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Cricket World Cup:
A Commonwealth Row and High Tech
Foul Up Cricketing Traditions

By Adrian Porter

LONDON, 22 May 1999 - Just as it seemed that the seventh cricket World Cup tourney had settled into a predictable groove with the major players beating the small fry, up came a couple of upsets.

First, lowly-rated Zimbabwe took the smile off the face of the Indian tiger. Then New Zealand walloped the wallabies - their great rivals from across the Tasman Sea, Australia.

In the more sensational finish of the two matches, India managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by losing their last three wickets in one over when they needed only four runs to win.

The hero of this David-over-Goliath kind of triumph was Henry Olonga, a burly, black fast bowler with a funky peroxide-blond hair style, who was, surprisingly, called on to bowl after his previous spell had included six wides. He needed only one over to finish the job.

The New Zealand-Australia contest proved that those pundits who had tipped a good outsider to beat a tested favourite knew that dogged tenacity could triumph over talent and flair.

Simply by sticking to a tight game in the field and then batting sensibly with only the occasional flourish of big hits, New Zealand won through.

A prize for the least heroic performance went to underdogs, Scotland, who managed to equal a World Cup record by bowling 59 wides and no-balls in their game against Pakistan. The men from the land of kilts and haggis then went on to make only 366 runs in chasing 262.

Other than that, the first week of the tournament has proceeded much as expected but they have all lost, in the end, to more powerful and experienced opponents.

It seemed, for instance, that Sri Lanka were about to bowl out the favourites, South Africa, for a moderate total when in strode Lance Klusener, a belligerent fast bowler with a penchant for big hitting.

Bam! Bam! Bam! he went - to clobber the Sri Lankan bowlers for 52 runs in 45 balls, including 18 off the final four balls of the game.

With activity on the field following predictable outcomes, it has been left to off-the-field shenanigans to provide most of the surprise and drama so far.

For example, the wily Australian leg-spin bowler and trouble-maker, Shane Warne, ruffled feathers by calling into question the sportnsmanship of the Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranatunga - a querulous individual, who is far from the top of any cricketers' popularity list.

"The game would be better off without him", said Warne. "I don't like him and I'm not in a club of one. I don't know how many times he is going to do the wrong thing and get away with it."

Ranatunga, who is not a man to suffer Australian verbiage in silence, retorted: "Warne's attack is more about Warne and Australian culture than about me and I think we all know where the Australians come from."

One could hardly hear the Australian protests for the rattling of old convict chains.

Not long after this, the South Africans fell foul of cricketing traditions and official ire by trying to introduce modern electronic technology into the game.

Their captain, Hansie Cronje, was spotted, while on the field, wearing a radio earphone through which he was receiving advice and instructions from the team's coach, Bob Woolmer.

Officials huffed that this was a cutting edge too deep and in keeping more with smarty pant American football practices than the age old game of willow bat and leather ball. A ban has been enforced until the matter can be quietly considered after the competition.

The issue, of course, is likely to finish up in as much a fog as the officials created at the ceremonies to open the tournament. This began on a misty, damp morning in London with an ill-conceived fireworks display which left the ground so wreathed in smoke that play was held up almost half an hour.


Group A

England beat Sri Lanka by 8 wickets

England beat Kenya by 9 wickets

South Africa beat India by 4 wickets

South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 89 runs

Zimbabwe beat Kenya by 5 wickets

Zimbabwe beat India by 3 runs

Group B

Australia beat Scotland by 6 wickets

New Zealand beat Bangladesh by 6 wickets

New zealand beat Australia by 5 wickets

Pakistan beat West Indies by 27 runs

Pakistan beat Scotland by 95 runs

The top three countries in Group A will meet the top three in Group B in a "Super Six" play-off beginning on June 4th.

Adrian Porter spent a working lifetime as a foreign correspondent for the BBC and other news organisations in various parts of the world. As a cricket fanatic, he managed to find time to play the game in such unlikely places as Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Singapore and New York. His latest venture was to help establish a cricket team in Strasbourg and looks forward to a team from France playing in the World Cup.

Photos in this series courtesy The Book of British Sporting Heroes, compiled by James Huntingdon-Whiteley, published to accompany the exhibition, British Sporting Heroes, held at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 16 October 1998 to 24 January 1999, and available at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London WC2H 0HE

Read Adrian Porter's weekly articles on the Cricket World Cup

Opening article: Domination is the Name of the Game
Results of 2nd Week: Umpires Upset Bookmakers With Excessive Wide Balls

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