Cricket WC Countdown : Australia's dominance in 1987
- By Denzil Fernandes

  • Wed,15 May 2019 12:30:39 PM

May 15, 2019

The first three cricket World Cups in 1975, 1979 and 1983 were all hosted by England. In 1987 there were two nations, India and Pakistan jointly hosting the prestigious event. It was a new experiment which also ensured that the popularity of the game had spread far and wide. Despite their political differences, it was
heartening to see India and Pakistan uniting for the sake of cricket.

Once again, there were only 8 teams playing for the Reliance Cup 1987 with a new 50 over format introduced instead of the earlier 60 over format.

Group ‘A’ had holders India, Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe playing in the league phase and Group ‘B’ saw Pakistan, England, West Indies and Sri Lanka pitted against each other to play the league matches.

At the of their respective league fixtures, from Group ‘A’ India and Australia qualified for the semi finals along with Pakistan and England from Group ‘B’. Quite surprisingly, former champions West Indies failed to qualify for the knock out encounter.

With both co-hosts (India and Pakistan) taking two of the four places, there was an air of expectation that the World Cup would remain in the sub continent.

Pakistan were playing in front of their home supporters at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore (Pakistan) against Australia in the first semi final. An intimidating scene probably for any opposing team for sure. Skipper Alan Border chose to bat first and David Boon took off in style knocking 65 runs in 91 balls. The Aussies were going great till Imran Khan picked up 3 quick wickets giving away only 17 runs. Australia ended up with 267 runs in their 50 overs while losing 6 wickets.

In reply, Pakistan were in trouble before Imran Khan (58 runs from 84 balls) and Javed Miandad (70 runs from 103 balls) joined in a partnership of 112 runs in 26 overs. But once Miandad departed lit was all over for Pakistan being all out for 249 runs and winning by 18 runs. In the end, Australia convincingly won to enter the World Cup final for the first time.

In the second semi finals played at the Wankhede Stadium in Bombay, cup holders India met England with every home supporter expecting India to enter the finals for the second time in a row. England were put into bat by India captain Kapil Dev. With a few experienced players from the 1983 World Cup winning squad one expected Kapil’s stars to get past England and that too on home soil. England openers Gooch and Robinson started well before Robinson (13 runs) was stumped smartly by Kiran More off Maninder with the England score on 40 runs.

Gooch and Gatting stitched a partnership of 117 runs in 19 overs with Gatting contributing 56 runs from 62 balls. Gooch fell for a well made 115 runs in 136 balls with the help of 11 fours. At the end of 50 overs England took their total to 254 runs while losing 6 wickets. In reply, India made a start losing 3 quick wickets for 73 runs. But Mohammed Azharudding with his silky and stylish shots hammered runs (64 runs in 74 balls) at will taking the score to 204 runs with an entry to the final in sight.

With just 50 runs required in the remaining 10 overs the crowd was excitedly hoping to see India enter a World Cup final for the second time in a row. England, however, were determined to hit back at the Indians after losing the 1983 World Cup semi final. With smart bowling and tight fielding from England, Indian wickets fell like nine pins before being all out for 219 runs. England won by 35 runs and the entire stadium went quiet at the pathetic display by the Indian batsmen.

Arch rivals Australia and England meeting for the first time ever in a World Cup final in a third country was a grand spectacle indeed. India’s Eden Gardens in Kolkatta with a capacity crowd of 90,000 in attendance was a record breaking sight. Opting to bat first, Australia found opener David Boon at his best when he smashed 75 runs in 125 balls with 7 fours and the flow of runs continued non stop. Almost every batsman chipped in with Marsh (24 runs), Dean Jones (33 runs) and skipper Alan Border (31 runs) on the scorecard. But out-beating all of them was Mike Veletta blasting 45 precious runs in 31 balls to take Australia’s total to 253 runs in 50 overs.

England aiming to win the World Cup for the first time just like Australia made a disastrous start with opener Tim Robinson going back to the pavilion for a zero against his name. But England batsmen were stubborn in their resistance to say the least. One drop batsman Bill Athey scored a memorable 58 runs in 103 balls along with skipper Mike Gatting (41 in 45 balls). Alan Lamb (45 in 55 balls) looked dangerous before being bowled by Waugh. The talking point however was the reckless reverse sweep by Gatting that handed the cup to Australia. That shot signaled the slump and with a mounting run rate it was far too much for England. At the end of 50 overs England managed 246 runs to fall short by 7 runs.

Australia finally arrived on the World Cup table of winners in 1987 in India. Their future captain and star all rounder Steve Waugh was only 22 years displaying plenty of class in the 1987 World Cup. This was a perfect baptism for Australian cricket to take them into more glory on the world stage. And for England, it was a sad story of being ‘So near and yet so far’.

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