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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Lesser blooper awards must go:
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.