Australia's gritty show

SANJAY RAJAN

David Boon (75), who laid the foundation for Australia's innings, was named the man of the match.-ALL SPORT

AUSTRALIA'S moment finally arrived in 1987; a full 12 years after the maiden World Cup, in which, tagged strong favourite, its dream had been shattered at the summit by that Caribbean super cat Clive Lloyd.

Australia was the pioneer in the propagation of overs-limit cricket, and so the World champion tag a just reward. But it most certainly was not the favourite in the fourth edition, sponsored by Reliance and jointly hosted by India and Pakistan, on two counts: the conditions and the fact that Allan Border was in the process of rebuilding a National team that had disintegrated over a few years.

For that matter, the Ashes foes clashing for the crown here in itself was a surprise. Defending champion India and Pakistan were hot favourites, given their familiarity with the conditions among other things. But then, the final tussle was born out of the ashes of India and Pakistan, so to say, Mike Gatting's men and Border's boys putting it across the sub-continent teams respectively in the semifinals.

The last-four clashes proved that in overs-limit cricket the minnows have as much chance as the giants, with everything revolving around a day's play. Of course luck plays a part, but the side has to be good too. The fact that both Australia and England progressed through a two-leg league system and tough semifinal encounters only goes to show that the teams, both sound, held their nerves and grabbed the chances that came their way. England was touted the favourite, as it successfully progressed through a tougher route, felling two-time champion West Indies in the quarterfinals and the defending champion in the semifinals. Bowling was England's strong point, its attack second only to Pakistan in the league phase. Its batting lacked the depth though, with John Emburey walking in at No. 6. But professionalism was the feature of this English side, with the top order batsmen well aware of their responsibilities. Graham Gooch was in good form and with Gatting and others chipping in usefully, the side mustered a fighting total. A triumph here could change the fortunes of Australian cricket, rekindle the enthusiasm for the sport that had been ebbing away. A new crop of performers were emerging in this side. David Boon and Geoff Marsh were rock-like and Dean Jones was maturing on the right lines. Border's experience was always there to back on. Its bowling, however, wasn't sufficient, especially the new-ball attack with Bruce Reid out of form though Craig McDermott compensated for this admirably. But Australia's fielding was the better of the two.

With no side having successfully chased 250 in the tournament, and both teams possessing equal ability to get off to a good score on batting first, it was clear that a side would opt to bat on winning the toss. Moreover, in Calcutta in November (the final was played on the 8th), the ball keeps low and is slower in the afternoons, which most certainly puts the side chasing through a lot of trouble.

It was the closest final in the Cup history, with Australia, which won the toss, clinching the encounter by just seven runs.

Allan Border not only chipped in with a useful 31 but also showed his bowling ability taking two wickets for 38.-ALL SPORT

England's professionalism cracked in the face of Australia's display of grit and determination. And nothing signifies the Aussie spirit better than Allan Border, a part-time left-arm spinner, backing his ability as a bowler in what was the turning point of the contest.

Chasing a none-too-difficult 254 for victory, England was on cruise mode with Gatting and Bill Athey taking the score to 135 for two in 31 overs in what was a superb build up to the final assault. Gatting was a fine player of spin while Athey had settled down beautifully to the task ahead. Border took it upon himself to break the stand, coming on in the slog situation to give his medium pacers more breathing space.

Gatting was the danger man, really, for he had a high rate of success against the `old foes.' Border struck immediately, as Gatting's reverse-sweep of what seemed a wide delivery ended a top-edge. A suicidal shot. But as Gatting explained later, "One has to take risks in overs-limit cricket, particularly when you are chasing. This stroke has paid me dividends in the past, but then you need some luck too."

England's asking rate was climbing rapidly, but the side still had Athey and in Allan Lamb a batsman with the ability to swing the match. At that point, Australia's fielding wasn't up to the mark either.

Bill Athey top-scored for England with a fluent 58.-ALL SPORT

But when young Steve Waugh, bowling his medium pace accurately, induced Lamb into a wild swipe to be bowled and Athey run out while going for a risky third it heralded the beginning of the end. Emburey was run out. Phil DeFreitas played a short, sweet aggressive knock before holing out in the long-off boundary off Waugh. Border was eloquent in his praise for Waugh. "In Steve I had the man for the occasion," Border said after the contest. Medium pacer Simon O'Donnell too bowled with great accuracy and economy while also accounting for the dangerous Gooch leg-before. The man of the match, however, was David Boon, whose 75 and opening-wicket stand of 75 with Geoff Marsh and 76-run stand for the next wicket with Dean Jones laid the base for Australia's 250-plus score. The English mediumpacers, striving for more pace on an unhelpful pitch, kept erring on the short side and Boon revelled, square-cutting with power and precision. But the side was under pressure when Jones, McDermott (who was promoted to No. 4 as pinch-hitter) and Boon fell in the space of three overs. But Mike Veletta and Border got together for a 73-run fifth-wicket stand in which Veletta was the motive force and runs came at seven an over. "I am delighted to have taken Australia to victory. As I said before, it was a reward for fine collective talent and hard efforts. A major share of the credit should go to our cricket manager Bob Simpson who was the inspiration behind every move of ours," said Border.

"I must confess we had a relatively easy time while batting. For, in the afternoon, the pitch did aid spin a bit. In any one-day match much depends on a sound start. We were lucky that Boon and Marsh struck in tandem to make things easier for us. Our major threat as far as English batting was concerned was from Gooch, Gatting and Lamb. I knew we were on the victory road once we got Lamb," he added.

Australia: G. Marsh b Foster 24, D. Boon c Downton b Hemmings 75, D. Jones c Athey b Hemmings 33, C. McDermott b Gooch 14, A. Border (run out) 31, M. Veletta (not out) 45, S. Waugh (not out) 5, Extras (b-1, lb-13, w-5, nb-7) 26; Total (for five wkts. in 50 overs) 253.

Fall of wickets: 1-75, 2-151, 3-166, 4-168, 5-241.

England bowling: DeFreitas 6-1-34-0, Small 6-0-33-0, Foster 10-0-38-1, Hemmings 10-1-48-2, Emburey 10-0-44-0, Gooch 8-1-42-1.

England: G. Gooch b O'Donnell 35, T. Robinson lbw b McDermott 0, B. Athey (run out) 58, M. Gatting c Dyer b Border 41, A. Lamb b Waugh 45, P. Downton c O'Donnell b Border 9, J. Emburey (run out) 10, P. DeFreitas c Reid b Waugh 17, N. Foster (not out) 7, G. Small (not out) 3, Extras (b-1, lb-14, w-2, nb-4) 21; Total (for eight wkts. in 50 overs) 246.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-66, 3-135, 4-170, 5-188, 6-218, 7-220, 8-235.

Australia bowling: McDermott 10-1-51-1, Reid 10-0-43-0, Waugh 9-0-37-2, O'Donnell 10-1-35-1, May 4-0-27-0, Border 7-0-38-2.