A vocal Edgbaston crowd made up overwhelmingly of Indian fans were made to wait by the Birmingham weather but finally got the result they craved as their side prevailed by five runs in a thrilling ICC Champions Trophy final.
It was after 8.30 local time when James Tredwell, with six needed, swung wildly at Ravichandran Ashwin to spark Indian celebrations. England had thrown away their chance at clinching their first ever 50-over trophy, collapsing in their pursuit of India's 129 for seven from 110 for four to end on 124 for eight in a match reduced to 20 overs aside.
The game itself didn’t start until after 4pm as the rain teased the sell-out crowd all day, stopping just long enough for the groundsmen to think about removing the covers only to return and disappoint once again. They eventually got underway but more rain in the seventh over of the Indian innings looked like proving terminal.
Fortunately, though, the decision to extend the time available to the umpires paid dividends as the players produced one of world cricket’s great finals. England would have been pleased to restrict India to 129 for seven from their 20 overs, but were soon left in no doubt about the magnitude of the task ahead.
They lost Alastair Cook in the second over and were then surprised by the amount of turn extracted by India’s spinners. Jonathan Trott overbalanced against Ashwin and was stumped smartly by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, while Joe Root pulled to Ishant Sharma at deep square-leg.
Ian Bell was then given out contentiously by third umpire Bruce Oxenford to make it 46 for four in the ninth over. He appeared to have grounded his foot a split second before Dhoni whipped off the bails but the Australian umpire thought otherwise - Oxenford would then perplexingly give Stuart Broad not out when faced with similar evidence later in the match.
India's spinners were undoubtedly their match-winners and extracted an amount of turn not previously seen in this tournament. Indeed, what with the crowd and the nature of the pitch, England may well have felt like they were playing in Mumbai if it weren’t for the low temperature.
Nonetheless, when Dhoni opted to save three overs of Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin for the end of the innings, Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan took advantage. They added 64 in good time for the fifth-wicket and appeared to have swung the game decisively back in England’s favour. The pair took a particular liking to Ishant Sharma, with Bopara launching him handsomely for six on one occasion, but Sharma was to have the last laugh.
With just 20 needed off 15 balls and six wickets in hand, he had both caught from successive deliveries. Morgan picked out mid-wicket, while Bopara hooked a bouncer to square-leg. He walked off grumbling about the height of the delivery, but that was irrelevant and he wasn’t to have the fitting end to his England comeback that his performance in this tournament, and this match in particular, arguably deserved.
Following Bopara’s demise the end came quickly. Jos Buttler was bowled first ball by Jadeja, Tim Bresnan was farcically run out, losing sight the ball after it bobbled into the off-side, with Broad and Tredwell then left with too much to do in the final over against Ashwin.
India's two spinners had got through eight overs and returned combined figures of four for 39, while Suresh Raina also got through overs of moderately testing off-spin at a cost of 19 runs. They had certainly made the difference.
England’s success when they bowled had come from the unlikely source of Bopara, who looked for a while when he was guiding his side to victory with the bat like being a shoo-in for man of the match. He took three for 20, including helping reduce India to 66 for five by removing Raina and Dhoni during the course of a double-wicket maiden.
However, Jadeja was himself man of the match for his all-round effort. He hit 33 off 25 balls at the end of India’s innings to precede his bowling effort and lift them to a competitive total. Tredwell’s four overs offered little sign of the huge turn to come from India’s spinners as England relied on seam and the swing of the superb James Anderson.
England will be left to reflect on how close they came to ending their 50-over trophy drought - albeit in a match reduced to 20 overs aside - and appeared to be cruising it when India were 66 for five after 13 overs. However, thanks to Jadeja and Ashwin, India - the best side throughout the competition - ran out champions.
Highlights video courtesy of SNTV
© Cricket World 2013