Nostalgia: Rain, rows and run-outs part of WC history

Published: Friday, February 7, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: If Shaun Pollock and his South African team lift the World Cup on March 23 they could be forgiven for thinking that at last destiny has smiled upon them. On South Africa's debut in the 1992 version in New Zealand and Australia, it took on England for a place in the final and, with the Sydney skies overcast and gloomy, set off chasing the Englishmen's 252 off 45 overs.

Andrew Hudson and Jonty Rhodes made quick runs as South Africa kept up with the rate and by the time Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson were at the wicket they were sensing victory. Then the heavens opened after five balls of the 42nd over with 22 runs still needed off 19 balls. Two overs were lost, but under the rain rule in operation at the time, the target stayed the same. When McMillan and Richardson eventually returned to the middle, the scoreboard flashed up 22 runs needed off one ball - England won by 20 runs.

The semi-final curse returned in 1999 when they came up against eventual champions Australia in Birmingham. This time, they needed just one run to win and with big- hitting man-of-the-tournament Lance Klusener facing Damien Fleming. However, Klusener and Allan Donald were involved in mix-up which left Donald run- out, the scores tied at 213 and the Aussies with a ticket to the final courtesy of net run-rate. At least the Aussies and South Africa made it that far. England had bowed out in the first round, but nobody told the marketing men who released the team's official song, All Over the World by Dave Stewart, the day after they had been knocked out.

Wisden reported that 24 hours after the disc hit two of London's top record shops, sales figures were exactly zero! The ugly head of politics has often reared itself - usually before the tournament has started. There was controversy over whether or not Zimbabwe should cling onto its right as a host this time round, bringing back memories of the 1996 event when Australia and West Indies refused to play their group games in Sri Lanka.

A Tamil Tiger bomb outrage, just before the tournament got underway claimed the lives of 80 people, sparked the boycott and both the Aussies and Windies forfeited their two points for their peace of mind. That 1996 tournament was plunged into more controversy at Eden Gardens in Calcutta when India, chasing Sri Lanka's 250 to reach the final, slumped to 120 for eight. It was all too much for the crowd, which reacted by throwing bottles and starting fires. Match referee Clive Lloyd was left with no choice but to take the players off the field and award the match to Sri Lanka.

The 1979 tournament, in England, was held at a crucial point in the history of the sport as both the hosts and Australia went into the event preferring not to field any of the players who had defected to Kerry Packer's world series. The Aussies struggled while England carried on regardless, reaching the final where it lost to holders West Indies. Canada had a tournament to forget.

Having qualified via the ICC Trophy, it was dismissed for 45 by England, the lowest score ever made in a final. The first World Cup, also in England in 1975, is now a relic as far as the modern game is concerned. Indian legend Sunil Gavasakar never got to the grips with the point of the exercise - he made a painfully slow 36 in a total of 132-3 in 60 overs against England despite the need to chase and chase hard - the hosts had made 334-4.

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