England vs Pakistan, Benson & Hedges World Cup Final, Melbourne, March 25,1992
Pakistan won by 22 runs
Pakistan’s first-ever entry into World Cup final was a tale of a battered and bruised team that engineered a turnaround just when it seemed like they would take the elimination route. Wasim Akram ensured a fairytale ending to the script with his all round brilliance in front of 87,000-plus fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Akram’s first major contribution came with the bat after Imran Khan called correctly and opted to bat. He strode out with his team needing a move-on if they were to set England a challenging target. There was an air of aggressive intent as he took guard. He greeted Ian Botham with disdain, thumping him through the covers and swatting another to the mid-wicket boundary. A six off Chris Lewis sent the Pakistan supporters into ecstasy.
Inzamam-ul-Haq (42 off 35 balls) and Wasim Akram (33 off 18 balls) tore into the English attack and plundered 52 in six overs – decisive runs in the end analysis.
Needing 250 for victory, England were yet again dealt a major blow by Akram, who got rid of the dangerous Botham for duck and with just six on the board. Just the start Pakistan needed. Akram enticed Botham with one that moved away after pitching to have the burly all-rounder caught behind.
“He [Botham] is a very good friend of mine now and he still says he didn’t nick it,” Akram once said.
England kept losing wickets to be 69 for four before Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb brought about a semblance of stability with a partnership of 72 for the fifth wicket.
Imran Khan brought back Akram into the attack in the 35th over and the left-arm seamer repaid his skipper’s faith by having Lamb bowled with an away swinger. The MCG erupted when, off the next ball, Akram produced a ripper of a ball to uproot Chris Lewis’s offstump. The ball jagged back sharply after pitching on the off to beat the batsman all end’s up.
”It was one of the brightest moments of my cricketing career. I was over the moon after bowling Chris Lewis and I was a little nervous about the hat-trick. You know it is a dream come true for any player to perform in the final of a World Cup,” Akram said about his stellar bowling show.
Akram did not get a hat-trick, but his twin strikes knocked the stuffing out of England to pave the way for Pakistan’s greatest moment in World Cup history.
Akram’s crucial 31 runs and the wickets of Botham, Lamb and Lewis ensured that he deservedly emerged as Man of the Final.