India v/s England
Result– India won by 5 runs, to win the 2013 Champions Trophy.
In the end, the final match of the final Champions Trophy tournament ever was a T20 game. It was an interesting twist of fate- only to drive home the fact that times in the cricket world are changing, for better or worse. This, after 1.5 long controversial months of whether-you-like-it-or-not-eat-it IPL cricket, a tournament that has been much maligned and blamed for India’s inability overseas.
Nevertheless, the fact that it came down to a T20 shootout was always going to work in India’s favour- for this was India’s original T20 all-star team (best of IPL All-Stars), as well as their regular ODI team. England went into the toss with an ODI teamsheet- a team that was designed to play 100 overs of good hard Cook style cricket, not 40 overs of slap-choke-dash fantasy league stuff.
Once it became a T20 game, the ICC bent a lot of cricketing rules (including the non-existent vacuum between Bell’s foot and the crease), except for the one rule England would have loved to bend- changing their team after the toss.
Now they were ‘stuck’ with a team, out of which only 4 players would play an actual official T20 game on Tuesday against New Zealand. If India thought they were having it tough by getting asked to leave the pitch every few minutes due to rain, the Gods were only trying their best to balance the scales- considering England’s hopelessly inadequate preparations (not ‘playing’ the IPL never hurt more)
Hence, it had to come down to Morgan and Bopara- the only ‘English’ guys actually in demand in the IPL- and of course, they didn’t have to be too successful against their colonial friends, for fear of the dreaded ‘auction’.
After Michael Holding began frothing at his mouth about what rights the ICC had to add an extra 70 minutes to make play possible (presumably about the WI-SA group game), this final was a blur. A good blur.
I dare say, it was even better than the World T20 low-scoring final last year, which WI owned after being in similar trouble while batting first against SL. It was, in fact, the best T20 final one could ask for- an irony of such large proportion that Swann and his wisecracks were not to be seen on Twitter all night. The match had everything- rain, wickets, great bowling, Ishant Sharma, resourceful batting, bad umpiring, rain, turning balls, catches, mega-chokes. After all, England are fondly known as South Africa B in these parts of the world, and the traits did not prove otherwise.
The defining moment when India truly felt like they had it in control was when Ravi Jadeja- Dhoni’s favorite superhero- let a perfectly manicured Broad dive into the pitch and break his body, only to calmly hold onto the ball instead of effecting an easy run-out. This was an epic mockout- a new strategy that Mr. Jadeja had concocted, to play on the opposition’s mind in the most dismissive manner possible. This was condescension of a new level, a message that said: LOL nice dive, but your life still belongs to me.
That it was followed by a clean-bowled of England’s last hope (Buttler), only drove home the genius of Jadeja’s master mental knockout. This was India doing what Australia had done for an entire decade- here, in one tournament- winning games before balls were bowled. Their IPLness shone through with such blazing pride that ex-T20-World-Champs England were blinded into submission.
Never mind the miraculous space of 2 minutes of the two Ishant Sharma wickets- a possibility so bleak that England were fooled into complacency- after conceding a six and two wides so wide that his mop of hair was beginning to disintegrate.
Despite Kohli’s Delhi version of Gangnam-Honey-Singh-style at the end, Dhoni had to acknowledge the fact that he was now the only captain ever to win all the 3 ICC major championships- the ‘ever’ being used so casually by proud Indian fans, almost convincing themselves that T20 cricket actually existed before 2007, not really putting captains like Ponting, Ganguly at any sort of incidental disadvantage.
The World T20 Cup in 2007 was followed by the 2011 World Cup, followed by this final Champions Trophy win- the most convincing victory of them all, unbeaten through the tournament, and presumably preceding a hangover-induced collapse in the Caribbean a week later.
In all seriousness, India managed to justify their previously-ridiculed ICC ODI ranking (1) in style- in the process telling the world that T20 is a real man’s game, ODIs are way too easy nowadays. And just like that, ICC saved ODI cricket by scheduling a T20 match without a reserve day in a major tournament.