By the time the 2003 World Cup came around, Ashish Nehra's career had reached a crossroads of sorts. It was only four years since his international debut, two years after his ODI debut, but inconsistency and injuries had forced him down India's list of pace-bowling spearheads.
India went into a crucial league clash against England in Durban on the verge of inching closer to a Super Six spot. Their batsmen had put up a competitive 250 for 9, but the new-ball pair of Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath had done early damage, reducing England to 18 for 2 after seven overs. In this setting, Nehra, who had endured a swollen ankle for two days before the game produced a lesson in the art of seam bowling, angling in from over the wicket and keeping it in the narrow strait just outside off.
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Nehra, who bowled his 10 overs straight through, ended with dream figures of 6 for 23, the best analysis by an Indian in World Cup history, and his personal ODI best.
Of the six English wickets he took, only one - Alec Stewart - was not dismissed behind the wicket. According to Wisden's stats, of the nine balls that Nehra pitched on middle stump, three resulted in wickets. His length was exemplary - just one delivery was dropped short, and only five in all were over-pitched. The rest were on or back of a good length, and each of them was too good for England's tentative batsmen.
Sourav Ganguly, India's captain, was emphatic in his verdict: "He's had a swollen ankle for two days and it was sheer determination that made him play. He bowled a fantastic line. It's one of the best performances in a One-Day International that I have seen since I started playing for India."
This article was first published in 2014