For the generation of cricket fans who grew up witnessing the brilliance of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli-led Indian sides, clinically finishing off run-chases must be a normal feeling. Almost taken for granted, the rare occasions that India does not manage to chase down a score feels like a punch to the gut. India, simply put, are expected to chase down any score in the 50-overs format.

Of course, that was not always the case.

And, if ever there was a match that can be decisively considered to be the turning point in a team’s history, for India it was the Natwest Series final in 2002 at Lord’s.

Pause, rewind, play: Kaif and Yuvraj’s chase, Ganguly’s shirt twirl in the 2002 Natwest Trophy final

An epic turning point

Sample this, according to ESPNCricinfo: “In a four-year span against teams not named Zimbabwe or Bangladesh, India only had two wins chasing when Tendulkar failed to score a fifty. Between January 31, 1999, and July 13, 2002, India lost nine successive ODI finals. Five of those defeats were while chasing. Cometh the big game, choketh the side, it seemed.”

So much so that even Sourav Ganguly thought at the halfway stage of that final that India were heading for another defeat in a tournament under his leadership.

Before the Natwest 2002 final, in 107 attempts in ODI cricket, there were only seven successful run-chases of a 300-plus target. Australia, Sri Lanka and India had all done it twice each with India holding the record for the highest second innings score in an ODI win, achieved in the Independence Cup final against Pakistan in 1998.

(Scroll across or swipe right to view all the columns in the tables below)

Successful 300+ run-chases before Natwest 2002

Team Score Overs RPO Opposition Ground Data
Sri Lanka 313/7 49.2 6.34 v Zimbabwe New Plymouth 23 Feb 1992
India 316/7 47.5 6.60 v Pakistan Dhaka 18 Jan 1998
Australia 316/4 48.5 6.47 v Pakistan Lahore 10 Nov 1998
Sri Lanka 303/9 49.4 6.10 v England Adelaide 23 Jan 1999
India 302/7 49.4 6.08 v South Africa Kochi 9 Mar 2000
England 306/5 47.2 6.46 v Pakistan Karachi 24 Oct 2000
Australia 330/7 49.1 6.71 v South Africa Port Elizabeth 6 Apr 2002

Additionally, India’s record in multi-team tournament finals was abysmal in that period. After beating Zimbabwe in Sharjah in 1998, India had lost nine finals in tournaments involving three or more teams in 10 attempts. The one other match was a no-result.

The Natwest Final was the match that ended the forgettable streak for Indian cricket, adding more historical significance to the result.

India in multi-team event finals from 99 to 02

Tournament Batting first / chasing Final Opponent Venue Date
Pepsi Cup Chasing lost v Pakistan Bengaluru 4 Apr 1999
Coca Cola Cup Batting first lost v Pakistan Sharjah 16 Apr 1999
Coca Cola S'pore Challenge Batting first n/r v West Indies Singapore 7 Sep 1999
Coca Cola S'pore Challenge Batting first lost v West Indies Singapore 8 Sep 1999
LG Cup Chasing lost v South Africa Nairobi 3 Oct 1999
ICC Knockout (Champions Trophy) Batting first lost v New Zealand Nairobi  15 Oct 2000
Coca Cola Champions Trophy Chasing lost v Sri Lanka Sharjah 29 Oct 2000
Coca Cola Cup (ZIM) Chasing lost v West Indies Harare 7 Jul 2001
Coca Cola Cup (SL) Chasing lost v Sri Lanka Colombo (RPS) 5 Aug 2001
Standard Bank tri-series Batting first lost v South Africa Durban 26 Oct 2001
Natwest Series Chasing won v England Lord's 13 Jul 2002

The fact that it was a turning point can be gauged by the improvement of India’s results since. As we have seen in the recent past, India – under MS Dhoni as well as Virat Kohli – have overhauled targets of 300-plus much more frequently.

When India have chased a target of 300 or more

Score Overs RPO Opposition Ground Start Date
316/7 47.5 6.60 v Pakistan Dhaka 18 Jan 1998
302/7 49.4 6.08 v South Africa Kochi 9 Mar 2000
326/8 49.3 6.58 v England Lord's 13 Jul 2002
325/5 47.4 6.81 v West Indies Ahmedabad 15 Nov 2002
317/8 49.4 6.38 v England The Oval 5 Sep 2007
301/4 42.1 7.13 v Pakistan Karachi 26 Jun 2008
310/4 46.5 6.61 v Sri Lanka Karachi 3 Jul 2008
317/3 48.1 6.58 v Sri Lanka Kolkata 24 Dec 2009
321/5 48.5 6.57 v New Zealand Bengaluru 7 Dec 2010
321/3 36.4 8.75 v Sri Lanka Hobart 28 Feb 2012
330/4 47.5 6.89 v Pakistan Dhaka 18 Mar 2012
362/1 43.3 8.32 v Australia Jaipur 16 Oct 2013
351/4 49.3 7.09 v Australia Nagpur 30 Oct 2013
331/4 49.4 6.66 v Australia Sydney 23 Jan 2016
356/7 48.1 7.39 v England Pune 15 Jan 2017
326/2 42.1 7.73 v West Indies Guwahati 21 Oct 2018
316/6 48.4 6.49 v West Indies Cuttack 22 Dec 2019
Sorted chronologically

It was not just Indian cricket, chasing big scores in ODIs was not a norm back then at the turn of the century.

In the history of ODI cricket, a team has scored 300 or more in the second innings 151 times. Out of this, 87 were made in winning causes. That’s a success rate of 57.6%.

Pre-Natwest 2002, however, the success rate was 50% (8 out of 16). Only 16 instances of a 300-plus score were recorded in the second innings from the start of ODI cricket in 1971 till July 2002. In the 18 years since, that has happened, 135 times. Out of those instances, 79 were wins and four matches witnessed ties. That translates to a rate of 61.5% in which teams did not lose while chasing 300-plus scores, a near 12% increase starting from Ganguly and Co’s epic win.

And the increase is even more significant for Indian cricket as well.

All teams' record while chasing targets of 300+

Period Attempts recorded Successful run-chases Success %
History of ODIs 574 81 14.11%
Till July 12, 2002 107 7 6.54%
Starting from Natwest 2002 467 74 15.85%

India's record while chasing targets of 300+

Period Attempts recorded Successful run-chases Success %
History of ODIs 69 17 24.63%
Till July 12, 2002 15 2 13.33%
Starting from Natwest 2002 54 15 27.78%

It was also a significant moment in Indian cricket when it comes to chasing against the best teams. At that point in time (as was the case before) India’s record chasing against Australia, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa was 14 wins and 21 losses (0.66 wins per loss) since the start of 2000. The win-loss ratio in chases against these teams went from 0.863 before Natwest 2002 final to 1.761 since the start of 2010.

India's record chasing in ODIs vs top teams

Span Matches Won Lost Tied / NR W/L
All-time 452 228 202 2 / 20 1.128
Till Natwest final 226 101 117 0 / 8 0.863
From 1/1/2000 till Natwest final 35 14 21 0 / 0 0.666
Starting from Natwest final 226 127 85 2 / 12 1.494
From 2010 onwards 121 74 42 2 / 3 1.761
Opponents considered: AUS, ENG, NZ, PAK, SA, SL and WI

It might be an oversimplification to say Ganguly’s team lifting the Natwest Series Trophy at Lord’s in 2002 is the sole reason for such a good recent record for India while chasing. But, arguably, it is the moment Indian cricket learned to believe.

Play

(Statistics courtesy ESPNCricinfo Statsguru and Scroll.in research)

(With inputs from Scroll.in contributor Clive Azavedo)