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1992: A Cricketing Odyssey

The 1992 Cricket World Cup. You are thinking about those iconic kits, aren’t you? England have not come even close to winning a Cricket World Cup since. For those that can remember that far back, it was over 26 years ago, England’s one day team was pretty good. Perhaps, not as good as the one today? If you have only seen YouTube clips and snippets on TV, it seems like a different game. Scoring 250 was a good total on most wickets. Pinch-hitters and spinners opening the bowler were considered radical. For me, 1992 is where everything changed.


England’s core was made up of all-rounders: Ian Botham, Derek Pringle, Chris Lewis, Dermot Reeve, Phillip DeFreitas. Allan Lamb, Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick, Neil Fairbrother and Robin Smith made up the batting line up. The specialist bowlers were Gladstone Small, Richard Illingworth and Phil Tufnell. The captain was Graham Gooch, two-time Cricket World Cup finalist, leading England for the last time in the biggest ODI tournament around.


England’s tournament started with a tight victory against India at the WACA. Robin Smith’s 91 was enough to squeeze past an Indian team that would disappoint. The next game was at the MCG with just over 18,500 fans rattling around the massive stadium. In the game, the West Indies capitulated to Lewis and DeFreitas and England became favourites to win the tournament.


Onto the Adelaide Oval, humid and damp conditions made the wicket a bowling paradise. Asked to bat, Pakistan found themselves at 47/8 before reaching 74 all out. Even if Imran Khan had been fit to play, there is nothing he could have done to counteract the seam-friendly conditions. At England’s mercy, Pakistan were somewhat saved by the rain. The point that Pakistan earned in Adelaide would be crucial.


On the subject of rain, this was before Duckworth-Lewis (and Stern) had been adopted. The rule in place, and Richie Benaud is often criticised for his hand in devising it, was the Most Productive Overs (MPO) rule. In the event of a rain delay and loss of overs, the least productive overs were deducted first. If you lost five overs, and there were five maidens in the team batting first’s innings, the target didn’t reduce but you had five less overs to get it. Crazy.


Australia were struggling in the tournament. Having lost to New Zealand in the opening game before getting thrashed by South Africa, recently returned to international cricket after over two decades, Australia needed a win. Ian Botham, powers waning at that point in his career, had one more match winning performance against the old enemy. A spell of 4/31 then 53 at the top of the order secured an eight-wicket victory.


A comfortable victory against Sri Lanka before a spirited win against South Africa led to a top of the table clash against an unbeaten New Zealand team. Despite England winning the preceding Test and ODI series, New Zealand won comfortably. England’s aging squad were picking up injuries and it was starting to tell. Zimbabwe, defeated in every game thus far, were the next opponents. Playing in a rural location, a chicken farmer blew England’s batting away to inflict a moral-zapping defeat.


The four semi-finalists were New Zealand, Pakistan, England and South Africa. Somehow, Pakistan dragged themselves back from the brink and had started to play well. Having beaten New Zealand in the last group match, they met again three days later at Eden Park. All was going well for New Zealand, led by Martin Crowe’s imperious 91, until Inzamam joined Javed Miandad at the wicket. New Zealand were being led by John Wright because Crowe’s hamstring strain had prevented him taking the field. The masterplan was not being adhere to and Inzamam was on fire. Scoring 60 from 37 balls, Inzamam’s innings helped Pakistan to an unlikely four wicket victory.


England and South Africa met in the second semi-final at the SCG. Rain had prevented the game from starting on time and the match reduced to 45 overs per side. Graeme Hick anchored the innings with 83 whilst Stewart then Fairbrother provided support. Scoring 252/6, England had set South Africa a challenging total.


The response was dogged by wickets falling at inopportune moments. With the game finely poised, a rain shower interrupted the game. South Africa were 231/6 from 42.5 overs and needed 22 runs from thirteen balls. In just sixteen minutes of delay, South Africa lost two overs without their target reducing. MPO had dealt itself, and South Africa, a mortal blow. The photograph of the electronic scoreboard at the SCG is still one of the iconic images.


Gooch and Botham walked out of the pre-final banquet, offended by an impersonator of HM The Queen, and never really got any better for England. A decent bowling effort was undermined by two early dubious umpiring decisions. England’s batting recovery, after slumping to 69/4, was put to bed by Wasim Akram’s two-ball burst to get rid of Lamb and Lewis. England came up short and Pakistan were the world champions.


Why do I tell you this? Well, I am writing a book about 1992 and it will be published early next year. I have spoken to players, officials, broadcasters all involved in the tournament. I am also speaking to fans for their memories of 1992. This is where you come in – if you travelled to Australia and New Zealand for the Cricket World Cup then I would like to speak with you. If this is you, please contact my via Twitter (@jnorthall) or email me at cwc1992@northall.net. Everyone I speak to looks on the tournament fondly and has a favourite memory, what’s yours?


Jonathan





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