Down Memory Lane: The 1999 Cricket World Cup

The first cricket World Cup was played in England in 1975. This was followed by two more World Cups in 1979 and 1983. Three more editions later, the World Cup returned to where it had taken birth, England. The 1999 World Cup was the first time that the ICC decided not to have a title sponsor. Like the previous edition in 1996, twelve teams participated in the tournament – the nine test playing nations and top-three non-test playing nations, Kenya, Bangladesh and Scotland. England, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Kenya were placed in group A whereas group B comprised Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, West Indies, Scotland and Bangladesh. A new format was introduced where the quarter-finals were replaced by a super six stage. Each team would play the other teams in its group once and the top three teams from each group would move into the super six stage. A team qualifying for the super six stage would carry over the points it had earned against the other qualifying teams from its group. It would then face the three qualifying teams from the other group. A separate league table would be maintained for this stage and the top four teams were to qualify for the semi-finals. South Africa were the pre-tournament favourites by a fair distance. India, Australia and Pakistan too had decent squads and they seemed to be the most likely teams to challenge the Proteas. It was Australia who managed to scrape past South Africa in a dramatic semi-final encounter before defeating Pakistan in the final to win their second World Cup.

Lance Klusener single handedly carried South Africa's hopes throughout the tournament

Hosts England started positively with comfortable victories over defending champions Sri Lanka and Kenya. They defeated Zimbabwe too, but losses against India and South Africa cost them dearly and the hosts missed out on a spot in the super six stage due to a poor net run-rate. South Africa rode on Lance Klusener’s dream form with both bat and ball to win their first four league matches and secure a super six berth. Klusener starred in the final league match too, but Zimbabwe, powered by a top-class all-round performance by Neil Johnson, managed to beat the Proteas. Despite the loss, South Africa topped group A. Johnson was also influential in Zimbabwe’s victory over Kenya in the first match. An upset victory over India by just 3 runs took Zimbabwe to the doorstep of the super six and the victory over South Africa was enough to see them through on account of a superior run-rate as compared to England.

Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid during their record partnership of 318

India didn’t get off to a great start with losses against South Africa and Zimbabwe in their first two games. But the champions of 1983 fought back to register three comprehensive victories that took them through to the next stage. Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid led the way with the bat and the duo also shared a 318-run second wicket stand against Sri Lanka which was at that time the record partnership for any wicket in a one-day international. Dravid contributed 145 while Sourav smashed 183, still the second highest individual score ever in a World Cup match. The biggest shock of the league stage was the elimination of the 1996 edition champions, Sri Lanka. The main reason for their ouster was the fact that their batsmen failed to deliver at critical junctures. The bowling too lacked consistency, as a result of which the team suffered. The Lankans won only two matches, against Zimbabwe and Kenya, and that was not good enough to take them to the next stage. The Kenyans, as expected, were unable to put up much of a fight. They ended on the losing side on all five occasions and therefore finished the league stage rock-bottom of group A.

New Zealand's Geoff Allott was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament

Australia had a shaky to their campaign and after the first three matches, they were in a position from where they needed to win both the remaining matches to progress further. Things came down to the last match where they faced the West Indies in a knock-out-scenario. Senior pro, Glenn McGrath came to the party with an outstanding five-wicket haul that took Australia to the super-six. New Zealand had Geoff Allott and Roger Twose making vital contributions with ball and bat respectively to help take the team to the next stage on account of a superior net run-rate as compared to the West Indies. The Windies lacked consistency with both bat and ball, and that cost them dearly. A crushing defeat against Australia in the final league match led to their ouster on the basis of net run-rate despite the fact that they had the same points as Australia and New Zealand.

Impressive all-round performances, led by middle order batsman Inzamam-ul Haq, enabled Pakistan to ease into the super six with four wins in the first four matches. However, a loss against minnows Bangladesh in the last league match put a black mark on an otherwise perfect performance. Bangladesh also won their match against Scotland to make it two wins out of five. Scotland’s fans unfortunately didn’t have much to cheer for as their team was steamrolled by more or less every opponent they faced.

Steve Waugh punches the air after scoring an unbeaten 120 that took Australia to the semis

The use of the super-six to determine the semi-finalists made net-run rate an important factor that teams couldn’t afford to ignore. Australia didn’t carry forward any points into the super-six and hence they needed to win all their matches to be sure of a semi-final spot. The Waugh brothers, Mark and skipper Steve, ensured that as they scored a century and a half century each to take Australia to three comfortable victories. India too didn’t carry any points forward, but they couldn’t replicate what the Aussies did. A win over arch-rivals Pakistan was the only consolation in an otherwise forgettable super-six campaign which included two losses. Zimbabwe came into the super six with the maximum possible points and a solitary victory could have taken them to the semis. Their match against New Zealand was abandoned, but losses against Australia and Pakistan, the latter being a big 148 run loss, meant that they missed out due to a poor run-rate as compared to New Zealand.

The Kiwis found themselves in a spot of bother after they had to share points with Zimbabwe. A loss against South Africa didn’t help a lot. But they managed to sneak past India with ten balls to spare to book a semi-final berth. Pakistan, like Zimbabwe, came to the super six stage with maximum possible points. Thus, a win against Zimbabwe was good enough to take them to the semis despite losses against India and South Africa. The Proteas too booked a semi-final berth with wins against Pakistan and New Zealand. Klusener carried over his good form from the league stage and Herschelle Gibbs chose a great time to come back among the runs. A defeat against Australia in the last super-six match meant that the Proteas would have to face the Aussies yet again in the semis.

Australia rejoice after their semi-final against South Africa ended in a tie

The first semi-final between Pakistan and New Zealand at Old Trafford turned out to be a one sided affair in favour of Pakistan. The Kiwis, with the help of a few 40s in the middle order, reached a total of 241 in their 50 overs. A 194 run opening stand between Saeed Anwar and Wajahtulla Wasti took Pakistan within touching distance of a spot in the final. Wasti departed for 84, but Anwar stayed till the end to see his team past the finishing line with 9 wickets in hand. He remained unbeaten on 113. The other semi-final between Australia and South Africa turned out to be a nerve-wrecking encounter. The Aussies lost their top four with just 68 runs on the board. But Steve Waugh (58) and Michael Bevan (65) put together an invaluable 90 runs that enabled Australia to set a decent target of 214. The South African chase too was in disarray as Shane Warne reduced them to 61 for 4. But Jacques Kallis (53) and Jonty Rhodes (43) steadied the shaky ship. The match was slowly drifting towards Australia when Klusener came out and played a blinder. He scored 31 runs in just 16 deliveries to bring the equation down from 31 to win off 14 to just 1 to win from 5 deliveries. South Africa had just one wicket in hand to achieve that. With three balls to go, Klusener drove the ball straight down the ground to the left of mid-on and took off for a single. Allan Donald hesitated slightly before dropping his bat and running. That slight delay was good enough for Adam Gilchrist to flick off the bails before Donald could make his ground. The match ended in a tie, but Australia progressed to the final because of the fact that they had finished above South Africa in the super-six stage.

Shane Warne four wickets in the final were good enough to derail Pakistan

The final at Lord’s, the Mecca of cricket, didn’t live up to the expectations. Pakistan were totally outplayed in all departments by the Aussies who just seemed to be more determined to win. Pakistan won the toss and decided to bat first on a pitch which Steve Waugh believed was good for 260. But his bowlers felt Waugh had doubled the figures. A ruthless bowling performance, led by Shane Warne who picked up 4 for 33, enabled Australia to skittle Pakistan out for just 132. Any hopes of Pakistan putting up a fight were put to rest as Adam Gilchrist went on the attack. He scored a blistering 54 off just 36 deliveries before returning back to the dressing room. The required runs were knocked off with 179 balls to spare and Australia were World Champions for a second time. Warne’s outstanding bowling performance earned him the man-of-the-match award.

The Australian team with the World Cup trophy

Lance Klusener was declared the player-of-the-tournament for his extra-ordinary all-round performance. India’s Rahul Dravid was the highest run-scorer while New Zealand’s Geoff Allott ended as the top wicket-taker. Australia managed to overcome a difficult start to get their act together when in mattered the most. Steve Waugh led by example and had it not been for his century against South Africa in the super-six, the Aussies might not have reached the semi-finals. In contrast, Pakistan had a great league and super-six stage, topping the standings on both occasions. But unfortunately for them, the batting collapsed on the biggest stage of them all. The tournament as a whole was quite a successful one. The fact that people kept coming to the ground despite England’s early exit was very heartening. Australia joined West Indies as the only teams to have won the World Cup twice. They were already the best test side by then and this triumph made them the official numero uno one-day side as well. In the years that followed, the Australian cricket team would go on to touch new heights as the undisputed number one cricket team in the world.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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