The fifth men’s World Cup, staged in Australia and New Zealand in February and March 1992, was in some ways the first recognisably “modern” version.
It was a 50-overs tournament, as the previous competition had been in 1987. But this was the first World Cup to feature coloured clothing, white balls, and day-night matches; the long reach of the legacy of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket making itself felt in the “establishment” game. This was also the biggest World Cup so far. It featured the right Test-playing countries, including newly-admitted South Africa, plus Zimbabwe. There were 39 matches, more than in any previous version, though the whole thing took only 33 days. Each side played al, the others with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals.
There were also tactical innovations, mostly introduced by one of the home captains, New Zealand’s Martin Crowe. Opener Mark Greatbatch – only in the side because regular opener John Wright was injured – was used as a “pinch hitter”. This tactic was of course used to tremendous effect by Sri Lanka in the next World Cup in 1996. Also, Crowe used off-spinning all-rounder Dipak Patel to open the bowling.
In the opening game of the tournament, against Australia at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand caused a real surprise in beating the holders, and favourites, by 37 runs. Crowe made a magnificent hundred, and, although David Boon reciprocated for Australia the top order was, if not flummoxed, then at least becalmed by Patel, who took one for 36 in his ten overs.
When New Zealand played South Africa in Hamilton, Greatbatch opened the batting in the chase for a target of 191 (Patel had conceded 13 runs in his first seven overs). Greatbatch made 68 off 60 balls, with three sixes.
New Zealand made all the running in the qualifying stage, winning seven of their eight games, losing only the last one, against Pakistan.
Pakistan had had a completely contrasting experience in the qualifying stage. They lost three of their first five games, beating only Zimbabwe. One of the defeats was against arch-rivals India (top scorer Sachin Tendulkar) which made things even worse. Pakistan have yet to beat India in a World Cup match. The game against England was abandoned, but only after Pakistan had been bowled out for 74 (Derek Pringle three for eight). It was after the defeat to South Africa in Brisbane – a game immortalised by the memorable image of Inzamam-ul-haq being run out by Jonty Rhodes – that Pakistan’s captain, Imran Khan, made his celebrated comment about his team playing like ”cornered tigers”; they won all their remaining qualifying games.
Their last victory, by seven wickets against New Zealand in Christchurch (Ramiz Raja making his second century in the tournament), did not guarantee progression into the semi-final; that depended on the result of the final qualifying match between Australia and the West Indies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Australia, inspired by David Boon’s second century of the competition and Mike Whitney’s four wickets, won by 57 runs, thus eliminating the West Indies.
Australia, despite their status as favourites, never really got going, and Richie Richardson’s West Indians blew hot and cold, although they introduced one new star, described by Wisden as “the flowery left-hander “, Brian Lara. India, too, failed to sparkle, winning only two games, the same as Sri Lanka and one more than Zimbabwe.
England were New Zealand’s closest rivals in the qualifying stage, winning five games and losing one, surprisingly, by nine runs, to Zimbabwe, in Albury (Eddo Brandes four-for-21). England had plenty of experience, led by Graham Gooch and Ian Botham, and a useful collection of all-rounders. They had been losing finalists in two of the last three World Cups and were always likely to be a threat.
Joining them in the semi-finals, with New Zealand and Pakistan, were South Africa, led by the former Australian Test-batsman Kepler Wessels. They were always going to be competitive, and, like England, won five games.
Towards the end of the qualifiers New Zealand and Pakistan seemed to pass each other form-wise, and, sure enough, in the first semi-final in Auckland, Pakistan won by four wickets with an over to spare.
Crowe, man of the series won the toss, Greatbatch blasted two sixes off the opening bowlers, and then Crowe himself took over, oozing class as ever and finishing with 91 off 83 balls. In the course of this he tore a hamstring, and then his runner, Greatbatch, ran himself out. New Zealand’s total of 282 for seven seemed competitive, however.
It certainly looked enough when Pakistan needed 123 from 15 overs. Imran, who went in first wicket down, had progressed sedately against Patel and the Kiwis’ selection of dibbly-dobbly merchants. The game was turned, however, by the veteran Javed Miandad (he and Imran are the only players to have appeared in each of the first five World Cups) and the rookie Inzamam. The latter was sensational, making 60 off 37 balls. Javed saw the team home with 57 not out.
In one respect the 1992 World Cup was not modern; there was no Duckworth Lewis method to re-calibrate a contest affected by the weather. This is all anybody remembers about the second semi-final between England and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
England made 252 for eight off 45 overs, with the main contribution coming from Graeme Hick’s 81 off 90 balls, with busy support from Alec Stewart and Neil Fairbrother. South Africa started well and were consistently up with the asking rate. They needed 47 from just over five overs and then, when heavy rain fell for over ten minutes, 22 from 13. But the way the calculations worked their target was reduced to 22 from one. The “spare” day was only available if fewer than 25 overs were bowled in the second innings.
Of the eleven World Cup finals so far, this was probably the best, viewed simply as a contest. Pakistan’s margin of victory, by 22 runs, in front of over 87,000 at the MCG, does not really indicate how close the game was.
There were two critical, game-turning moments. The first came early on when Pakistan, who had won the toss, were reduced to 24 for two by Pringle, who then had a close lbw appeal turned down against Javed. The old maestro stayed with Imran for half the innings, but it laid a platform for the aggressive Inzamam, Wasim Akram and Moin Khan. 153 were added in the last 20 overs and Pakistan finished on 249 for six (Pringle three for 22 in his ten overs).
Even without Waqar Younis, who missed the entire tournament with a stress fracture of the back, Pakistan had a varied and demanding attack. Botham fell early, and Leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed caused problems. The score was 69 for four when the experienced Allan Lamb joined Fairbrother, one of the great finishers. They added 72 in 14 overs but then Wasim, in one of the most extraordinary bursts of fast bowling in any format bowled Lamb and then Chris Lewis with devastating deliveries. There was no comeback from that. It was Imran’s night.
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