| YUVRAJ: 42 off 38 balls
Durban: Zaheer Khan started and finished it for India — an 82-run victory over England in group A, taking India (16 points) to the doorstep of a Super Six berth.
In between, there was this incredibly fantastic burst by Delhi lad Ashish Nehra. A dream victory under lights at Kingsmead Wednesday, riding on Nehra’s pace-swing wings.
That victory seemed a trifle tough to assume after the modest Indian innings of 250 for nine. But these are times when genius blooms. And as Man of the Match Nehra’s incredible 10-over streak claimed six England wickets by the 40th over, for a mere 23 runs, the word ‘impossible’ finally was expunged from the Indian Lexicon.
England’s Andrew Flintoff and Andy Caddick (who claimed three final-over wickets for three runs in that over) tried to take the fight to the Indian shores. Flintoff ended on 64 off 73 deliveries, sharing a ninth wicket partnership of 55 with Caddick (who remained unbeaten on 13).
With just the match against Pakistan (Saturday) remaining in the group stage, Sourav Ganguly’s Team India looks good to advance to the next round on its ‘Now or Never’ motto.
Nehra’s effort presented the best bowling figures for an Indian medium-pacer and the best-ever wicket-haul by an Indian at any World Cup. [See S2 for ‘Cup’s Best Bowlers’.] He destroyed England’s hopes of an early fightback, when they were battling to withstand the loss of two early wickets.
Earlier, India won a vital toss and got off to a flying start, courtesy Sachin Tendulkar (50 off 52 balls, 4x8, 6x1), but lost their way somewhat following the dismissals of the Little Master and Sourav. Rahul Dravid (62 off 72, 3x4, 1x6) steadied the innings with Dinesh Mongia, and then in the company of Yuvraj Singh (42 off 38, 4x4, 1x6), helped India to a respectable total.
The England chase was in doldrums straightaway with Nick Knight being run out in the second over. Zaheer Khan removed Marcus Trescothick in the seventh over with the total reading 17 and it was up to skipper Nasser Hussain and the in-form Michael Vaughan to launch a revival mission.
The two played watchfully and weathered the storm somewhat to take the score to 52 when Nehra started taking control from the 17th over. The left-armer first induced an edge from Hussain and trapped Alec Stewart leg-before with the next delivery to rock the England chase.
Hussain’s team never recovered after that and seldom did they seem to have any clue to Nehra’s controlled aggression.
Working up a good pace from over the wicket, Nehra rarely bowled any loose delivery and maintained a probing line just on or outside off-stump with the ball consistently leaving the right-handers.
Vaughan fell to one that swung away from him, while Paul Collingwood edged a similar one to second slip. White also edged one to the wicketkeeper and when Ronnie Irani nicked one to second slip one ball later, it was all but over for England.