Browne and Bradshaw steal a thriller
West Indies 218 for 8 (Chanderpaul 47, Browne 35*, Bradshaw 34*) beat England 217 (Trescothick 104, Hinds 3-24) by two wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Back in the 1970s, the Kennington Oval was to all intents and purposes an outpost of the Caribbean. The legendary Test of 1976 - Michael Holding's 14 wickets, Viv Richards's 291 - was played out in front of a sea of exuberant conch-blowing supporters, who have all but disappeared in the intervening years. Tonight, at the climax of an extraordinary Champions Trophy final, the spirit of that era was summoned up once again, as West Indies reclaimed The Oval with a victory that will resound down the ages.
For a shell-shocked England, still heady from their efforts against Australia, it was almost too much to take in, as from the depths of 147 for 8, Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw set about forging an unbeaten ninth-wicket stand of 71 that at first irritated England, then alarmed them, and ultimately left them utterly aghast. It was the stuff of dreams, but very rarely the stuff of finals. After such a depressing start to the Champions Trophy, the climax trumped anything ever before seen at such a late stage of a global tournament.
To all intents and purposes, West Indies had been down and completely out. To a man, they had performed heroics in the field to secure themselves a meagre target of 218, but as the gloom intensified around them, England began to claim the upper hand. Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff bulldozed through the top order - aided by some stunning catches from Vikram Solanki and Andrew Strauss - but the critical moment came when Shivnarine Chanderpaul holed out to Michael Vaughan in the covers for a magnificent but seemingly futile 47.
England celebrated as if the trophy had been won, and little wonder. Harmison and Flintoff still had seven overs to bowl between them, and West Indies had just the dubious batting talents of Corey Collymore to come. But with Browne heaving the responsibility onto his shoulders, and Bradshaw knuckling down alongside him, they chiselled incorrigibly away at England's total, until their confidence was hanging by a thread.
With speed being of little consequence, Browne and Bradshaw were able to take their time, beat away the good balls and knock around the singles with incredible sang froid. At first, Vaughan was unconcerned - he had his two champions to turn to, and when Harmison came whistling in like the wind to touch the 96mph mark, it seemed inconceivable that West Indies could survive.
But survive they did, and with remarkable self-assurance as well. Harmison followed bouncer with yorker with bouncer, but to no avail, and even Flintoff was unable to find a way through. He had grabbed three wickets in a typically golden-armed first spell - including Ramnaresh Sarwan off his very first delivery, and the big scalp of Brian Lara soon afterwards - but the magic potion wore off just when England could least afford it.
The biggest problem, however, was coming at the other end. Sad as it is to relate, the weakest of England's links was the sparkless Darren Gough, who was neither pacy nor penetrative, and slipped invitingly onto the bat all throughout the innings. His first two overs had disappeared for 15 runs, and when Vaughan turned to him at the death, it was on the assumption that he would summon up one last dose of magic to mark what must surely be his final one-day international.
Vaughan's faith in Gough - and his faith in his seamers in general - perhaps clouded his judgment, as he ignored throughout the innings the steadying spin option of Ashley Giles. It meant that, with five overs remaining and no frontline options to turn to, Paul Collingwood and Alex Wharf were meat and drink to a now pumped-up pair, who clobbered West Indies to a stunning victory with a boundary apiece in the penultimate over. They were greeted at the pavilion gate by a bundling cascade of their team-mates, who celebrated the end of an astonishing odyssey with an outpouring of pure joy.
In truth, it was a match that neither side deserved to lose, but defeat would have been all the crueler for West Indies, who after winning an important toss, hardly put a foot wrong in an exhilarating fielding display. Their guiding light throughout was the oldest man on the field - Lara himself - who bagged three catches and a run-out, including perhaps the single greatest take of his illustrious career; a stunning one-handed sizzler, scooped inches from the turf as he leant to his left at midwicket, to remove the deadly Flintoff for just 3. The fact that it was his 100th in one-day internationals merely added to the sense of destiny.
With a battery of medium-pacers that could have been tailormade for the conditions, West Indies could not have hoped for a more committed performance. Bradshaw struck twice early on to rock England back on their heels, before Wavell Hinds and Dwayne Bravo throttled England's ambitions in the middle overs of the innings. Had it not been for a phlegmatic 104 from Marcus Trescothick - his eighth one-day century (and fifth in a losing cause) - England would have struggled to pass 200.
As it was, 217 looked like a half-decent score while Flintoff and Harmison were roaring in, backed up by two stupendous catches from Strauss and Solanki that would have been game-breakers in any other match. But, just as was the case in Tuesday's semi-final against Australia, victory belonged to the side who wanted it the most. After all they have been through - on the pitch, off the pitch and perhaps most pertinently, back home in the hurricane-devastated Caribbean - West Indies simply refused to let this one go.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.