Nostalgia: South Africa got raw deal in 92 tournament

Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: The 1992 World Cup was co-hosted by holders Australia and New Zealand in a tournament which saw South Africa's debut following its apartheid-enforced exile.

It was an innovative tournament - the first World Cup to be played in coloured clothing with some matches under floodlights. In another change, the teams, instead of being arranged in groups, all played one another, the top four qualifying for the semi-finals. And there were tactical developments too. New Zealand captain Martin Crowe went against conventional wisdom by bringing on off spinner Dipak Patel for the second over of his side's match against Australia.

Crowe, who had earlier made an unbeaten 100, saw Patel keep his nerve and New Zealand win by 37 runs. And there was more misery for Australia when it lost to South Africa by nine wickets - an ironic twist was that the batsman who steered South Africa to victory, Kepler Wessels, had been an Australia Test cricketer during the isolation years. This was the start of an eventful tournament for South Africa but no one could have predicted how it would end. Another new development at this tournament was the introduction of a rain rule, which was hoped would provide a fairer method of setting a revised target than the old system of calculating a target based on run- rate.

Unfortunately, in a rain-affected semi-final at Sydney it ruined what had been an exciting contest. South Africa was up against England which had made 252. South Africa was 231 for six in the 43rd over when rain intervened. Play was held up for 12 minutes but the match could still have been finished in conventional fashion. However, tournament chiefs felt obliged to stick to their own rules and following a recalculation the giant scoreboard proclaimed that South Africa needed 22 runs to win off one ball. The capacity crowd vented its frustration at being denied a proper climax by throwing rubbish onto the outfield. Chris Lewis ran in at half-pace, South Africa took a single and England was in its third World Cup final.

Meanwhile in Auckland, New Zealand's brilliant campaign ended against Pakistan. Crowe, who made 91, pulled his hamstring so severely while batting he could not field. But New Zealand was still in charge when the then largely unknown Inzamam-ul-Haq thrashed 60 off 37 balls before Pakistan keeper Moin Khan saw the team to its victory target of 264. Imran Khan, who had come out of international retirement to once again captain Pakistan, told his team to "fight like cornered tigers". And following a typically lacklustre start that would have sapped most other sides, Pakistan was starting to do just that.

The final pitted two of England's old stagers - captain Graham Gooch and all-rounder Ian Botham against two Pakistan veterans - Imran and star batsman Javed Miandad. Earlier in the tournament England had bowled out Pakistan for just 74 before rain robbed them of a victory which would have ultimately prevented Imran's men reaching the final. But in front of an 87,000 capacity crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Imran top- scored with 72 after winning the toss as Pakistan made 249 for six. England saw pinch-hitter opener Botham, go for nought, caught behind off Wasim Akram as they declined to 69 for four.

Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb steadied the innings before Imran brought back Wasim who bowled Lamb and new batsman Chris Lewis in successive balls. England took the match into the last over where, appropriately the inspirational Imran took the last wicket as Pakistan won by 22 runs and in an emotional awards ceremony dedicated the victory to his late mother and the cancer hospital he was funding in Lahore. It was a grand triumph, especially as they had been without injured fast bowler Waqar Younis for the entire tournament. Meanwhile Gooch was left to reflect on playing in three World Cup finals and being on the losing side every time.

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