Report by Neil Robinson 26/09/04
Browne and Bradshaw, sounding for all the world like a firm of colonial solicitors circa 1895, were the unlikely pair of tailend batsmen who led West Indies to a thrilling last-gasp victory over England in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy.
Eight wickets down still 70 runs short of victory, with no specialist batsmen left and the light closing in, the odds were weighted heavily against the West Indies. But Courtney Browne, the experienced wicket-keeper recalled controversially in place of the talented Carlton Baugh, and Ian Bradshaw, one of the Caribbeanís more often overlooked young fast-medium bowlers, played with immense good sense to see off the danger-men Harmison and Flintoff and take their team to victory in some of the gloomiest light international cricket can ever have been played in. It was a largely dull, uninspiring tournament, but this gripping match went a long way towards redeeming it.
In days of old, when West Indian cricket was at its peak and support amongst Caribbean expats in the UK was strong, the Oval was effectively a home ground for the Windies. That seems long ago now, and a cold, grey, drizzly day made for far from a Caribbean atmosphere in South London, despite an agreeably multi-national crowd. Those West Indian partisans present would have been heartened when Brian Lara won the toss and put England in to bat, but what will have pleased them most is the confident, disciplined display they put on with the ball. Backed up by athletic, consistent fielding, they soon made inroads, Solanki nibbling outside off stump and edging to the keeper, Vaughan playing on trying to cut. Both wickets fell to the impressive Bradshaw.
Solanki and Vaughan fell for 4 and 7 respectively, but by then the score had already moved on to 43, thanks to some breezy batting by Marcus Trescothick. To both anchor the innings and play the role of strokemaker in chief takes some doing, but Trescothick managed it with little fuss, striking the ball cleanly. Wickets continued to fall around him, Strauss unluckily run out, Flintoff brilliantly caught low and one-handed by Lara at midwicket, Collingwood trying to clear mid-on. The mainstay of Englandís top order carried on unflustered until Giles joined him in a crucial partnership of 63 for the 7th wicket. England had been 148 for 6 and struggling, but the experienced pair took them beyond 200 to the point where, with 4 overs left, a total in excess of 230 seemed in prospect. But when Trescothick was narrowly run out for 104 the tail for once fell away, and England were bowled out for 217 in the final over.
West Indiesí reply began in typical fashion with a flurry of boundaries from Chris Gayle. Less typical was the rash of wides in a poor spell from Darren Gough, but at the other end Harmison was soon into his stride, having Hinds caught at cover. Sarwan soon followed, trying to force off the back foot and edging Flintoff to second slip where the diving Strauss extended a telescopic elbow to pull of a stunning catch. When Flintoff struck again, Lara caught behind off a wild drive for just 14, England seemed well in charge at 49-3. That old thorn in their side, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, came in to play yet another dogged, frustrating knock, but he lost partners just as Trescothick had, and when he was eighth out with the score 147, all but the most optimistic judges had locked up their hopes for the night.
But Browne and Bradshaw were not to be denied. A few overs of quiet accumulation persuaded Vaughan to bring back first Harmison then Flintoff to try and finish them off. Neither could manage it, though Harmison, charging in with genuine menace, looked likely at any moment. With the light fading fast and most spectators struggling to follow the play, the umpires offered the light to the batsmen. To the delight of all they refused. And why not? The target grew smaller, the batsmen played better and better. Still Vaughan, convinced by the pitch aiding the pacemen all day, resisted the temptation to turn to spin. Back came Gough, but the old Dazzler just wasnít himself and more runs leaked as West Indies crept ever closer. Alex Wharf was brought back too, and produced an excellent over, conceding just two runs. But Gough couldnít keep the brakes on, being milked for singles when a run a ball was good enough to win. Two overs remained, 11 runs were needed. Wharf sprinted in, a poor ball and two runs were lashed away into the darkness. It was a moment or two before folk peering out into the gloom could take in the sight of umpire Koertzen holding his arm out to signal no-ball, Michael Vaughan standing with hands on hips, Wharf hanging his head in shame.
Eight to win and two overs to get them in. It was the moment of truth. Englandís fine summer, which showed them to be a Test side of growing prowess but a one-day side with some distance yet to travel, was not to end in victory. The West Indies, on the receiving end of so many defeats, so much criticism, were to come out covered in glory. Two crashing boundaries sealed the win with 9 balls remaining. It would have been a memorable moment for all present if only all present could actually have seen it without the aid of a searchlight.
So Englandís long wait for a one-day tournament win continues, but this was more a tale of West Indian delight than English woe. If only, if only this could prove a watershed, that this undeniably talented group of players could build upon this display of confidence, discipline and team-spirit and take it forward, it might prove as significant to them as Australiaís 1987 World Cup Triumph was to Allan Borderís team. Nor need England be too despondent, for while long-term doubts remain about Solanki, Wharf and Gough, this is a team which will surely only get better. But let the last word be a picture, one of a triumphant Brian Lara surrounded by his gleeful players, holding aloft the Champions Trophy, his smile as wide as the Thames, only, even in this thick darkness, a good deal brighter.
England 217 (49.4 ov) (Trescothick 104, Hinds 3-24)
West Indies 218-8 (48.5 ov) (Chanderpaul 47, Browne 35*, Bradshaw 34*, Flintoff 3-38)
West Indies won by 2 wickets.
Man of the Match
Man of the Series