Champions again, no questions!

On the eve of the 30th anniversary of 1983 triumph, Dhoni's men climb another summit

Champions again, no questions!

A T20 final to decide the winner of a one-day tournament! That’s exactly what transpired during what was supposed to be a 50-over Champions Trophy final. But the jam-packed stadium wasn’t complaining. They got more than their money’s worth as the shortened match had all the twists and turns worthy of a final.

After mustering what at best appeared a competitive 129/7, India produced another scintillating bowling performance to restrict England to 124/8 to cap off their excellent campaign. They were the only side in the tournament not to have lost a match en route to the final and it was only befitting that they emerged the undisputed champions, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of their first World Cup triumph in 1983.

For the first time in the tournament, the Indian batsmen struggled to force pace and if not for an intelligent association between Virat Kohli (43, 34b, 4x4, 1x6) and man of the match Ravindra Jadeja (31, 24b, 4x4, 1x6 & 2/24), India would have found it hard to defend the total. Off-spinner R Ashwin was the stand-out performer with the ball (2/15). Entrusted the responsibility to defend 15 runs off the last over, the off-spinner held his nerve to bowl India to memorable triumph.     

It was hard to make out whether India were playing in Birmingham or Bangalore given the overwhelming crowd support MS Dhoni and company enjoyed at the Edgbaston Stadium. The capacity crowd braved rains and severe cold hoping to catch some action and they weren’t to be denied their share of entertainment even though it came in a truncated format. Intermittent rains of varying degrees ensured the match didn’t begin before 4.20 pm but the joy of having even a curtailed affair was short-lived as the inclement weather interrupted the play twice in the space of 6.2 overs by which time India had moved to 38/1 after being put into bat first by England.

Play resumed again at 5.40 pm and it progressed without any rain intervention though clouds hung around threateningly. The repeated stoppages meant that Indian batsmen struggled to gain any momentum and some of the poor shots they played didn’t help their cause. Shikhar Dhawan (31), who finished as the tournament’s highest scorer with 363 runs, had provided a decent start but his dismissal was followed by a clutch of wickets as India slipped to 66/5 by the end of 13th over.

Kohli and Jadeja then revived the innings with a 47-run stand that came off 33 balls. Batting wasn’t going to be easy in these conditions but Kohli and Jadeja sized up the situation well and built a useful partnership with some clever batting.        

When England batted, Umesh Yadav gave India the vital breakthrough, dismissing England skipper Alastair Cook early. The hosts stumbled again, thanks to a contentious dismissal, with Ian Bell adjudged stumped off Jadeja. Bopara and Eoin Morgan came together to shape a partnership. But the Indian bowlers struck at regular intervals, snuffing out the hosts’ challenge.

Earlier, forced to content with a joint winners’ tag the last time they made the final of this tournament, India looked eager to get on to the field as did England who were desperate to end their title drought at ICC one-day majors. The stop-start rain from morning through late afternoon, however, kept the proceedings at bay. There were several inspections and covers were taken off and brought on times without number before the match was eventually reduced to 20 overs a side.

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