Ian Bradshaw and Courtney Browne celebrate the win

Fuss-free, drama-free, home free: Bradshaw and Browne's 71-run partnership quietly but decisively turned the match West Indies' way

Adam Davy / © PA Photos/Getty Images

20 Greatest ODIs: No. 17

Last men outstanding

When a dogged ninth-wicket stand brought the West Indies an unlikely, audacious victory

Alan Gardner  |  

England vs West Indies, Champions Trophy final, The Oval, 2004

West Indies won by two wickets

Sometimes greatness is about all the obvious things: purity of technique and execution, objectively high skill levels, the best taking on the best. And sometimes it is about overcoming the odds whatever the circumstances; rising above your own limitations as well those imposed by the opposition.

It might also be a case of simply being able to feel your fingers and hold your nerve on a frigid late-September evening in England - conditions about as alien as it is possible to be from those in which you learned the game. Perhaps the fact that Courtney Browne was born in Lambeth, just a mile or so down the road from Kennington Oval, before leaving for Barbados was the vital extra ingredient in helping West Indies claim their first limited-overs trophy in a quarter of a century.

During that time West Indies had gone from top dogs to underdogs, but victory in the 2004 Champions Trophy proved cathartic. As Player of the Match Ian Bradshaw put it when reflecting on the winning moment 16 years later: "The outpouring of emotion at the end of the game at the ground was reflecting West Indian pride for another moment to show the world our ability. We believed in our strength from the beginning but had to prove it every step along the way."

The game did not, on paper, have the look of a classic. Neither England nor West Indies had made it through to the Super Six stage of the previous World Cup, although Michael Vaughan's appointment as captain had improved England's fortunes over the subsequent 18 months, culminating in their first ODI victory over Australia in 15 attempts - and five years - to get through their Champions Trophy semi-final. On home soil, they had to be favourites.

"The outpouring of emotion at the end of the game at the ground was reflecting West Indian pride for another moment to show the world our ability" Ian Bradshaw

West Indies, led by Brian Lara in his second stint in charge, had been slapped aside 4-0 by Vaughan's team in the Test series earlier in the summer - England had also won 3-0 in the Caribbean at the start of the year - although their record in the 50-over format was much more even.

Wins over Bangladesh, South Africa and Pakistan took them into the final at The Oval, a ground that might well have been a West Indian enclave during their years of dominance on tours to England in the 1970s and 1980s. Little about the occasion, though, lent itself to traditional demonstrations of Caribbean flair. On a cold autumnal day beneath slate-grey skies, it was nibbly medium pace that carried the most threat.

Whether you viewed it as serendipity or further confirmation of the decline of Caribbean cricket, Lara had an attack perfectly suited to the job after he won the toss and asked England to bat. Bradshaw struck twice in his opening spell before Wavell Hinds, bowling a full allocation for only the fourth time in 87 ODIs, produced the best figures of his career to shackle the middle order.

Lara took three catches - including a one-handed blinder at midwicket to remove Andrew Flintoff - and effected the run out of Marcus Trescothick, whose 104 from 124 balls held the England innings together.

All of which seemed like academic detail when West Indies slumped to 147 for 8 in their chase. Flintoff and Steven Harmison gutted the top order before the dobbly stylings of Paul Collingwood and Trescothick put England within touching distance of a long-awaited first one-day title.

Michael Vaughan's England had reached the final unbeaten in the tournament before losing to West Indies

Michael Vaughan's England had reached the final unbeaten in the tournament before losing to West Indies Adam Davy / © PA Photos/Getty Images

Certainly that was the script for the home fans huddled up in the stands, as well as those further afield intermittently checking the score while following the Saturday-afternoon football. In the UK, these were the early days of being able to keep track of sporting events on your mobile phone - but the expected updates on the ninth and tenth wickets never arrived, as Browne and Bradshaw set about chiselling away at the requirement.

West Indies' unlikely heroes, a pair of Bajans in their 30s, both produced what were at the time career-best knocks, turning the tide of the match with minimal fuss and relatively little drama - a vociferous Flintoff lbw shout against Browne with 37 still needed was the closest England came to breaking through. Bradshaw carved the winning runs through backward point with seven balls to spare, before he and Browne were enveloped by their team-mates in the fading light.

The players embarked on a victory lap, their success given added poignancy in the month that Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne had wrought havoc in the Caribbean.

"I have been told countless stories about how our fans back home across the region had followed the tournament," Bradshaw said, "and the elation that was felt when that winning shot was made. It's those moments that every West Indian cricketer lives for."

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick