Face-off between old foes

Craig McDermott was the top bowler of the tournament with 18 wickets. Here he traps Englishman Tim Robinson in front in the final.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

This edition of the World Cup was the last to be played in the classic white flannels, making way for coloured clothing thereafter. By A. Joseph Antony.

The 1987 World Cup, the first outside England, the home of cricket, saw a shift in power in the game’s administration from the ‘west’ to the ‘east.’ It was the last to be played in the classic white flannels, making way for coloured clothing thereafter. So would the red cherry be replaced by its white avatar in the subsequent editions.

Fans on the sub-continent eagerly expected the final to be between Pakistan and India, who jointly hosted the sport’s biggest spectacle, shortened from the 60-overs-a-side format to 50. They were not too far off the mark either, for the neighbours ended up topping their respective groups.

Only that both stumbled in the semifinals. Significantly, West Indies, winner of the two earliest editions of the quadrennial extravaganza, failed to make the last four this time. The final featured the second-placed sides from the group stages. Neither of them was native to the soil and it was a face-off between the old foes — England and Australia.

India’s 1983 Prudential Cup triumph had sent spectator interest soaring into the stratosphere. It was only natural then that an Indian sponsor had to step in, the month-long gala thus dubbed the Reliance Cup. It was also not surprising that in a cricket-crazy country, crowd response to the competition had completely outshone the success of its past conduct in Old Blighty.

The genial and gentle Geoff Marsh was anything but that at the M. A. Chidambaram stadium in what was then Madras as he plundered a Man of the Match award-winning 110 in Australia’s 270 for six in its lung-opener. India’s response fell short by the most slender margin of a solitary run.

The same venue would prove a happy hunting ground for the Aussies as they recorded a comfortable 96-run victory over Zimbabwe four days later. Marsh again had a solid 62, Allan Border top-scoring with 67 and Steve Waugh chipping in a valuable 45.

Rivalry from the Antipodes was in full view when Australia took on New Zealand at the Nehru Stadium, Indore. Man of the Match David Boon’s 87, backed by Dean Jones’ 52 enabled only a three-run escape for Australia, in the teeth of resistance from Martin Crowe’s 58 and John Wright’s 47.

Australia’s lone setback came at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi, where it failed to measure up to India’s 289 for six, as it folded at 233 with an over to go. Man of the Match Mohammed Azharuddin not only made an unbeaten 54 but was among the wickets too with a bag of three for 19. Boon and Waugh showed resilience though, scoring 62 and 42 runs respectively. Australia asserted itself against its rival from Down Under at the Sector 16 Stadium in Chandigarh. This time it registered a 17-run victory, thanks largely to Marsh’s unconquered 126 and Dean Jones’ 56.

At the Barabati Stadium, Cuttack, Boon was at his belligerent best against Zimbabwe, his 93, Jones’ unbeaten 58 and Mike Veletta’s 43 paving the way to a 70-run win. Scores of 38 each from Andrew Waller and Andy Pycroft were simply not enough to chase down the opposition’s sizeable total. Placed second in Group A on the points table, Australia was pitted against Group B topper Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore in the first semifinal. Boon’s 65 and Veletta’s 48 helped Australia set up 267 for eight, with Imran Khan taking three for 36. Pakistan’s pursuit was hit by Craig McDermott’s five for 44, the red-haired Queenslander’s last wicket leaving the hitherto boisterous 40,000 strong crowd stunned into silence as the host fell short by 18 runs.

About 100,000 spectators packed the Eden Gardens in Calcutta for the final as Boon’s 75 anchored Australia to 253 for five. No sixes came from the tubby Tasmanian but it strung the batting together, bolstered by Veletta’s unbeaten 45 and Jones’ 33. England’s endeavour lacked such cohesion, vanquished by a mere seven runs that separated it from Australia and triumph.