It has been ten years since the English cricket summer did away with the tri-series format for ODIs and instead reverted to separate bilateral series. The primary reason for the discontinuation of the NatWest triangular series from 2006 onwards was that crowds were increasingly turning out to be poor for matches not involving England.
It was in 1972 that England hosted its first ODI series, a three-match series against Australia. Since then, bilateral series consisting of two or three matches were played against the touring sides, sponsored by Prudential Insurance from 1972 to 1983 and by Texaco from 1984 to 1998. Besides, the first three World Cups were also played in England. All these matches featured white clothing.
The first international tournament on English soil to feature coloured clothing was a short tri-nation series involving England, South Africa and Sri Lanka in 1998. There was a single round of matches, besides a final in which World Cup holders Sri Lanka defeated the hosts. The following year, England hosted the World Cup for the fourth time.
The turn of the millenium saw the advent of the NatWest Series, a fresh tri-series concept featuring ten matches played in between the two Test series of the summer. Each team played the others thrice, with the top two making it to the final at Lord’s. The six years of the NatWest Series churned out a fair share of compelling ODI cricket. In this post, we look back at the first three editions.
The West Indies and Zimbabwe were the participants in the first edition of the NatWest Tri-Series. The tourists faced each other in the opening match at the County Ground in Bristol. This low-key clash was significant for being the first official day/night international in England.
Brian Lara cracked an entertaining 60 but the West Indian total of 232/7 was inadequate as Neil Johnson’s unbeaten 95 saw Zimbabwe home by six wickets. Zimbabwe went on to make it two out of two as another disciplined bowling effort ensured a five-wicket win against England at the Oval.
England’s Craig White celebrates after getting the prized wicket of Zimbabwean captain Andy Flower in the 2000 NatWest Series final (source – cricinfo.com/gettyimages)
Marcus Trescothick scored 79 on debut but his dismissal triggered a collapse of 8 for 57. The modest total of 207 was chased down in the 49th over thanks to Alistair Campbell’s 80. England’s game with the West Indies at Lord’s was rained off with the hosts struggling at 158/8.
Zimbabwe extended their winning spree at Canterbury, where they subdued the Windies again. Facing a target of 257, the West Indies crashed to 57/6 and eventually limped to 186/8. Guy Whittall starred for the victors with a knock of 83. The law of averages caught up with Zimbabwe at Old Trafford, where they were bundled out for 114 en route to an eight-wicket defeat to England.
England continued in the same vein against the West Indies at Chester-le-Street, where openers Trescothick (87*) and captain Alec Stewart (74*) gunned down the target of 170. At the same venue, the West Indies faced a must-win situation against Zimbabwe. Sherwin Campbell (105) and Lara (87) powered them to 287/5.
However, a stunning unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 186 between Murray Goodwin (112*) and Grant Flower (96*) knocked Jimmy Adams’ men out. Stewart’s 101 guided England to a 52-run win over Zimbabwe at Edgbaston. In the last league match, the West Indies scored a thrilling three-run win after posting 195/9, Stewart’s century (100*) going in vain this time.
The final was largely one-sided – Stewart missed out on a third successive hundred by three runs, but it was enough to help England win by six wickets after the bowlers, led by Darren Gough (3/20) had restricted the inserted Zimbabweans to 169/7. The England captain was deservedly named player of the series for his tally of 408 runs, besides 12 catches behind the wicket.
England faced two superior ODI outfits in Australia and Pakistan in what was a tough summer. Pakistan condemned the hosts to a 108-run thrashing in the first game at Edgbaston, after Saeed Anwar (77) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (79) led their side to 273/6. World Cup champions Australia then chased down Pakistan’s challenging 257 to win by seven wickets.
Australia’s batting firepower was evident in the next game at Bristol as well, where England’s 268/4 (Nick Knight scoring 84) was overhauled with five wickets in hand thanks to Ricky Ponting’s 102. Lord’s witnessed a thriller as England fell just two runs short of Pakistan’s 242/8, despite Trescothick’s career-best 137.
Jason Gillespie is jubliant after bowling Wasim Akram in the final of the 2001 NatWest Series between Australia and Pakistan (source – espncricinfo.com/gettyimages)
The hosts were then shot out for 86, their lowest ODI total, in pursuit of 209 against Australia at Old Trafford. With England needing to win to stay alive, an ugly crowd invasion overshadowed a fine performance by Waqar Younis at Headingley. Waqar (7/36) reduced the hosts to 58/7 before the total recovered to 156.
When Pakistan were 153/4, the crowd stormed onto the field, leading to the injury of a steward and the conceding of the match by captain Stewart. This incident rightfully led to the prohibition of spectators from coming on to the field. Another Waqar special of 6/59 enabled Pakistan to beat Australia by 36 runs at Trent Bridge.
Another tame defeat to Australia, this time by eight wickets at the Oval, meant that England failed to win a single game in the tournament. Two years after the lop-sided World Cup final, Australia and Pakistan met at Lord’s again and Steve Waugh’s men came up trumps with a similarly thumping win, by nine wickets and with 141 balls to spare. Waqar was named player of the series.
Pakistan lost wickets at regular intervals after electing to bat first, and at 60/4 in the 20th over, a deja vu of 1999 was already on the cards. Penetrative bowling from Brett Lee and Ian Harvey was aided by Shane Warne’s guile as Pakistan were dismissed for 152. Adam Gilchrist completed the formalities with an unbeaten 76.
The presence of two subcontinental teams ensured that most grounds were packed to full houses. The evergreen Stewart, still going strong, scored 83 in the first ODI at Trent Bridge before Andrew Flintoff’s timely strikes ensured Sri Lanka fell short of England’s 293/6 by 44 runs.
India were a tougher nut for the hosts in the second game at Lord’s, where they won by six wickets facing a target of 272. Rahul Dravid (73*) and Yuvraj Singh (64*) added an unbroken 131 after Virender Sehwag’s quick 71 had laid the platform. India went on top after a four-wicket win in a tricky chase of 203 at the Oval against Sri Lanka, whose batsmen fell to Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar.
Sanath Jayasuriya’s 112 went in vain in a 32-over affair at Headingley, as the hosts rode on Trescothick’s equally attacking 82 to chase down 241 for the loss of seven wickets. Sachin Tendulkar’s 105* against England at Chester-le-Street helped India pile up 285/4, but rain had the final say.
The Indian players rush to congratulate Mohammed Kaif after he guided India to victory in the 2002 NatWest Series final (source – skysports.com)
Sri Lanka, after being bowled out for 187 at Edgbaston, had India in trouble at 59/4 and it took a mature 64 from Dravid to help his side score a scratchy win by four wickets. The Lankans finally opened their account after four defeats with a 23-run win at Old Trafford over England, who failed to chase 229. Interestingly, Michael Vaughan scalped 4/22 with his part-time off breaks.
In another rain-shortened match of 32 overs, England won by 64 runs with Ronnie Irani’s 5/26 bowling India out for 165. Tendulkar stroked a vintage 113 out of a total of 304/5 in the last league game at Bristol as Sri Lanka, who were already out of the race, lost by 63 runs. Harbhajan Singh starred with the ball, taking 4/46.
The final was one of the most nail-biting ODIs ever played. After England opted to bat, player of the series Trescothick (109) and captain Nasser Hussain (115) shared in a second-wicket stand of 185. This was Hussain’s only ODI ton. Openers Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly (60) replied to England’s 325/5 by adding 106 in 15 overs, but a collapse soon saw India slide to 146/5.
Yuvraj and Mohammed Kaif turned the tide by adding 121 for the sixth wicket. When Yuvraj was out for 69, India still needed 58 from 50 balls. Kaif (87*) kept going and was given valuable company by Harbhajan. Two wickets fell at 314, but Zaheer held his nerve to score the winning runs off the third ball of the final over, inspiring captain Ganguly to take his shirt off in celebration on the Lord’s balcony.