

  India have had two famous ODI successes in England – first when they won the 1983 World Cup and later the 2002 NatWest Tri Series, both at Lord’s, and at both times defying the odds. This is an opportunity to add to that list and also seal their status as the top-ranked ODI side. Whereas England have their best possible chance to win a rare title – the last time they came this close was when they finished runners up in the 2004 Champions Trophy, also at home.