File image of Mohammad Kaif diving.(AFP)
File image of Mohammad Kaif diving.(AFP)

‘What are you doing?’ How Harbhajan Singh’s advice helped Mohammad Kaif during 326-run chase at Lord’s

“Ï told Harbhajan to play his game as I didn’t want to confuse anyone. But it was Bhajji who helped me at an important moment,” Mohammad Kaif recalled in his column for The Indian Express.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By hindustantimes.com
UPDATED ON JUL 19, 2020 06:57 PM IST

The 2002 Natwest Series final between India and England is still remembered as one of the best ODI games in recent years. A young Indian side led by Sourav Ganguly chased down 326 to beat England led by Nasser Hussain at Lord’s to win the trophy. But the biggest story of the match was that it was two young cricketers - Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh - who had ensured that India went on to win the match from a precarious position. The duo made the seemingly impossible, possible.

India had lost five wickets by the time Yuvraj and Kaif were in the middle. The Ganguly-led side had got off to a good start, and the task on both the batsmen was too maintain the run rate while not losing wickets. Yuvraj was looking in his groove, and was scoring boundaries to ensure that the run rate does not go down. Kaif, on the other hand, was holding on to one side, and also punishing any poor deliveries.

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But the twist in the tale came when Yuvraj fell for 65, leaving 60-odd runs for India to chase with Kaif in the middle along with tailenders. Kaif, recently recalled how it was Harbhajan Singh who helped him at a crucial moment during the chase.

“Then, suddenly, Yuvraj fell. I was in shock, now I had to do it with the tail-enders but had no experience in dealing with them,” Kaif wrote in his column for The Indian Express.

“I remember I pulled a six off Ronnie Irani – again not really the length for it but I just reacted. Irani was someone who would bowl around 120 kmph but had the attitude of a fast bowler. We two had a bit going in that game, I think. “

“Ï told Harbhajan to play his game as I didn’t want to confuse anyone. But it was Bhajji who helped me at an important moment. I had slogged Paul Collingwood and the ball went off the inside edge to fine leg for two runs. Bhaji told me, “Kya kar raha hai, what are you doing? Run-a-ball now, look at the scorecard.” I thought, yes, he is right. I just needed to watch the ball, play the ball,” Kaif recalled.

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“With 25 needed from the last four, Darren Gough, who Nasser trusted a lot, came on. I hit two fours in that over – over covers and to midwicket – but even then, I knew it wasn’t over. Then in one over Flintoff got Harbhajan and Anil Kumble, who fell to a wrong decision by Steve Bucknor. Off the last ball of the 48th, with six runs needed, Hussain had the long-on and long-off in the circle. I went for a big leg-side shot against Gough but it flew off the edge to the third man boundary. Even then, I wasn’t sure of the win,” he further wrote.

“You never know. Because if Zak got out, we had Nehraji. I can visualise him sitting in the dressing room, scratching his head. Zaheer played out two dot balls, they didn’t want me on strike. There was a fear of losing the game till the end. But off the third ball, we went for a single but there was an overthrow and a panic run. That was it,” Kaif added.

India went on to win the match by two wickets as the dressing room erupted in celebrations. Skipper Sourav Ganguly was seen waving his jersey at Lord’s balcony - a moment still etched in the minds of all Indian cricket fans.

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