World Cup Vignette
Nehra's Durban masterclass
When Ashish Nehra gritted his teeth and produced a top-notch display of seam bowling against England
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.
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