Every number 10 batsman dreams of pulling off a shock win, of hitting up a storm in the latter stages of a run chase to elevate his team from the depths of despair to the dizzying heights of victory. On Thursday, Douglas Anthony Marillier lived out that dream in full-blooded glory.
With Zimbabwe chasing 275, Marillier played one of the most incredible one-day innings ever seen. They would have been rejoicing in Harare, Bulawayo and all over Zimbabwe as Marillier scripted one of the most remarkable one-day wins of all time. He brazenly stole the thunder from a marauding Indian side at Faridabad on a pleasant Thursday evening, pulling off the unthinkable with two balls to spare and winning by just one wicket.
Walking in to bat with Zimbabwe well and truly on the mat at 210/8 in the 45th over, Marillier made merry with some memorable shots to stand tall and strong on an unbeaten 56 off just 24 balls. What made his heroics all the more incredible was the fact that he ruthlessly punished the best of the bowlers on the day - Zaheer Khan. For a country that has had little to celebrate of late, this amazing win will be something to cherish for a long time to come.
Beating India on their home soil is not an easy task, although admittedly the fickle nature of one-day cricket makes the job somewhat easier. But after the dismissals of Andy Flower and Alistair Campbell, Zimbabwe never looked like winning until Marillier took over with his unique style of strokeplay, scooping the ball over the wicket-keeper's head numerous times for four. The 23-year-old right-hander surely added a new term to the cricket vocabulary - "The Dougie shot."
Earlier in the day, Sourav Ganguly won the toss and decided to bat first on a track that promised runs by the ton. Dinesh Mongia (25 off 24 balls) and Ganguly gave India a brisk start before the former was caught off an inside edge by Tatenda Taibu off Heath Streak. Ganguly and VVS Laxman then added 77 runs in 14.3 overs, the partnership being broken only when Ganguly (57 off 70 balls) was brilliantly stumped by Taibu off Marillier. The Indian skipper, no doubt full of confidence after his Test century, smashed two sixes and half-a-dozen boundaries in his commanding knock.
Rahul Dravid (23) was trapped in front of the wicket by Grant Flower (10-0-31-1), easily the pick of Zimbabwe's bowlers. Laxman played his patented silken drives through cover and the wristy whips through mid-wicket, signs that India will interpret hopefully as a return to form. The stylish Hyderabadi batsman made 75 off 99 balls with five boundaries before Mohammad Kaif mis-called during a run. Laxman ended up at Kaif's end, tragically run out.
India further lost their way as Sanjay Bangar (0) and Ajay Ratra (6) departed in quick succession. It took a whirlwind knock from Ajit Agarkar (40 off 19 balls) to propel India to a score of 274 in 50 overs. Agarkar played some rousing shots, punishing some wayward Zimbabwe bowling and carting the ball to all parts of the ground. He hit one mighty six off Streak over mid-wicket and also struck six fours in his quick-fire knock. Kaif too played a good hand, scoring 39 off 45 deliveries. The two batsmen put together an unbeaten stand of 63 runs in just 6.2 overs.
Zimbabwe could not have gotten off to a worse start during their chase of 275. Zaheer Khan picked up the wickets of Craig Wishart (1) and pinch-hitter Travis Friend (7) early to send Zimbabwe reeling at 21/2. It was the old firm of Campbell and Flower that defied the Indian attack, the two senior batsmen adding 111 runs for the third wicket and putting the run chase back on track.
Flower was at his usual best, playing the smart sweep shots, the orthodox and the reverse. The senior Flower struck two huge sixes and eight boundaries to score 71 off just 72 balls before dragging a ball from Anil Kumble back on to his stumps. Zaheer was brought back into the attack, and he duly sent back skipper Stuart Carlisle (23) and Campbell (84 off 113 balls). Campbell was looking particularly dangerous, striking seven fours before being trapped lbw by Zaheer.
Zimbabwe found themselves in something of a quagmire when Harbhajan Singh removed Grant Flower (2) and Heath Streak (1) in the space of four balls. The visitors were in a hopeless position in the 45th over on 210/8 before Marillier decided to come to the party. He proceeded to take 20 runs off Zaheer Khan's ninth over, improvising in stunning manner and using the scoop "Dougie" shot over the wicket-keeper's head to great effect. He also hit one huge six over square leg in the same over, easing the pressure considerably.
Marillier and Taibu put on 42 runs in just 3.2 overs, but a shocking decision by the umpire sent back Taibu, supposedly caught behind. Ajay Ratra's appeal aimed only to distract the umpire from calling an obvious wide, but it succeeded in getting rid of the batsman.
With 23 runs required off the last two overs, Marillier was at his best against Zaheer in the 49th over, playing repeatedly over the keeper's head for easy runs and making a mockery of the field placements. Zaheer's bowling figures stood completely wrecked, going from 8-2-15-4 to 10-2-47-4.
Marillier struck two more boundaries in the 50th over, bowled by Kumble (9.4-0-70-1), to register the most astonishing of one-day wins. Marillier remained unbeaten after an explosive innings punctuated with 10 boundaries and the huge six. Gary Brent remained unbeaten on one, an admiring first-row spectator to the whirlwind that held centre-stage at the other end.