February 23, 1992. The fourth match of World Cup cricket 1992 at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) had a bizarre outcome. Neither Pakistan nor West Indies seemed to be in a hurry, and the teams, between them, scored at a sluggish 4.55 runs an over. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at an ODI that witnessed only two dismissals, but yet reached a result.
Of the three teams that had competed in the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup earlier that Australian summer, West Indies had come third — after Australia, and even India. West Indies were certainly not favourites going into World Cup 1992. Pakistan, on the other hand, won the Wills Trophy in Sharjah and the ODI series against Sri Lanka at home, but they lost the ODI series against West Indies, also at home.
Just before they match Pakistan received a major blow as Imran Khan, their captain, was ruled out of the contest with a shoulder injury. Iqbal Sikander, a leg-break bowler, and Wasim Haider, a fast-medium bowler, made their debuts in the match. In a month’s time they would write their names in the history of Pakistan cricket as their first world champions, but that is another story.
Led by Javed Miandad, Pakistan still had a competent side. They two fine young fast bowlers in Wasim Akram and Aaqib Javed, maturing batsmen in Rameez Raja and Saleem Malik, and an exciting young batsman called Inzamam-ul-Haq in their line-up.
West Indies had an outstanding youngster as well — one that went by the name of Brian Lara. With Richie Richardson at the helm and Desmond Haynes at the top and with Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose to share the new ball, the Calypso Kings, despite their recent failure, were no pushovers.
Marshall started proceedings, and there was not a lot of excitement as he and Ambrose bowled tightly, not letting Rameez or Aamer Sohail get away. Rameez flicked Marshall through mid-wicket for the first boundary of the match, but Pakistan reached a mere 27 from 11 overs: neither Rameez (14 from 39) nor Sohail (6 from 28) had done much beyond surviving.
A frustrated Sohail soon hit one back at Ambrose, who could not hold on to the catch with his right hand. However, it was hit so hard that by the time Richardson could retrieve it from the ropes, Sohail and Rameez had run a comfortable four. Energised, Sohail flashed hard at Marshall for another four.
The 15th over saw Sohail survive a tightly run two as he just beat the throw. He went after the next ball from Winston Benjamin, trying to loft it over cover; unfortunately, the ball gathered more altitude than distance, and Gus Logie, one of the finest fielders on the ground that day, took the easiest of catches.
Rameez ambled along with young Inzamam for company. With the score going nowhere, Inzamam, perhaps out of exasperation, hit a flat one from Roger Harper straight to Carl Hooper at mid-wicket. The score read 97 for 2 in the 30th over, and it was evident that it would need a special effort to get Pakistan to a respectable total.
But then, Javed Miandad was a special person. The very sight of the stand-in captain walking out with that trademark nothing-is-wrong-with-the-world smile lifted the spirit of many a Pakistan fan.
Rameez and Javed lift Pakistan
Scoring off Hooper and Harper was not easy. Richardson got them to bowl 13 overs in tandem, and they bowl so quickly that the 40-over mark approached before most realised. Pakistan reached 118 for 2 in 36 overs; Rameez slashed the first ball of Marshall’s next over and edged it for four; his fifty had taken him 116 balls.
Pakistan reached 139 for 2 in 40 overs; which was when Miandad decided to cut loose. West Indies did not field well, and Miandad was certainly not one to let go of such lapses. He ran like a maniac, cut and pulled with glee, and with no signs of pressure showing (as was typical with the legend) he went on scoring.
Rameez went after the balls as well, and the 46th over (bowled by Marshall) went for 15. Miandad took a special liking to Marshall, shuffling across the stumps and leg-glancing him for four in the 49th over. A single off the next ball brought up his fifty — from 56 balls. Rameez flicked Ambrose for two to bring up his hundred — off 157 balls, perhaps in about 20 balls more than what it should have been — in the final over.
Despite the sluggish start, Pakistan finished on 220 for 2. It was not a match-winning score, but certainly a competitive one. Rameez (102 from 158) and Miandad (57 from 61) added 123 for the unbroken third wicket, taking 81 from the last 10 overs.
A prince announces himself
The umpires — Steve Randell and Ian Robinson — were confused. Hooper and Harper had bowled their overs so quickly that despite having Marshall, Ambrose, and Benjamin in the line-up, West Indies had managed to bowl their 50 overs half an hour before the stipulated time. Of course, only 12 boundaries and 2 wickets contributed to the over rate as well.
Wasim began in style, running one through Haynes’ defence in the first over as the ball thudded into the big gloves of Moin Khan. Lara took charge at the other end, flicking Aaqib to the mid-wicket fence twice — once off the front foot, the other off the back — sending the ubiquitous seagulls helter-skelter.
Then Lara took wings: poor Haider was dismissed through cover with nonchalant ease; Miandad had a gully and a point, but Lara bisected them off Haider for four more; a short-arm pull beat mid-wicket. The high back-lift, the lithe footwork, the smooth caresses that sent the balls race to the fence at deceptively quick pace — they all indicated the arrival of a genius at the biggest stage of them all.
Miandad, veteran of many a battle, knew they had to go out flat out for a wicket, but he simply did not have the firepower. The exciting Waqar Younis had already been ruled out of the World Cup. With Imran also missing, the attack became too dependent on Wasim and Aaqib. The inexperience of Haider and Sikander showed, and as back-up bowlers, neither Sohail nor Ijaz Ahmed looked impressive.
Miandad later said in the post-match press conference: “We had two main bowlers [Wasim and Aaqib] and you can’t expect to win the game with bowling like that playing against the best team with the best batsmen.” While he was spot on, at least partially, he made a prediction: West Indies were certainly among the favourites to lift the World Cup.
Moin dropped Haynes off Sohail (the ball took the edge and bounced off Moin’s pad), and with it, Pakistan lost their only opportunity to come back into the match. Haynes leg-glanced the next ball for four; West Indies brought up their 100 in the 23rd over; and shortly afterwards Lara flicked Sikander to bring up his fifty.
The Sohail drop and the Wasim scorcher
If one creates a top-ten list of catches dropped, the one Sohail dropped to give Haynes a life would probably make it — at least in the post-1990 era. Sohail, bowling to a packed off-side field, sent down a long-hop outside off. Haynes, trying to flick it from outside off, top-edged; the ball ballooned in the air, soaring above Sohail’s head; Sohail had the ball in his grip, and then — by some inexplicable miracle — grassed it. It was a drop so ridiculous that Haynes drew an imaginary cross on his chest after it happened.
Lara, meanwhile, was in his zone. When Sikander tossed one up, he stepped out in the most charismatic of dance moves, the back-lift high; he converted the ball to a full-toss, went with the flow; there was not an iota of crudeness in the journey from the back-lift to the follow-through. The ball reached the MCG fence on the bounce.
Sohail tried to contain Lara using a leg-trap, but Lara kept on finding the gap. Miandad got back Wasim, but Lara came down hard, pulling him to the square-leg fence. Another disdainful cover-drive fetched an all-run four. West Indies were cruising.
But then — the bowler in question was Wasim Akram, no less: a brute of a yorker (was there a hint of very late swing?) crashed into Lara’s right boot. Wasim appealed, Robinson turned it down, but the damage had already been done: Lara was injured enough to not continue his 101-ball 88 any further, and had to walk off. The score read 175 in the 37th over.
Seniors finish it off
Haynes and Richardson were in no mood to give Pakistan a chance to get back into the match. Haynes opened up following Lara’s departure, playing a gorgeous cover-drive for four, and leg-glancing Wasim for four more. He brought up West Indies’ 200 in the 44th over with another booming cover-drive off Aaqib.
Richardson joined in the fun, driving Aaqib through wide long-on for four and unleashing the famous bottom-handed swipe past deep mid-wicket for three. Then, with 19 balls to go and two to make, Aaqib bowled two consecutive bouncers. Unfortunately, both were too high and were called no-balls, which sealed the match in West Indies’ favour.
-Pakistan won the World Cup, while West Indies did not make it to the semi-final.
-Haider (economy rate 4.15) and Sikander (4.20) played 7 matches between them in the World Cup. They claimed only 5 wickets between them, but did excellent containing jobs whenever they got opportunities. Surprisingly, despite being World Champions and doing competent jobs, neither played any more international cricket.
-No subsequent ODI has come even remotely close to be decided for a loss of two wickets. The next best, for decided matches that lasted for 90 overs or more, is 6 wickets:
Minimum wickets lost in decided matches; qualification: 540 balls
Pakistan 220 for 2 in 50 overs (Rameez Raja 102*, Javed Miandad 57*) lost to West Indies 221 for no loss in 46.5 overs (Desmond Haynes 93*, Brian Lara 88 retired hurt) by 10 wickets with 19 balls to spare.
Man of the Match: Brian Lara.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)
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