Ashish Nehra came almost unheralded to the 2003 World Cup. He had fewer wickets in his kitty than the number of matches he had played.
But captain Ganguly showed faith in the lanky left-armer and he did not disappoint. Playing in a crucial group match against England, Nehra announced himself on the big stage with a terrific spell of fast bowling.
Despite having started on a blazing note, the Indian batting faltered in the middle to huff and puff to a meagre 250. England had the batting to chase it down, but they had to negotiate the Indian duo of Srinath and Zaheer under the lights.
Although the openers flunked, Vaughan and Hussain dropped anchor to see off the Srinath-Zaheer threat. But then came Nehra, and ripped apart the English batting line-up. He looked unplayable on the Durban wicket, beating the outside edge of all almost every batsman he bowled to and managing to find the edge successfully five times.
By the 31st over, Nehra’s spell was over. With career best figures of 6/23, he had effectively ended England’s chase too.
This spell is special not only for the brilliant exhibition of pace and swing but also for the way it lifted up the team’s spirit going into the Super Six. It is also special in the way it continued the tournament’s tradition of finding unlikely heroes and making men out of boys.
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