Dave Houghton
Dave Houghton (Getty Images)

In the build-up to the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, CricketCountry brings to you the most memorable moments and matches from the Cricket World Cup – right from its first edition, way back in 1975. With 82 days to go, in our latest World Cup Countdown, we recall how Dave Houghton nearly pulled off an upset before Martin Crowe ended his hopes with an unbelievable catch.

A large crowd had assembled at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Hyderabad, in spite of an unsung New Zealand taking on a Zimbabwe side yet to achieve Test status. Such was the lure of the 1987 World Cup. And all those who had turned up were amply rewarded.

Till nearly the halfway stage of the Zimbabwean innings, the match had followed the expected script. New Zealand had scored 242, with makeshift opener Martin Snedden and the brilliant Martin Crowe getting half centuries. The wily old John Traicos had been miserly, conceding just 28 in his 10 overs.

In reply, Zimbabwe had collapsed to 104 for 7 with only Andy Pycroft managing to reach double figures apart from the breath-taking Houghton.

And then, there had been this amazing turnaround. Ian Butchart had refused to give his wicket away, and Houghton had batted as if cocooned in his wildest dream.

Boundaries had been nonchalantly struck to all corners of the ground, and along with them had sky-rocketed half a dozen sixes. The wicket-keeper batsman had blazed his way to an epic hundred, and had continued in the same vein after that — only significantly more murderous. As runs had come in torrents, the Kiwis had shown signs of panic. Gaping holes had appeared in the field and had been picked with élan by the curly haired Houghton.

The two had added 117, and the equation had been reduced to 22 needed from 21 balls as Snedden had run in. Fresh from a flurry of boundaries, and tiring after almost three hours under the Deccan sun, Houghton had noticed the mid-on up in the circle, the boundary invitingly stretching out behind him. Both feet in the air, he had swung mightily. The ball soared over the fielder. Thousands of eyes turned towards the fence — all but Martin Crowe’s. His eyes never left the ball.

The ball looked all set to win the race, when the fielder flung himself — full stretch. And somehow, he got his hands to it — and the ball stuck! He tumbled and rolled but held on. Crowe completed one of the greatest-ever catches.

A miraculous innings had been brought to an end by an equally incredible catch. Houghton could not believe his eyes, and perhaps neither could Crowe as he looked at the red cherry clutched in his palm. The Zimbabwean hero walked back for 142 magnificent runs, scored from 137 balls, studded with 13 fours and 6 sixes.

The minnows lost the match by 3 runs.

Brief Scores: New Zealand 242 for 7 in 50 overs (Martin Snedden 64, Martin Crowe 72) beat Zimbabwe 239 in 49.4 overs (Dave Houghton 142, Iain Butchart 54) by 3 runs