It was the first ball of the final over in chase. That’s what it narrowed down to. All the incessant flag-waving, name-cheering and vocal-chord busting from the stands on a fine Saturday afternoon in Harare had eventually boiled down to this – Eight runs, six balls with MS Dhoni, the master of such situations, taking guard.
“Just two overs before, (Graeme) Cremer told me that I will be bowling the last over. When he told me that, I told myself that whatever the score, even if they needed five off the last over, I am just going to give it my all. That also gave me time to have a clear plan,” Neville Madziva said.
The right-arm pacer, would’ve felt the weight of a nation on his shoulders. After being outplayed for nearly ten days, Zimbabwe were in with a chance of turning the tables, and it depended on how he ran in and denied a finisher par excellence from doing what he does best. The plan, as was evident from the first ball, was probably to bowl full and wide. Dhoni had to reach out to connect and managed only one run. Seven off five to defend, but more importantly Dhoni was at the other end. Axar Patel looked to go level with one big hit, but perished. Zimbabwe rejoiced but looked towards Madziva expectantly as Dhoni returned to strike.
“Obviously, when he (Dhoni) was there, I didn’t look at the name honestly. Because if I had that in mind, the first ball was going to go for a six and next for a four. I just told myself, I am just bowling to any other guy here and I am just going to stick to my plans.”
The plan this time was even better. Madziva sent down a wide, low full-toss that Dhoni could only drive to extra-cover for a single. Six to get from three with debutant Rishi Dhawan on strike. The anxiety levels in the stands (and the press box) palpable. Zimbabwe had never felt this close to an uplifting victory in recent times, as they did now. Zimbabwe huddled, discussed and took their time before letting the contest go on.
“Guys came in with so many suggestions. We are team, we are supposed to help each other. Some of them were trying to say that I should bowl the straight yorkers, but I told them that I have only one plan, I don’t have to change it. It’s working, why should I change it. Some of the boys were coming to just motivate me.”
Madziva wasn’t just a brave, young bowler in the face of a tough challenge, but a smart one too. He spotted Dhawan’s decision to shuffle across and bowled a full delivery wide outside off-stump. Dhawan’s expansive swing of the bat connected thin air. Dot ball. Six off two balls. Dhawan and Madziva repeat the same
Madziva wasn’t just a brave, young bowler in the face of a tough challenge, but a smart one too. He spotted Dhawan’s decision to shuffle across and bowled a full delivery wide outside off-stump. Dhawan’s expansive swing of the bat connected thin air. Dot ball. Six off two balls. Dhawan and Madziva repeat the same performance for the next delivery, only this time the latter bowled a bit more wider. The former had nearly covered all the space but the umpires signalled wide. Five off two balls.
“First and foremost, I am a Christian. I believe if it’s not (for) god, then I can’t do it by myself. I know the Lord is with me, I can do it. Even here if you look at it, every ball I was talking to myself.”
Madziva stuck to his line and length, not giving Dhawan a lot of options to go over the top. The Indian batsman got his bat on the ball and let Dhoni back on strike. Four runs off one delivery. Madziva was in the line of fire once again.
“When you’re bowling death, what I realised from the couple of matches I’ve played is that you don’t have to rush yourself. So I had to take my time, calm myself down and bowl.”
Elton Chigumbura may have redeemed himself with a sensational half-century, but Zimbabwe found a brand new hero. Madziva, all of 24, ran in and bowled with commendable accuracy to make Dhoni reach out for yet another delivery wide outside the off-stump. The Indian captain connected, but not well enough to take his team over the line like he’s reputed to. Neville had just pulled off the unthinkable – a moment that will be told and retold to generations of Madzivas to come.