That reverse sweep is part of the Eden Gardens folklore. Allan Border will never forget that, and certainly not Mike Gatting. Batting has improved by leaps and bounds now, and thanks to Twenty20 cricket, the reverse sweep isn’t a big deal now. But 29 years ago, it was.
So it might pass as mere coincidence that England resorted to the same shot to blaze into the World T20 final that is to be held at a venue where it had shot down their chances of winning the World Cup.
Few batsmen dared to reverse sweep back in 1987. Cut from a different cloth though, Gatting dared to first sweep past India in the semi-final before his belligerence got the better of him in the summit clash. Chasing 253, England were cruising at 135/2 after 31 overs when Aussie skipper Border decided to bowl his left-arm spin in front of a packed Eden Gardens. His first ball was going down leg, prompting Gatting to attempt a reverse sweep. But he only got a top edge that ballooned to be caught by wicket-keeper Greg Dyer. With that evaporated England’s hopes of winning the World Cup, in their second final.
In three decades, the reverse sweep has been mastered, improvised and infused with more power courtesy the thick blades being used these days. And England have shown that the shot is now ingrained in their T20 repertoire, as displayed by Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and then Joe Root in the semi-final against New Zealand.
There were three reverse sweeps in England’s innings and each time they came out perfect. The first came in the seventh over, off leg-spinner Ish Sodhi. Roy, having just scored his maiden T20 fifty, reverse swept from almost leg-stump through backward point.
In the 16th over, Grant Elliott saw Buttler pick out a full delivery to guide it past short third man. The first ball of the very next over, Root slapped Sodhi in similar fashion.
The thing with the reverse sweep is that it helps if the pitch has true bounce. The Kotla pitch played true, and even New Zealand batsman Colin Munro was seen going the other way. The Eden Gardens is likely to be two-paced. That automatically dries up the range of shots on offer.
This England team is combative. So confident were they of their batting ability that at times the likes of Roy and Buttler just moved their front leg out of the line to whack it to different parts of the ground. Chasing down totals seemed easy too for them ---first in Mumbai, and then in Delhi.
Eden Gardens, though, won’t be the same. England will surely be reminded of 1987. Sunday will tell if those psychological scars have well and truly healed.