In 2006, the Champions Trophy took place in India for the first time after the 2002 edition of the tournament had been moved to Sri Lanka when an exemption from tax on tournament revenues was not granted by the Indian government.
The tournament’s groups stage from the previous two tournaments had been slightly tweaked with two groups of four teams and only six teams automatically qualifying; Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, India and England. The West Indies, who were the defending champions, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh, played in a pre-tournament round robin to determine the other two teams to qualify for the main draw. The teams to advance were Sri Lanka and West Indies.
|Group A||Group B|
|West Indies||New Zealand|
New Zealand’s first game took place on October 16th at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, against South Africa. The Proteas won the toss and asked the BLACKCAPS to bat – the decision would come back to bite them, although that wouldn’t be immediately obvious. The monsoon season had just ended in India and ground staff had not had enough time to prepare pitches suited to free-flowing cricket – something that was very evident in this game.
The BLACKCAPS were bowled out in the 46th over for 195. Captain Stephen Fleming scored a game-high 89 to anchor the innings, while the next best was Brendon McCullum, who hit 21. South Africa used seven different bowlers, with Andre Nel proving the most economical on the surface, going for 2.5 runs per over. It was their star all-rounder, however, who delivered the wickets as Jacques Kallis returned the best figures with 3 for 28.
Choosing to bowl first was something that South Africa may have rued when the wicket deteriorated rapidly in the second innings. Their batsmen struggled on the crumbling surface and they could only muster108, bowled out inside 35 overs. The performance from their bowling attack would’ve given New Zealand a lot of confidence as Jeetan Patel, Jacob Oram, and Kyle Mills each took three wickets, while Daniel Vettori was miserly, going for just 2.14 runs an over. The BLACKCAPS won the match by 87 runs with Stephen Fleming named Man of the Match as the only batsman able to master the pitch.
Four days after the BLACKCAPS win over South Africa they were back in action against Sri Lanka. For the first time since the final of the 2000 tournament the BLACKCAPS won a Champions Trophy toss. They may have wished they’d lost, however.
Opting to bat first, the New Zealand XI saw the return of Scott Styris and Shane Bond after the pair sat out the first game. Also held at Brabourne Stadium, ground staff had responded to the crumbling pitch by spraying it with glue in the hope that it would hold together for the whole game.
The BLACKCAPS never really looked settled with the bat and, at the 30th over, they were 87 for 6. The last four wickets would combine for another 80 runs to reach 165, again bowled out inside the 50 overs. Daniel Vettori and Nathan Astle were the only batsmen to perform, scoring 46 and 42 respectively. Muttiah Muralitharan was the stand out for Sri Lanka with 4 wickets for only 23 runs.
New Zealand’s bowling efforts was lacklustre after their opening match form as Sri Lanka chased down their total with ease –losing just 3 wickets and finishing with 14 overs to spare. Upul Tharanga made 56 while Mahela Jayawardene made 48. Shane Bond went wicketless and was expensive although Jeetan Patel’s good form continued as he enjoyed the glued pitch, taking 2 for 32.
The third and final game of the group stage for the BLACKCAPS was played on the 25th of October against Pakistan. The BLACKCAPS would return to the trend that had developed through this tournament’s history: losing the toss, batting first, and losing an early wicket as Lou Vincent fell in the second over with the score at 3. Stephen Fleming would find the form that saw him score 89 against South Africa, adding 80 in this game. However he was outdone by Scott Styris, who out-scored everybody on the day, hitting 86 which included 10 fours. Fleming and Styris put on a 108-run partnership for the fourth wicket, before some quick and powerful batting by Jacob Oram and Brendon McCullum saw the BLACKCAPS reach a competitive total of 274 for 7. Umar Gul was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers on a tough day, taking 2 wickets for 47 runs.
Pakistan’s batting performance featured several good knocks with Mohammad Yousuf making a hard-fought 71 off 92 balls, Mohammad Hafeez hitting 43 at the top, and Shoaib Malik adding 52 but none of the other batsmen managed to stand up. Bond bounced back from a poor outing against Sri Lanka, taking 3 for 45 as were dismissed in the 47th over for 223.
The 51-run win for New Zealand meant they would finish second in the group behind South Africa who had the same points but a better run rate. This would be the first time since the 2000 tournament that the BLACKCAPS had advanced past the group stage.
The BLACKCAPS opponent in the semi-final was Australia who had come out on top in their group. After winning the toss, New Zealand opted to bowl and were immediately rewarded as Kyle Mills got off to a cracking start, dismissing both Australian openers in the third over. With the Aussies at 4 for 2, New Zealand had some much-needed early confidence. As is often the case in NZ v AUS contests, our trans-Tasman neighbours bounced back as a 3rd wicket partnership of 66 between Ricky Pointing and Damien Martyn saw the Australians get back into the game. A strong 58 from Andrew Symonds matched Ricky Pointing’s score while Michael Hussy’s 35 saw the Australians through to 240 for 9. Kyle Mills had his second-best ODI figures to that point in his career, taking four wickets for 38 runs.
The BLACKCAPS’ innings started with a sight that had become all too common in the tournament: an early wicket, Lou Vincent losing his wicket for just 1 run. This would set the tone for the first 15 overs as they fell to 35 for 6 and were staring a record loss in the face. Thankfully, Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori joined forces to put on a 103-run 7th wicket partnership. Oram would make43 before he was stumped in the 36th over. Vettori would carry onto a match-high score of 79, although this would not be enough as the BLACKCAPS were bowled out for 206 with four overs remaining.
While New Zealand were left to rue the shocking start to their innings, Australia prepared for the final where they would face a West Indian side featuring a potent Chris Gayle who had been slamming bowlers all around the grounds.
The final took place on the 5th of November with the West Indies, who had been made to qualify for the tournament, looking to defend their title.
The West Indies would win the toss and chose to bat, hoping for another big innings from Chris Gayle who had hit three centuries to this point – including 133* in the semi-final against South Africa. Unfortunately for the Caribbean side his form couldn’t continue as he made 37. Even worse for the West Indies, that was their high score as only two other batsmen managed to make double digits. They were bowled out in the 31st over for just 138.
Much like the 2002 tournament, rain would plague the final. Although this time enough cricket would at least be played to determine a winner. With such a low total to chase, Australia at eased to 116 for 2 from 35 overs before the game was abandoned.
Australia lifted their first ever ICC Champions Trophy, winning by 8 wickets under the Duckworth Lewis Stern method.
Feature Image: Sardar Patel Stadium – The Grass by Dhruvdhakan via Wikimedia Commons