The Australian team celebrates on the Lord’s balcony after annihilating Pakistan in the 1999 final World Cup final © Getty Images
The Australian team celebrates on the Lord’s balcony after annihilating Pakistan in the 1999 final World Cup final © Getty Images

On June 20, 1999, Pakistan abjectly surrendered to Australia in the final of the World Cup at the Lord’s. Shane Warne’s brilliance, the collective effort from Australia and the eagerness to win helped them reach the pinnacle of glory, writes Sarang Bhalerao.

It was touted to be the battle of the equals. On the eve of the coveted World Cup final, the rival captains — Steve Waugh and Wasim Akram — sounded confident. After a poor start to the World Cup where Australia lost their preliminary matches to New Zealand and Pakistan, they picked up the momentum by winning four matches on the trot, including the heart-stopper against South Africa in the semi-final at Edgbaston.

For Pakistan, the road to the final was rough. After winning four matches in a row, they lost three matches, including a shocking defeat against Bangladesh which showed the mercurial nature of the Pakistan side. The last two wins included a thoroughly professional performance against New Zealand in the semi-final where Pakistan won the game by nine wickets.

The atmosphere before the start of the final at Lord’s was electrifying, with expectations of a lip-smacking contest. There was a slight drizzle which delayed the game by half-an-hour. The decibel levels were deafening by the sea of green inside the ground.

When Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat, the noise levels amplified.

In walked Pakistan openers Saeed Anwar and Wajahtullah Wasti exuding confidence — buoyed by their stand of 194 in the previous game. Anwar authoritatively hit Glenn McGrath for a boundary in the first over to underline that confidence. The shot promised a lot. He followed that up with a brilliant backfoot punch off Damien Fleming.

It took a remarkable diving catch by Mark Waugh to dismiss Wasti. Anwar took a long break to change the grip of his handle after McGrath got Wasti.

Anwar was in the “zone”, and the two sublime boundaries were early indicators of his confidence and class. But after that mini-break, Anwar played a rash shot and was bowled off Fleming — courtesy of an inside edge that disturbed his stumps. At 21 for two, it was advantage Australia.

Abdul Razzaq and Ijaz Ahmed started the repair work with the Australian bowling looking incisive. McGrath and Fleming were bowling in the right channels. Paul Reiffel, however, was a tad wayward. He strayed on the pads on several occasions which released the pressure on the batsmen.

Just when Pakistan looked like getting back in the game, Razzaq played an impetuous lofted shot off Reiffel. The ball went straight to Glenn McGrath at long-off. But to everyone’s surprise he spilled a lollypop. Steve Waugh ranted expletives. Was Australia losing their grip on the game?

Luckily the dropped catch was not costly as Razzaq was soon dismissed by Moody.

The resplendent Shane Warne now took the centre-stage with his guile and dazzling leg-spin. The Pakistan batsmen danced to Warne’s tunes. Ijaz was the first to fall prey to Warne — a routine leg-break which exposed Ijaz’s ineptitude to show the necessary footwork.

Moin Khan tried to dab Warne but ended up offering a simple catch to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist. The noisy bugles became less noisy. The Australian flags were out.

The hopes of posting a respectable score rested on Inzamam-ul-Haq. But Inzi was out trying to work the ball towards third-man off Reiffel. Pakistan were clearly in trouble with still 20-odd overs remaining of the allotted quota. There were no demons on the Lord’s wicket. If any, the demons were in the minds of the Pakistan players.

Shahid Afridi played a couple of enterprising shots and perished trying to paddle Warne. The onus of batting out the overs was now on all-rounders Azhar Mahmood and captain Akram. But the task was Herculean, especially in view of the fact that the Australian bowlers were bowling brilliantly.

Pakistan looked hopeless and were bowled out for a paltry total of 132 in 39 overs. That Mr Extras top scored in the innings reflected the misery of the Pakistan innings.

In 1983 at this very venue, India were dismissed cheaply for 183 against West Indies and yet turned the tables on the all-conquering, two-times champions. Could Pakistan do a Houdini Act?

Akram and Shoaib Akhtar’s early strikes were the only way Pakistan could hope to come back in the game after their dismal batting performance.

Shoaib ran like a gazelle, stretched every sinew of his body, and hurled himself furiously. He found Adam Gilchrist’s top-edge, but the ball flew to the boundary. Gilchrist used Shoaib’s searing pace to his advantage, guiding the “Rawalpindi Express” over the first slip for a six. Shoaib’s four testing overs cost him 37 runs. Gilchrist’s policy of fighting fire with fire worked wonders for Australia. The raucous Pakistan supporters had done everything: from standing in the long queue since early morning hours to shouting their lungs out. They could do no more. Pakistan heightened their misery by fielding  poorly. They looked a beaten side.

Gilchrist brought up a fine fifty which shunted the comeback door on Pakistan. He was dismissed soon by Saqlain Mushtaq, caught by Inzamam at mid-off who broke his hand in the process. For the second time in the match, Inzamam walked forlornly back to the pavilion. The damage was done. The consolation prize [Gilchrist’s wicket] meant nothing to Pakistan. In walked Ricky Ponting who played delectable shots only to add to Pakistan’s woes. Their battered souls got momentary relief to see Ponting back when on 24.

But Mark Waugh was batting with calm as usual. Needing four runs to win, Darren Lehmann cut Saqlain for a boundary and Pakistan finally reached the cul de sac. The Australian balcony was jubilant.

“They bowled well and they fielded well and they were mentally tough. We had a bad day,” said Akram. This was as terse a description as it could have been.

“We have had pressure in every game, but we have hung in there every moment we could. Mental toughness can be contagious. Once you see your team-mates come through adversity, other people put their hands up and want to be the next to do it,” said World-Cup winning captain Steve Waugh.

There was one point in the competition when their batting was failing to put the scores, the bowlers were average. There came a point when Australia had to win every single game to win the cup. Four times they were on the verge of getting knocked out. But they won all the four games; the side just never gave up. “You cannot win these sorts of games if you are not a tight-knit unit,” Waugh said, expounding the value of “an inner strength and belief in your ability, and a belief in your team-mates.”

Australia grew from strength to strength and the final knock-out punch delivered to Pakistan showed their mercilessness. In the final Australia’s collective effort and the eagerness to win helped them reach the pinnacle of glory.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 132 in 39 overs (Ijaz Ahmed 22; Shane Warne 4 for 33, Glenn McGrath 2 for 13) lost to Australia 133 for 2 in 20.1 overs (Adam Gilchrist 54, Mark Waugh 33*) by 8 wickets.

Man of the Match: Shane Warne

In photos: Australia vs Pakistan, ICC World Cup 1999 Final

(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)