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.
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
|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
|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|
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|
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.
(Statistics courtesy ESPNCricinfo Statsguru and Scroll.in research)
(With inputs from Scroll.in contributor Clive Azavedo)