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On March 5, 1992, Ian Botham wielded his mystical magic against the hosts Australia, to take England to a magnificent win in the World Cup. It was for the umpteenth time that Botham with his heroics had shattered the dreams of Australian team. Bharath Ramaraj has more…
In the bygone days of 1970s and 80s, England’s star all-rounder Ian Botham seemed to have cast a spell over their traditional rivals, Australia. Virtually, every time Australia played England, Botham used to lord over them by touching celestial heights in terms of glittering performances. Botham haunted Australia to such an extent that even rank long hops and gift-wrapped short and wide deliveries helped him to fetch crucial wickets.
In the 1992 Benson and Hedges World Cup league game between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), he was yet again in the thick of the things by scalping four wickets for zero runs in a seven-ball spell to break the camel’s back. He followed it up with a thrill-a-minute fifty to take England to a fabulous win.
Australian team already under the pump for losing to New Zealand in the World Cup opener and then being browbeaten by an energetic South African setup, dropped the experienced Geoffrey Marsh and picked Tom Moody to open the batting. There was still no place for arguably their finest stroke-maker during that time, Mark Waugh. He was asked to do the 12th man duties.
Australian skipper Allan Border won the toss and chose to bat. However, it was England who were in the ascendancy after Mark Taylor was trapped dead in front to an in-swinger that straightened down the line from workhorse swing bowler, Derek Pringle. Taylor certainly paid the price for hanging back in the crease and playing across the line. David Boon followed Taylor back to the pavilion, as Neil Fairbrother effected a breathtaking direct-hit to run him out. It was a huge blow for Australia, as Boon was in good form, and square-cuts had already started to flow from his willow like a gigantic river. Moody and the ever-reliable stroke-maker Dean Jones though, steadied the ship and took them to a position from where they could go for the jugular.
Just in nick of time, the enigmatic bowling all-rounder Phil Defreitas took the crucial wicket of Jones, with the athletic fielder Chris Lewis completing a fine catch at backward point position. With the engine room of Australia, Jones back in the pavilion, Australia had to yet again rebuild the innings. They were dealt a further blow when Moody’s stumps went for a walk in the park after he gloved a delivery from slow left-arm, (SLA) Phil Tufnell onto the stumps. It opened the floodgates for Botham to wield his magic on the hapless Australian batsmen.
In the 38th over of the game, Botham turned the tables by scalping Australia’s go-to-man in times of crisis and their captain, Allan Border, with a gentle inswinger that swerved in the air to shatter his stumps.
Ian Healy, the doughty fighter didn’t last long, as he chipped it to straight to Fairbrother at mid-wicket off Botham’s inspired bowling. Peter Taylor was trapped lbw and Australia’s speedster, Craig McDermott was also taken care off by Botham.
Botham’s houdini act had silenced the noisy crowd and left Australian team in a state of trance. They trudged along for the last nine overs of the innings by amassing a mere 16 runs to finish up with a paltry score of 171 on the board.
The only chance Australia had to comeback into the game was to take early wickets. The giant Bruce Reid and especially, Craig McDermott came charging into the crease like crazed bulls. McDermott even repeatedly beat the bat of England skipper, Gooch, and was a trifle unlucky not to get the edge.
Botham, batting at the other end though, took the gargantuan task of shredding Australian bowlers to shreds. He must have given Reid a few nightmares by clambering him with audacious pulls and cuts. Botham’s coup de main finally ended when he fell to the preserving left-arm seamer, Mike Whitney. But by then, his enterprising knock of 53 had taken the game away from Australia’s grasp.
When Robin Smith and Graeme Hick calmly knocked off the remaining runs, it felt like Botham had dealt a knock-out punch at the Australian setup. The forlorn look on the grumpy face of Border said it all. Botham duly was declared as the Man of the Match for his spellbinding show. This performance by Botham turned out to be the last hurrah of his eventful career.
Australia struggled with their team composition for the rest of the tournament and the hosts couldn’t reach the semi-finals. The columnist, who had watched Australia bestrode the entire summer in 1991-92 by thumping opponents, rubbed his eyes in sheer disbelief several times at the enervated performances put up by the hosts in the World Cup. It is still believed that the long Australian summer had drained their players completely.
On the other end of the spectrum, emboldened by Botham’s heart-stirring efforts against Australia, England went from strength-to-strength to reach the final of the tournament. However, in the summit clash against Pakistan at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), they were flagged down by a mercurial, but supremely talented side.
Australia 171 in 49 overs (Tom Moody 51, Steve Waugh 27; Ian Botham 4 for 31) lost to England 173 for 2 in 40.5 overs (Graham Gooch 58, Ian Botham 53; Mike Whitney 1 for 28) by 8 wickets.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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