It was simply unbelievable, a game that brought back memories of that unforgettable NatWest chase in 2002 and probably, a game that will go down in lore just like that one. When Robin Uthappa, who was utilised as a floater by Rahul Dravid and came in at an unfamiliar No. 7, drove Stuart Broad and the ball raced through to the boundary, the Oval exploded.
India, buoyed by a fantastic 81-ball 94 by the irreplaceable Sachin Tendulkar, had pulled off a near-miraculous victory, with two wickets and two balls to spare.
It had really been the perfect one-day game and whatever happens at Lord’s in Saturday’s decider — India and England are tied at 3 games apiece — this kind of adrenaline rush might be difficult to match. After all, this game saw several special moments: the Indian pacemen grabbed two quick wickets and set England back. Ian Bell, the most consistent English bat in the series, brought them back. Kevin Peitersen, woefully out of form, found his touch when it mattered and then, an unlikely stroke-filled partnership between Owais Shah, who hit an unbeaten, maiden ton and Luke Wright, who had a flamboyant half-century on debut, had English supporters flying high.
<b1>And when Mascarenhas smashed Yuvraj — a surprise pick to bowl the last over ahead of the more economical Ramesh Powar — for five successive sixes off the last five balls of the innings, Indian fans could be seen nearly in tears.
That last over wasn’t a pretty sight at all, not for Indian fans. But whatever the situation, the sight of Tendulkar and Ganguly walking out is infinitely reassuring. And on Wednesday, history’s most successful one-day pairing showed just why they are so successful with a vintage performance that set up the foundation for this win and a shot at the series.
Tendulkar got out in the nineties for the second time in the series, and fifth on this tour but as he said later, he would take a dismissal in the 90s every time if it meant that India would win. He and Ganguly, who has been so remarkably consistent after his comeback to international cricket in South Africa last year, put on 150 off just 22.2 overs before Ganguly fell.
Later, despite a couple of quick wickets, vital contributions from Gambhir and Dhoni made a difference just before Uthappa’s final flourish. Hopefully, happy days are here again.