January 31, 2002

Chetan Sharma blows England away

If ever proof is required that one has to be innovative to win limited overs matches, the MRF World Series game between India and England at Kanpur in October, 1989 provided it. And it was the Indian captain K Srikkanth's gamble of promoting tailender Chetan Sharma to No 4 that led to India scoring an improbable victory, the winning runs being scored off the first ball of the penultimate over. When the teams took the field, it was conceivable to put England in the favourites' circle. For one thing, they had won all their three previous games against Sri Lanka, Australia and Pakistan with a degree of comfort. India on the other hand had arrived late for the tournament after completing their engagements in Sharjah. They had scored a narrow six-run win over Sri Lanka in their opening encounter before losing to the West Indies.


When Srikkanth was second out at 65, Chetan Sharma, whose normal position in the strong batting line-up would have been No 11, walked out to join Navjot Sidhu. Almost immediately, he had a stroke of good fortune when Robin Smith failed to catch him on the boundary. The pocket-sized medium pacer had made only three runs then.
Put in to bat, England were given a good start with openers Graham Gooch (21) and Wayne Larkins (42) putting on 43 runs. The main substance of the innings was provided by the fourth wicket partnership of 130 runs between Allan Lamb (91) and Alec Stewart (61). Stewart reached his halfcentury with a six off Chetan Sharma and after he was run out, Lamb, who faced only 109 balls, played some sparkling cricket to engineer 55 runs from the last five overs. Thanks to this blitzkrieg, England were able to post a challenging total of 255 for seven in 50 overs.

India too were given a good start with openers Srikkanth (32) and Raman Lamba (16) putting on 41 runs. When Srikkanth was second out at 65, Chetan Sharma, whose normal position in the strong batting line-up would have been No 11, walked out to join Navjot Sidhu. Almost immediately, he had a stroke of good fortune when Robin Smith failed to catch him on the boundary. The pocket-sized medium pacer had made only three runs then. Far from being unnerved by the early let off, Sharma did pretty much what he liked with the bowling, which was in the hands of Angus Fraser, Phil DeFreitas, Eddie Hemmings, Gladstone Small, David Capel and Gooch. He shared a 105-run third wicket stand with Sidhu who was run out for 61. Joined by Dilip Vengsarkar, Shrama really turned on the heat. Some of his shots were little more than slogging but none could question his bold and enterprising approach. Fortune favours the brave and Sharma had another stroke of luck, surviving a run out chance when 74. A little later, Gooch dropped a catch. Riding on his luck, Sharma dominated a fourth wicket partnership of 81 with Vengsarkar (31).

Finally, he reached his century and won the match with his eighth four. For his unbeaten 101, Sharma faced only 96 balls and also hit a six. India were finally home with six wickets and eleven deliveries to spare, handing England their first defeat of the competition. Interestingly enough, Chetan in a career of 65 one-day internationals, did not even cross the half-century mark before or after this astonishing knock.