On this day in 2002, the Indian cricket team achieved an extraordinary victory on foreign soil by defeating a formidable England side in their own backyard to clinch the Natwest Tri-Series, which also featured Sri Lanka.
Throughout the tournament, India displayed their dominance, finishing at the top of the points table with 19 points. They won four matches, lost one, and one encounter ended without a result. England secured the second spot with three victories, two defeats, and no result, accumulating a total of 15 points.
India had previously beaten England once and Sri Lanka thrice, while England had defeated Sri Lanka twice and India once. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka's performance was lackluster, managing just one win out of their six matches.
The epic final unfolded at Lord's Cricket Ground, the iconic venue in the United Kingdom. England fielded a formidable lineup including Marcus Trescothick, Nick Knight, skipper Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan, and Andrew Flintoff.
India, led by skipper Sourav Ganguly, consisted of young and energetic talents like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, and Zaheer Khan, along with veteran stars Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and Anil Kumble.
Opting to bat first, England amassed a formidable 325/5 in their allotted 50 overs. Skipper Nasser Hussain led from the front with a magnificent knock of 115 runs off 128 balls, including 10 fours. He formed a crucial 185-run partnership with Marcus Trescothick, who unleashed a brutal assault with his 109 off just 100 deliveries, featuring seven fours and two sixes. Andrew Flintoff provided valuable support with a quickfire 40 off 32 balls.
India's bowlers endured a torrid time as England's aggressive batsmen spared no corner of Lord's. Zaheer Khan, with figures of 3/62, emerged as the pick of the Indian bowlers, although he faced some punishment as well.
Ashish Nehra (1/66) and Anil Kumble (1/54) also managed to claim wickets but struggled to contain the onslaught.
Chasing a daunting target of 326 runs to win the final, India faced doubts as they had often faltered in similar run-chases. Moreover, the young players in the team lacked significant big-match experience to settle nerves and execute a smooth chase.
However, the opening duo of Sehwag (45 off 49 balls, including seven fours) and Ganguly (60 off 43 balls, with 10 fours and a six) provided India with a blistering start, accumulating 106 runs in just 15 overs. Following the dismissals of both openers, India suffered a collapse with quick wickets falling. Ronnie Irani and Ashley Giles made breakthroughs, dismissing Sachin Tendulkar (14) and Rahul Dravid (5) respectively.
With India struggling at 146/5 in 24 overs and lacking experienced and recognized batsmen in the lineup, youngsters Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif displayed maturity and responsibility. They formed a crucial sixth-wicket partnership of 121 runs before Collingwood dismissed Yuvraj for 69 off 63 balls, including nine fours and a six.
Kaif valiantly fought alongside the tailenders, forging a vital 47-run stand with Harbhajan Singh, who contributed a valuable 15 runs. Eventually, Kaif, along with Zaheer Khan (4*), guided India to a thrilling two-wicket victory with three balls to spare. Kaif emerged as the hero of the match, remaining unbeaten on 87 off just 75 balls, including six fours and two sixes.
Although Irani, Giles, and Flintoff claimed two wickets each for England, India's triumph showcased their indomitable spirit and attacking approach. The most iconic image associated with this match was Sourav Ganguly, on the Lord's balcony, removing his shirt and waving it with a mixture of anger and joy on his face.
This act was a response to a similar gesture made by Flintoff at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium in 2002, which held immense significance in Indian cricket. Ganguly's action symbolized the emergence of a fearless new India that would not back down from any challenge. The victory against a top-class opponent in their home conditions marked a significant turning point.
This historic win is regarded as one of India's finest overseas victories. Not only did it help them secure the tri-series title, but it also provided invaluable experience to future match-winners like Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, and Zaheer Khan.
Their growth and development played a crucial role in India's subsequent triumphs, including the inaugural T20 World Cup win in 2007 and the ICC Cricket World Cup victory in 2011.