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How Steve Bucknor’s ball change turned the 2002 Natwest final

2002 final
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Nasser Hussain feels that the turning point in England’s 2002 Natwest Series final against India came when umpire Steve Bucknor replaced the existing ball with a different one, trampling their plans of reverse swinging their way to a win.

Speaking on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast ‘One That Got Away’, Hussain, who was the England captain then, explained that he had been holding back his swing bowlers for the ball to get old enough to reverse.

“The biggest thing that happened is we got this ball reverse swinging, and Steve Bucknor looked at it and said ‘It looks too soft and discoloured, and I am going to change this ball. It’s too discoloured,” Hussain said.

At 146-5, India were on the mat in pursuit of England’s 326-run target, but a remarkable turnaround effected by Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh edged them home, a they scored 180 runs in the last 26 overs. Hussain admitted that tactics went awry once Bucknor, the on-field umpire, decided to do away with the old ball.

“I remember having a row with Bucknor about it, saying we want this ball. And he said ‘No, we’re going to change it’. And that used to wind me up a lot in those days, you just go to a random box of balls, just pick one out – ‘Here you go skip, bowl with that. And that went gun-barrel straight.’

“And all the plans that I had, of holding back Flintoff, Irani, Gough, my reverse-swing bowlers, are now up in the air, because it’s not reverse swinging anymore.”

Barring spinner Ashley Giles, none of the bowlers finished with an economy rate of less than six, as Kaif and Yuvraj’s stroke-filled 121-run stand sparked a revival.

“The moment those two started to hit boundaries, the Indian crowd was woken up, we went from almost silence to the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.”

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