World Cup flashback 1999: Tale of champions and chokers

DC | R MOHAN
Published Jan 25, 2015, 1:38 pm IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 11:01 pm IST
Had Herschelle Gibbs held a catch close up off Steve Waugh’s bat, Aussies would have been history

The World Cup came back to its original home after 16 years. No one could complain because England (also Ireland and Holland) offers certain advantages in terms of natural light, long playing hours and ease of travel from venue to venue. The one hitch might be practice facilities if it happens to rain on such days. Of course, as host England hardly made any ripples. The World Cup song was not even out when the event began to a typically understated Lord’s opening, to schoolgirls and men descending in parachutes.

Long before the competition was over, England were out of the tournament, not even making the last six because Zimbabwe beat South Africa in a surprise result and India beat England on a seamers’ paradise in Edgbaston. The same fate of early exit may have faced the eventual champion who got off to a numb start.

 

Had Herschelle Gibbs held a catch close up off Steve Waugh’s bat, Aussies would have been history. As it transpired, they went from strength to strength to take their second World Cup in the most lop-sided final ever as the mercurial Pakistanis collapsed on one of their biggest days in one-day cricket. The format was of split groups, never one to make an attraction of most league games but the Super Six was a nice enough new formula but which too had its flaws since league results and net run rates would decide ties, of which there was a memorable one involving Australia and South Africa in a semi-final.

 

The British PM Mr Blair did not have much to say on the final morning when play started a shade late because of a drizzle, despite which Wasim Akram chose to bat. The final was well and truly over shortly after 4-30 p.m. which in England is decidedly early, considering the first World Cup final had ended closer to 9 p.m. and is still thought of fondly as a great final.

Earpiece creates a buzz

The Indians were slated to play the South Africans at Hove on England’s southern coast. India drew their own band of coloufrul spectators. But all the talk in the morning was about the earpiece that Hansie Cronje was wearing on the field. This was part of the Bob Woolmer experiment through which a coach could stay in touch with his captain. It did not go down well with the ICC that had the earpiece banned by the first drinks break with the match referee Talat Ali taking action. 

 

Hat-trick for India against rivals

This was the meeting of the World Cup. India may have been hopelessly placed in the event and yet to shine against Pakistan is considered a national honour. With the game coming off even as troops of the two countries were facing each other in the impossibly cold heights of Siachen in Kashmir, the host nation had extra precautions put in. There were more constables seen at Old Trafford than you are likely to come across in a whole visit to the UK. But three arrests, nine ejections and one instance of flag burning were under par for the sort of clashes expected.

 

The cricket was quite absorbing after Azhar chose to bat this time and Sachin dominated the early part of the game. The skipper came up with a well compiled 59 but the pace of run getting was so slow after Sachin’s exit that only a  late rattle led to India setting Pakistan to make 228 and defy a building World Cup jinx. Saeed Anwar got Pakistan off to a rousing start although Srinath picked up a couple of wickets in well directed pace in the manner of a seasoned campaigner. The match changed tack once Venkatesh Prasad came on.

Bowling a tight line and letting the ball wobble in the air, Prasad picked up the prime five wickets in the Pakistan innings. A hat-trick of wins was India’s in World Cups and Azhar had led the side in all three meetings, from Sydney through Bangalore to Manchester. The crowd wended its way satisfied at a good day’s cricket and an atmosphere of enough goodwill to show that people to people ties remain strong between India and Pakistan.

 

It’s a tie!

The greatest one-day match of all time had a quirky end even though it threw up a perfect tie. The vignette of celebrating Aussies, cock-a-hoop over a great escape, and that of a crestfallen Allan Donald will remain etched in memory forever. The Aussies advanced to the final ahead of South Africa after the tie at Edgbaston because they had finished ahead of South Africa in the Super Six table on the basis of a better net run rate. Who was to blame for the South African fiasco?

The cricketer of the World Cup, Lance Klusener, who brought them to the brink in the semifinal after powering them past many a crisis? He had just smashed 31 off 14 balls to bring the ask down to one run in four balls, surely it was all over since he was in strike. Or, Donald whose understanding of a single run between the wickets was as confusing as that of Donald Duck? Did Kluesner himself suffer a blackout as he called Donald for a single and then declined the previous ball. A short circuit somewhere was certainly indicated as Klusener hit the next one straight to Mark Waugh at mid on and charged like a bull. A nervous Donald dropped his bat, pickd it up and ran but could not beat the flick from Waugh that was transferred to ‘keeper Gilchrist by bowler Damien Fleming. Fate had once again ordained that South Africa would exit a World Cup semi final in extraordinary circumstances.

 

 An Anti Climax of  a final

Having staged the great escape, Australia were ruthless in the final. They were probably already heartened by the fact that they won the toss for dressing rooms and were allotted the visitors’ room from where the West Indies and India had won the first three World Cup at Lord’s. The match toss itself meant little since Sri Lanka had won a title chasing and the jinx was not there anymore. Wasim Akram chose to bat on a good pitch and the start was good enough until Mark Waugh brought off a spectacular catch in the slips to set the tone for the final.

 

At a point of mid innings crisis, Steve Waugh brought Shane Warne on and the leg spinner with a great sense of occasion rose to the challenge with a spell that virtually ended the match as a contest. Having bowled Gibbs in the semi-final with such a beauty, Warne produced the same kind of delivery to Ijaz Ahmed who looked on bemused as ball turned and hit his off peg. Soon, Warne had four in his bag and the Pakistan innings had expired in the 39th over leaving a target of 133.

Gilchrist found his batting feet to make mockery of the target even as Akram was suggesting at lunch that 180 may have been defended. Gilchrit’s 50 came off 33 balls and what was left of the match finished quickly enough.

 

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