Cricket World Cup history: Geoff Allott, swinging it in the 1999 World Cup
Generally overcast weather, and wickets with a greenish tinge suited Kiwi left-arm seamer Geoff Allott perfectly in the 1999 World Cup. He swung the ball around, picking up 20 wickets, the highest in any World Cup hitherto, a distinction equalled by Shane Warne later in this tournament. Chaminda Vaas and Glenn McGrath set new benchmarks later. With a whippy action reminiscent of England’s John Lever, Allott troubled batsmen throughout the tournament. He played a big hand in the progress of New Zealand to their fourth World Cup semi-final.
Before the tournament, Allott’s main claim to fame was the longest scoreless Test innings. Earlier in the year at Auckland, he had batted for 101 minutes, facing 77 balls, before being dismissed for a duck. But in the World Cup he was an inspired man.
Allott began the 1999 World Cup with a bang, severely jolting the Bangladesh batsmen who were still finding their feet in big-time cricket. He brought in the third ball of the innings sharply to trap Shahriar Hossain leg-before for a duck. Not long after, he repeated the dose on the other opener Mehrab Hossain. Suddenly, Bangladesh were 7 for two. They hardly recovered from these jolts.
Allott took the last wicket when he dismissed the third Hossain, Hasibul, who hit a full toss straight to Matthew Horne. Allott bagged three for 30 off 8.4 overs as Bangladesh’s first innings in the World Cup terminated at 116 off 37.4 overs.
Next was a huge game against Trans-Tasman rivals and one of the favourites, Australia. Allott put the Aussies on the back foot straightaway and bowled brilliantly to restrict them to 213 for eight, paving the way for a glorious win. He delivered a stunning blow in typical style, trapping the elegant Mark Waugh leg-before for two.
Just as Adam Gilchrist was settling down, Allott got the left-hander to edge one to Nathan Astle. Allott returned late in the innings to shatter the stumps of the crafty Michael Bevan, and Shane Warne. He finished with four for 37 off his 10 overs.
Thereafter, New Zealand were upstaged by the West Indies, a match in which Allott could only take the wicket of Jimmy Adams.
Pakistan were on a high at the start of the tournament, but Allott was at his penetrative best against them, though a bit expensive. The openers Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi were off to a flying start even as Allott continued to attack them. He succeeded before long, forcing the latter to edge the ball to Adam Parore behind the stumps. Soon he bowled Anwar too.
Later, Allott knocked back the middle stump of Salim Malik and dismissed the belligerent Azhar Mahmood. This time Allott returned with an analysis of four for 64 off 10 overs. Pakistan, though, had posted 269, which proved too much for the Kiwi batsmen.
Scotland, taking their first hesitant steps in the competitive world of international cricket, found the menacing Allott too difficult to handle. After Dion Nash had dismissed Mike Smith, Allott trapped skipper George Salmond leg-before for one, and had opener Mike Allingham taken by Stephen Fleming for two. Scotland found themselves on the turf at 12 for three. Allott also had James Brinkley caught at the wicket for a duck. His final figures were 10-3-15-3, enough to secure the man-of-the-match award.
Though New Zealand’s first super-six match was abandoned due to rain, there was time enough to complete the Zimbabwe innings. Allott was yet again at his penetrative best. As the in-form Neil Johnson seemed set to play another long innings, Allott swung one in late to the left-hander from over the wicket.
Johnson was slow in coming down on the ball and played on to his stumps. Soon Allott bowled one that jumped, surprising Andy Flower who had not opened his account, and he spooned it behind gully. Craig McMillan, running in, gobbled up a brilliant catch. Towards the end of the innings, Allott had Guy Whittall caught by Astle. This time Allott finished with three for 24 off 10 overs.
Allott had snapped up 18 wickets in just six matches. He was the bowler of the tournament so far. He could not make much headway thereafter in drier conditions, taking just a wicket apiece in the last two super-six matches and none in the semi-final. Nevertheless, he had played his part in New Zealand’s fine run in the tournament, surpassing the record of 18 wickets set by Roger Binny, Craig McDermott and Wasim Akram in the 1983, 1987 and 1992 World Cups respectively.
Sadly, Allott’s days of glory on the cricket field were not to last long. Injury curtailed his appearances hereafter and he retired prematurely from the game at the age of twenty-nine. Perhaps, had he been able to carry on, Allott may have been counted amongst some of the finest left-arm swing bowlers that the game has seen.
Nevertheless, his name is etched firmly in the annals of the World Cup. Some stars sparkle brightly momentarily, only to disappear in a flash. Geoff Allott was one such - like another left-arm paceman from the Antipodes, Gary Gilmour.
Geoff Allott’s World Cup bowling and fielding record:
Matches 9, Wickets 20, Average 16.25, Best 4/37, Economy 3.70, Catch 1Published 21 Jun 2019, 13:47 IST