Final

England v West Indies


At The Oval, September 25. West Indies won by two wickets. Toss: West Indies.

A tournament full of insipid, forgettable moments ended with one of the most memorable finals in recent years, as West Indies scripted a soul-stirring fightback to put paid to England's hopes of winning their first one-day tournament of any significance. For a region devastated by various opponents on the cricket field, and by Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne off it, this was a victory to savour. The reactions of the players immediately after Bradshaw struck the winning boundary told the story - the entire West Indian party roared on to the field in semi-darkness, hugging, kissing, and screaming, ecstatic yet bewildered by their achievement.

None of those wild celebratory scenes looked even remotely possible when West Indies slumped to 147 for eight in their quest for 218. The top-order batsmen had all perished - Chanderpaul the last of them for a dogged 47 - and England moved in to finish off the formalities as Bradshaw joined Browne. About the only thing in the batsmen's favour was the asking-rate, which was less than four and a half an over. Browne and Bradshaw - both from Barbados, although Browne was born just round the corner in Lambeth - capitalised on that, initially looking for no more than nudges and pushes. But a stand which started off as nothing more than irritant value for Vaughan slowly assumed more ominous proportions.

Sensing a shift in momentum, Vaughan turned to Harmison, his chief weapon through much of the summer. It seemed an unequal battle: Harmison hurtling down his deliveries at 96mph in dubious light against batsmen of little repute. Not only did they see him off - Browne even cracked a magnificent square-drive in his penultimate over - they also quelled the venom of Flintoff, who had earlier ripped apart the heart of the West Indian middle order. The other bowler who might have been a force, Gough, had a strangely lacklustre day, and suddenly Vaughan had run out of attacking options. In cold and overcast conditions, he had preferred seam to spin throughout, and as crunch time approached, he stuck to his guns, opting for Wharf over Giles, who did not bowl at all. Wharf went for only two in the 47th over. But with 12 needed from the last two, West Indies clinched it in style - Browne thumped Wharf over gully for four, before Bradshaw found the third-man fence to seal an unbelievable win.

The statistically minded in the England camp should have had a whiff of defeat the moment Trescothick struck his eighth one-day century - this was the fifth to end in a losing cause. Trescothick, though, was the only one among England's specialist batsmen who solved the mystery of getting runs on an unusually bowler-friendly Oval pitch. Solanki and Vaughan were consumed early in the piece by Bradshaw, before West Indies found an unexpected hero in the middle overs. Exploiting the conditions to the hilt, Hinds kept a tight leash on the runs, and picked up three crucial middle-order wickets as well. Lara's alacrity at short mid-wicket had a huge hand in two of those, though - a fierce pull by Flintoff was scooped up left-handed and inches from the ground to give Lara his 100th catch in one-day internationals, while Jones's heave was intercepted with a perfectly timed leap. Trescothick stuck to his task, however, and with Giles chipping in with a valuable 31, England had put together a competitive total of 217.

That seemed more than sufficient when Harmison and Flintoff got in on the act with the ball. Solanki kept up the high level of fielding with a one-handed, leaping effort which took care of Hinds. A sharp return catch by Harmison dismissed Gayle, while Sarwan and Lara both perished off the outside edge. Chanderpaul offered stout resistance, but when he left, so did many West Indian supporters, believing the game to be over. Little did they realise that they would be missing the best part.

Man of the Match: I. D. R. Bradshaw. Attendance: 18,600. Player of the Tournament: R. R. Sarwan.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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