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Cricket World Cup - final match
Australia wins Cup in crushing victory over Pakistan

By Adrian Porter

LONDON, 22 June 1999 - After the high drama and emotion-draining excitement of the sem-final between Australia and South Africa, nobody expected the final match of the cricket World Cup to achieve similar peaks of sporting performance. The closing contest between Australia and Pakistan, however, was so much of an anti-climax that it almost registered as a non-event.

The reason was simply that the Australians had, at the ultimate moment, reached the summit of their abilities. So much so that it was almost a matter of course for them to crush the Pakistanis. And what a crunch: Pakistan all out for 132 in 39 overs Australia 133 for 2 wickets in 20.3 overs. Victory by 8 wickets.

The match was over with two hours to spare and those spectators, especially Pakistanis, who had paid up to 500 pounds for a black market ticket at Lords must have felt done down and dusted.

Their only recompense was briefly to see the consumate bowling skills of a resurgent Shane Warne (4 wickets for 33 runs in 9 overs) and the ever-deadly Glen McGrath (2 for 13 in 9), the acrobatic catching and fielding of players like Mark Waugh and Rickie Ponting and, above all, the steely determination of captain, Steve Waugh.

One felt sorry for the Pakistanis in having to meet the Aussies just as they reached the apogee of their individual talents and team affinity.

Looking back, one felt even more sorry for the South Africans who came within a whisker of overcoming the Aussies in the semi-final. One more run and they would have been in what, most people consider, would also have been a one-sided final in their favour.

There was recognition, at least, of one South African hero, Lance Klusener - the man I had backed for the award - was named "Player of the Tournament" for his bravura performances in smiting boundries and making quick runs in snatching victory against the odds or merely pulverising opposing bolwers into submission. His tournament record of 281 runs from 230 balls and out only twice tells it all.

There were other characters who burst into prominence in the tournament.
Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan, regularly bowling at speeds of more than 90 miles over an hour, captured the imagination; especially of the female fans. Big, floppy-haired and handsome, he demonstrated sheer raw power as he charged in like an express train. He gave it his all but, most importantly, he managed to control all of his deliveries. He fell well below expectations in the final but, if he doesn't burn himself out in his untamed enthusiasm - for partying as well as playing cricket - he will be one of the major fast bowlers in years to come.

One dark horse who emerged out of the stable into the light was Neil Johnson of Zimbabwe who scored 367 runs and took 12 wickets. With his consistent performances, he helped push unfancied Zimbabwe almost to the semi-finals.

Almost an old timer in cricketing terms, Roger Twose of New Zealand, caught the attention by making runs when it mattered. Formerly with Warwickshire, Twose was ignored by England's cricket selectors so he went New Zealand to prove his abilities. Perhaps though, his English experience galvanised him into seeking an alternative career. On the day before the match against India, Twose was sitting an examination paper in his degree course in business management.

English selectors may make up for their surrender of Twose to New Zealand by having a good, hard look at Gavin Hamilton who shone out in his games for Scotland. He also plays for Yorkshire and is, in fact, qualified for England if anyone cares to keep an eye on him.

But what of those who were seen to fail in the tournament - the team captains held responsible for returning in less than glory? Arjuna Ranatunga has already been fired by Sri Lanka. Alec Stewart of England is to be replaced by his vice-captain, Nasser Hussain. Wasim Akram's fate on his return to Pakistan is not yet known but a victory in the final might have relieved the pressure on him and others in awaiting high court judgments due soon on allegations of bribery, betting and match-fixing.

Prize for the biggest blooper in the tourney goes, almost without dissent, to poor Herschelle Gibbs of South Africa who is held culpable for his side's loss to Australia in the last "Super Six" match. He appeared to have caught Steve Waugh when he was 56 but then tried to throw the ball up in a gesture of accomplishment before he had it fully under control. It fell to the ground and Waugh survived to make 120 not out. Gibbs's goof sends a message, to all modern cricketers who play to the camera and crowd - "Don't show off too much".

Lesser blooper awards must go:

(1) to the official who introduced a scoring system about run rates which required a first class honours degree in pure mathematics and/or computer science to comprehend.

(2) to those who approved the use of heavily-lacquared white balls which quickly got so dirty that they had to be replaced regularly.

(3) to umpires who stuck so rigidly to loosely written rules that no fewer than 980 wides were called during the competition.

(4) to the marketing men who made so little effort to publicise copies of the tournament anthem - "All over the World" - that only 150 copies were sold before they were withdrawn from sale.

One final note from me on the World Cup. To those who now hail "One day" or "limited-overs" or "Pyjama Game" cricket (call it what you will) as the death knell of the traditional game, please remember that only four out of the 41 matches offered exciting finishes.

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 1st Week: A Commonwealth Row and High Tech Foul Up Cricketing Traditions
Results of 2nd Week: Umpires Upset Bookmakers With Excessive Wide Balls
Results of 3rd week: Zimbabwe and Bangladesh topple giants to make "Super Six" round
First week of the "Super Six" Pakistan and South Africa in arm-pumping finish
Second week of the "Super Six"Australia snatches victory from South Africa

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