~~I rate Natwest final innings higher than this one~~

Published: Sunday, September 15, 2002, 17:47 [IST]
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Colombo: India's Mohammad Kaif said on Saturday his century against Zimbabwe in the Champions Trophy One-day cricket tournament was not the most satisfying knock of his career. "My 87 against England at Lord's in the NatWest final was better than this century," said Kaif, who scored an unbeaten 111 against Zimbabwe for his maiden ton in 19 One- dayers.

"We were chasing more than 300 in England where conditions were different from those at home," said the 21-year-old Kaif, whose batting eventually helped his team win the tall-scoring final at Lord's in July. "There was pressure on us in England. Here, the conditions are more or less like at home. So, I rate my innings against England higher than this one," said man-of-the- match Kaif. India skipper Saurav Ganguly lauded the young batsman for playing yet another significant innings under pressure. "We were in deep trouble early in the innings, but Kaif and Rahul Dravid pulled us out with their sensible batting," said Ganguly. India was tottering at 87-5 before Kaif and Dravid (71) steadied the innings with a 117-run stand for the sixth wicket. However, India did not find it easy to defend its total of 288-6 as Zimbabwean Andy Flower scored a career-best 145 to bring his team close to the target. Zimbabwe eventually finished at 274-8 to lose the match by 14 runs. "We knew Andy Flower was a danger man," said Ganguly. "We faced some anxious moments when he was at the crease. We shouldn't have dropped him early in his innings." Andy Flower was let off on 15 and 28 before going on to surpass his previous best of 142 not out during his fourth century in 197 One-dayers. He also completed 6,000 runs in the shorter version of the game with his knock."We knew we always had a chance despite Andy Flower's century. Chasing a big target is not easy. Pressure was always on Zimbabwe," said Ganguly. Zimbabwean captain Heath Streak said the inability to step up the run-rate in the middle overs affected his team's chances. "We should have had some big overs in the middle," he said. "Andy and Grant played very well, but we couldn't capitalise on their stand. We needed to step up the run- rate." Streak conceded that India's depth in batting was the main difference in the match. "We knew India had a strong batting line-up," said Streak. "All of them are stroke-players. Though we got the early breakthroughs, Virender Sehwag (48 off 36 balls) kept playing shots. Kaif and Dravid then played sensible cricket to give India a good platform." Streak said he felt his side still had a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals from the three-team group. "Being in a strong group does open things up. This group is different because others have one weak team. It depends on how we play against England," he said. Zimbabwe will meet England in its last league match on Wednesday. Twelve teams have been divided into four groups of three each, with the group- winners advancing to the semi-finals.

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