April 21, 2003

A time to share

Wisden CricInfo staff

Match washed out with India 46 for 3 (Ganguly 11*; Ntini 2-26). India and South Africa jointly awarded TVS Cup

For the second time in three finals, India waited in the pavilion as the rain pummelled down and washed out the game. In the Champions Trophy last year, India were favourites; today, they were staggering at 46 for 3 in 17.1 overs when the clouds opened up.

India's worst start of this tournament could not be blamed on either the pitch or the conditions. It was all due to bad shot selection by the Indian batsmen, and some hostile South African bowling.

Makhaya Ntini began with a fast, fiery spell, and Virender Sehwag, who had been hit on the arm by an Ntini snorter in the last match, was expecially uncomfortable against him. Ntini was liberal with short stuff, and Sehwag had no answers to the questions he posed. A miscued pull looped up in the air and fell just short of Mark Boucher, and he also played and missed at regulation corridor deliveries on a good length.

It was Shaun Pollock who snared Sehwag, though. Sehwag (8), deceived by Pollock's lack of pace, attempted to smash him over long-on but could only hit him straight to Allan Dawson at mid-on (19 for 1).

Gautam Gambhir had shown plenty of aggression in his short innings, but no placement. His 11 runs took him 33 balls to make, and it was no surprise when he flayed at Ntini in the 12th over and only managed to edge it to second slip, where Neil McKenzie took a good high catch (35 for 2).

Play was held up for a while then, not by rain but by strong winds that brooked no defiance. Umpire hats slid with geometric grace across the field, and drinks was called early. The moment passed, and play began again.

There was no reprieve for India though. Kaif (5), after wristily flicking Ntini for four through midwicket, miscued a pull shot. Jacques Rudolph at mid-on took a sitter, and India were 41 for 3. Kaif glanced at the skies as he walked; more, perhaps, in prayer than in admonition.

The floodgates opened at the start of the 18th over, and though the rain stopped towards evening, the outfield remained soaked. Clive Lloyd, the match referee, decreed that the safety of the players would be compromised if play was resumed. India and South Africa were declared joint winners of the TVS Cup.

And thus, a tournament that could only be described as a damp squib came to a fitting end.

Amit Varma is assistant editor of Wisden.com in India.