World Cup Countdown: 1992 – Rain rule robs South Africa of final shot
The scoreboard at the SCG displays the absurdity of the rain rule. © Getty

In the build-up to the 2019 ICC Cricket World CupCricketCountry brings to you the most memorable moments and matches from the tournament over the years – right from its first edition, way back in 1975. With 65 days to go, in our latest World Cup Countdown, here’s a look back to March 22, 1992 when South Africa ended up heartbroken on account of a farcical rain rule at the SCG. 

The second semi-final of the 1992 World Cup, between England and South Africa – playing their first World Cup since the end of their 21-year Apartheid-induced isolation – was shaping up to be a tight captivating game until the weather intervened near the end and a glaring mistake was shown in the rules of the tournament.

Having put England in, South Africa kept them to 252 off their allocated 45 overs with Graeme Hick, scoring an excellent 83 off just 90 balls. (READ: Were South Africa really robbed of a victory against England?)

Like England, South Africa batted as a unit and were making a good fist of their reply thanks to Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson, who were joined when the asking was 47 runs from 31 deliveries. As the floodlights came on and the fans at the SCG sat on the edge of their seats, McMillan and Richardson batted sensibly and put on 25 off 18 balls. As McMillan took guard at the start of the 43rd over, bowled by Chris Lewis, the rain arrived.

At this time, South Africa needed 22 runs from 13 deliveries, which was a big ask but not impossible.

Aware of the complications of the rain rule, which deducted runs from the most economical overs of the first innings off the actual target, McMillan and Richardson stayed out in the middle. But when the umpires offered the option of leaving the field, England captain Graham Gooch, citing slippery ground conditions, led his players away. (READ: World Cup Countdown: Inzamam-ul-Haq knocks out New Zealand)

England vs South Africa 1992 World Cup semi-final: When a fascinating match was ruined by farcical rain-rule
Graham Gooch shakes hands with Brian McMillan after England’s controversial win. © Getty

The rain stopped after 12 minutes. With the SCG floodlights in full effect and a reserve day available for the taking, perhaps no player or spectator assumed anything but the completion of the remaining 13 balls. (READ: World Cup Countdown: Eddo Brandes, chicken farmer, stuns England)

But when the rain stopped, the equation skyrocketed from 22 off 13 balls before the break to 21 off one ball!

It was a farce, and the heartbroken South Africans shook their heads in disbelief, with some shedding tears. England won by 19 runs, aided by the most clerical implementation of rules.

What happened next?

Th rain rule was replaced for ODI matches in Australia after the World Cup as a result of this incident, and it was eventually superseded by the Duckworth-Lewis method for the 1999 World Cup onwards.

England went to play Pakistan in the final of the tournament while South Africa, dejected, had to return home empty handed.