West Indies upset India in Coca-Cola Cup final
In an upset result, West Indies overturned the form book to record a 16-run victory over India on Saturday to win the Coca-Cola Cup final at the Harare Sports Club, after twice losing to the same opposition in the preliminary round.
The weather (and the media facilities, as is usual until the new media centre is finally built) failed to match the occasion. It was unusually overcast and therefore very cold, like an English county match in April.
The pitch was good for batting, giving only a little early help to the seamers, and it took a fair degree of spin. However, Sourav Ganguly was happy to put West Indies in to bat on winning the toss for India.
West Indies, in Wednesday's `preview' of the final, had made a solid start that had proved to be too slow. They were determined it would not happen again. Daren Ganga and Chris Gayle began with positive strokeplay and had 33 on the board after five overs, mostly off Debashish Mohanty, who went for 26 in his first three-over spell.
The Indian bowlers and fielders showed signs of stress under the unexpected pressure as the fifty came up in the eighth over. Harbhajan Singh was brought on to bowl the tenth over and succeeded in putting a brake on the scoring rate. Runs still cascaded from the other end, as the batsmen matched each other with superb driving in particular, and ran well between wickets. These first ten overs were the decisive period of the match, as the West Indian openers gave them an advantage and impetus that they never lost.
Harbhajan finally broke through as Gayle (43 off 45 balls) holed out to long-off in the 14th over, having put on 86 with Ganga, who in the following over hit Virender Shewag over his head for four to reach 50 off only 40 balls. He eventually holed out at deep midwicket off Sodhi for 71 off 62 balls. Carl Hooper came in next, but Wavell Hinds became bogged down against the spinners and hit a return catch to Sodhi for 10.
Two new batsmen in Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had to settle in, but then they got the board moving again, not so much with the powerful boundaries of their opening pair but more through skilful placement for ones and twos. Hooper ran to his fifty off 46 balls, and Chanderpaul soon followed before being yorked by Nehra for exactly 50. The pair had added 108 and West Indies were 238 for four in the 43rd over.
The aim was no doubt for 300, but Hooper (66 off 63 balls) skied Zaheer Khan to mid-off, which put that difficult target just out of reach. Ramnaresh Sarwan made 16, Ridley Jacobs 26 not out, and West Indies finished with 290 for six.
Only spinners Harbhajan (35 runs conceded off 10 overs) and Sodhi (31 off 7) escaped serious punishment and India faced a mammoth task to win the Cup the form book said should be theirs. But with Sachin Tendulkar in their ranks, it could be done.
However, India's hopes soon received a crushing blow. Tendulkar, suffering apparently from stomach trouble, had not scored when he tried to pull Corey Collymore in the third over and skied a catch to midwicket.
Ganguly however seemed quite to have regained his form, scoring 22 of the first 24 on the board and playing some daring shots, especially over the covers, against the pace bowlers. However, when he had 28 he tried to swing Collymore across the line, to be trapped lbw, and India were 35 for two in the ninth over.
Heavy responsibility now devolved upon VVS Laxman, returned from injury, and Rahul Dravid. Laxman (18) was just settling in and looking good when he pulled to square leg to give Collymore his third wicket, and at 58 for three in the 13th over, India were staring defeat in the face.
Dravid, undaunted, played some fine strokes, but Shewag (2) also flicked a catch to midwicket, this time off Dillon. Then came the final blow as Dravid (30) played back to Reon King and played the ball on to his stumps via the inside edge. At 80 for five with all their front-line batsmen back in the pavilion, India were to all effects dead and buried.
Sodhi and Sameer Dighe did their best to ensure India would lose with honour, as they shared an aggressive partnership of 101 before Collymore returned to have Sodhi caught at long-on for 67 off 76 balls. Gayle bowled Harbhajan (12), going for a big hit, and Khan (0) with successive balls, but Dighe continued to blaze away, hitting particularly powerfully to leg.
But 25 were needed off the final over and it was just too much, with the heroic Dighe finishing unbeaten with 94, assisted perhaps unexpectedly by Mohanty (18 not out). Collymore finished with four for 49. Although India were never quite there after the loss of their first five, it was great entertainment to the last ball.