The fourth men’s World Cup, the Reliance Cup, the first to be held outside England, was a great success in every way.
Staged in India and Pakistan between 8 October and 8 November 1987, the tournament was very popular in the host countries and widely broadcast on television. There were far more close and exciting games than in the three earlier World Cups. The only disappointment for the organisers was that, contrary to expectations and, to some extent to the run of play, neither host nation reached the final.
The format was the same as for the 1983 version. There were eight teams – the seven Test sides plus Zimbabwe – divided into two groups with each side playing each other group member twice. The leading two from each group qualified for the semi-finals.
Group A got off to a thrilling start in Madras, where Australia beat India by one run. Australia’s 270 for six was built around a determined century by opener Geoff Marsh. He put on 110 for the first wicket with David Boon at almost five an over and Dean Jones made a scintillating 39 (one of his two sixes had been wrongly signalled as four; Kapil Dev’s insistence, during the innings break, that the error be corrected, had a momentous impact on the match.) India too started in sprightly fashion. Sunil Gavaskar actually hit a six, and the belligerent Navjot Singh Sidhu hit five. At one point they were 207 for three but Craig McDermott ran through the middle order and the tail found the pressure too much. Young all-rounder Steve Waugh, entrusted with the last over, with India’s last pair needing just six to win, bowled Maninder Singh after conceding two twos.
The first Group B game, in Hyderabad (Pakistan) wasn’t exactly a thriller but it was more interesting than many had anticipated. The favourites, Pakistan ran up 267 for six (Javed Miandad 103, Ramiz Raja 76. Sri Lanka, facing the best attack in the competition, including leading wicket taker Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir got to within 15 runs of the target.
Sri Lanka failed to win a game. Likewise Zimbabwe, but their captain, Dave Houghton, played what many judges regarded as the innings of the tournament, 141 out of 239, against New Zealand in Hyderabad (India) as his team lost by three runs. New Zealand won their other game against Zimbabwe in Calcutta, but lost their other games and Australia and India progressed to the semi-final stage with relative ease.
Group B was more competitive. This was indicated early on when England won a hard-fought game in Gujranwala against West Indies – still seemingly the dominant side in world cricket but lacking Malcolm Marshall in this competition – by two wickets. Allan Lamb (62 not out) was the hero as England chased down a total of 243 for seven. England’s target with three overs to go was 35, and they got there with three balls to spare. England won their second games against West Indies, in Jaipur, as well (Graham Gooch 92, Phil DeFreitas three for 28) and it was this that saw England through. Pakistan won all their games. in another amazing finish in Lahore they beat West indies in the game’s last over, by one wicket. Imran had taken four for 37 as West Indies were bowled out for 216. In the 35th over Pakistan were 110 for five. Wicketkeeper Salim Yousuf put them back in contention but they still needed 14 off the last over bowled as in Gujranwala, by Courtney Walsh. He could have done a “Mankad” on Salim Jaffer but chose not to. Instead, Qadir hit those 14 runs.
In Lahore Pakistan lost their third World Cup semi-final in a row, Australia winning by 17 runs. Australia batted solidly all down the order, Boon making 65 (stumped by substitute keeper Miandad), Mike Veletta 48 and Jones 38. At the end Waugh clobbered 18 off a Jaffer over. Pakistan were soon 38 for three and although Miandad made 73 and Imran 58, they were never quite there. McDermott polished off the tail in short order to finish with five for 44.
The next day – Guy Fawkes Day – England pulled off something quite revolutionary and explosive by beating the holders, India, comfortably, by 35 runs. Gooch (115) and captain Mike Gatting (56) were the principal contributors to a total of 254 for six. Lamb made a lively 32 not out at the end. India never really recovered from losing Gavaskar in DeFreitas’s first over. The stroke-makers, Sidhu and Kris Srikkanth never got going Mohammed Azharuddin made 54 but there wasn’t enough support. Off spinner Eddie Hemmings took four for 52.
So it was a somewhat unexpected duo who met in the final in Calcutta, Australia edging a close encounter by seven runs. Marsh and the consistent Boon (75, his fifth fifty in six innings) put on 53 in ten overs for Australia’s first wicket. Later, Veletta and the captain Allan Border put on 73 in ten overs; this was after Neil Foster had conceded just 16 in eight overs.
253 for five was not insurmountable, but in this tournament no side had yet successfully chased as many. But England started well despite opener Tim Robinson being beaten for pace by his first ball from McDermott. Gooch and Bill Athey put on 65 in 17 overs; when Gooch was out with the score on 66 for two, Athey was joined by Gatting. They took the score to 135 for two.
Poor “Gatt”. He had an exceptionally distinguished career. 36,000 runs and 94 centuries in first-class cricket, an Ashes winning Test captain in Australia, MCC President… Yet the things most people remember are the fracas with umpire Shakoor Rana in Faisalabad in 1987-88, which was certainly very bad, and what happened when England reached 135 for two in their run chase in the World Cup final a year or so earlier.
In their match winning stand against India in the semi-final Gatting and Gooch adopted the tactic of sweeping the Indian spinners. Gatting did the same now against Tim May and Border. On 41 he attempted a reverse sweep off Border but managed to send the ball, via his shoulder, only as far as keeper Greg Dyer. It has to be remembered that the reverse sweep was a relatively new, almost eccentric stroke at this time: “a moment too crass to contemplate” was Wisden’s verdict.
It was the break Australia desperately needed, and they pounced. Waugh ran out Athey (58) and then bowled Lamb for 45 in the 47th over (218 for six). DeFreitas hit 14 off the 48th but Waugh conceded only 2 off the 49th and dismissed DeFreitas. England were never going to make 17 off McDermott’s last over.
It was a great win for Australia, and a genuine turning point. The 1980s had been difficult: a transition period with great players leaving, the South African rebel tour, two successive Ashes defeats. Slowly, Border had been rebuilding, relying on character as much as natural talent. Before too long Australia were one of the greatest of all teams.
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