The 2004 Champions Trophy final was the first of two occasions where the hosts, England, were in a winning position in the final only for them to throw it away in remarkable circumstances. They did something similar in 2013 when they were placed to win a rain-shortened match to beat India before a brain fart of epic proportions saw them capitulate to Ishant Sharma’s fast-medium bowling, losing a match that was won.
In the 2004 final England’s struggles were with the ball, and the opponents were the West Indies. England batted first and apart from Marcus Trescothick they stuttered badly. Trescothick managed 104 from 124 balls, the next highest score was the 31 runs that Ashley Giles made batting at eight. The home side finished on 217 all out off 49.4 overs. It seemed as if they had thrown away a fantastic chance to win their first global one-day tournament - in truth the moment when they really threw away their chances came after they had just two West Indies wickets left to take.
The West Indies came into the tournament with a chance to end the persuasive narrative that they were great team in decline. Results had already started to fade with the retirements of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. Brian Lara was captain but he was not the player he once was and he cast a world-weary figure as he dealt with the internal struggles within the West Indies Cricket Board and his own form. He was still a brilliant striker of the ball, but he had lost some of the consistency that had seen him become one of the greatest players of all time.
Lara struggled in the tournament, making just 114 runs in his four matches with a high score of 49. In the final he made just 14 before Andrew Flintoff dismissed him caught behind. He struggled for 45 minutes and 28 balls for those runs. When Lara departed the West Indies had stumbled to 72 for four with Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds and Ramnaresh Sarwan all gone as well.
A recovery was needed, and the perfect man was at the crease. The limpet-like Shivnarine Chanderpaul was at the crease. Wickets kept falling, but with him there they had a chance. Then Chanderpaul was gone, caught by Michael Vaughan off the bowling of Paul Collingwood. The game was over. The West Indies needed 71 runs to win and had just two wickets left. England had won a global one-day trophy for the first time.
Then the extraordinary happened. Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw put on a stand of 71 runs to see the West Indies to a two wicket win. Browne ended his career as the West Indies’ wicket-keeper with an ODI average of 17.29. The 35 not out he made at the Oval that day was his third highest score. He never made an ODI fifty. Ian Bradshaw’s record was even worse. He only once went past the 34 not out he made that day, his career best was 37.
England didn’t bowl Ashley Giles, even Trescothick’s part-time medium pace getting a go ahead of the left-arm spinner. They just couldn’t get the last two wickets, although there were two very good LBW shouts that were turned down. Vaughan’s captaincy that would get so much praise when England reclaimed the Ashes the following summer was found wanting as the West Indies crept home from an impossible position.
It was a remarkable end to a forgettable tournament. The 2004 Champions Trophy wasn’t as much of a disaster as the World Cup that took place three years later, but it was close. There was little interest and the cricket wasn’t of great quality. At that time the Champions Trophy was still an attempt at furthering cricket expansion, with the USA, Kenya, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe all involved. It didn’t really work as it tried to do too many things at once. The concept was laudable, the execution was poor.
“The tournament was held in September, literally and figuratively an afterthought to the English summer. It was poorly organised, sparsely attended and largely unnoticed by the wider sporting world. It was, as Matthew Engel put it in his Wisden editor’s notes, ‘a terrible idea from the start, a turkey of a tournament’,” Dave Ticker wrote in the book 28 Days’ Data.
The USA had a torrid time, they lost by 210 runs against New Zealand with former West Indian Test batsman Clayton Lambert top-scoring with 39. Against Australia it was even worse, as they bowled out for 65 against Australia, a total that was chased down in 47 balls.
Kenya didn’t do much better, losing both of their games including an embarrassing defeat to Pakistan that saw them bowled out for just 94. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe also struggled, losing badly in both of their matches.
Pakistan and India failing to progress out of the opening round of the 2007 World Cup was what finished cricket’s foray into expansionism, but the 2004 Champions Trophy was the beginning of the end. Underfunded teams that were chronically short of top-level experience were badly exposed against fully professional sides who had clear plans. They never had a chance and took all the blame for it.
Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, openly questioned the presence of the USA at the tournament saying he wasn’t sure that “this is the place for sides like the USA to play.”
The format didn’t help. With four groups of three and the top team going through to the semi-final it meant that there was no real chance of the weaker teams progressing unless they beat both of the top teams in their group. Instead what happened was their presence became nothing more than a possible banana skin with the game played between the two strong full members being an effective quarter-final.
It wasn’t just the format that caused issues for the tournament. The draconian approach to anything that spectators wanted to bring into the event that wasn’t produced by one of the official “partners” caused no end of problems. If you attempted to bring a can of a rival’s fizzy, sugary drink into the ground it was immediately confiscated and thrown away. There were reports that you could not buy replica England shirts at the grounds because they featured the branding of a telecommunications company that was a direct competitor of one of the official sponsors.
Martin Williamson on ESPNCricinfo summed up the farcical stewarding. “One fan noted that he had his non-conforming lunch brusquely snatched from him and dumped in a wheelie bin but had been allowed to take in a penknife. Newspapers pounced on the absurdity, despite clodhopping and ineffective attempts by the ICC to downplay the situation, and gleefully reported the sight of a gateman at Southampton helping a spectator pour unauthorised cola into an empty bottle of the approved brand so it could be admitted.”
An ESPNCricinfo report at the time spoke of the fans not getting to see the opening over of the tournament where Tinashe Panyangara of Zimbabwe bowled seven wides. “Fortunately, many at Edgbaston missed his embarrassment as they were being interrogated in specially built ICC cells for drinking fizzy pop not approved by the organisers.”
Empty stadiums didn’t prevent crowd problems, the stewards were more interested in binning people’s lunch than keeping the event running smoothly and the cricket was unremarkable. By 2006 the tournament only involved the 10 full members, by 2009 it was just the top eight teams and was better for it. Those two weeks at the end of September 2004 changed cricket, but not in the way the organisers had planned.
Few will remember the tournament fondly, not least the England players who lost that final in such an embarrassing fashion. Vaughan was discussing it on the BBC’s Test Match Special almost 10 years later summed up his teams performance quite succinctly.
“We got to a Champions Trophy [final] in 2004 and we were rubbish. We just happened to get to a final in English conditions.”
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Updated Date: May 17, 2017 18:43:02 IST