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SK Flashback: Hurricane Houghton wreaks mayhem on Australia in the 1983 World Cup

ANALYST
Feature
91   //    Timeless

Stunned by Zimbabwe in their opening encounter, Australia would have been looking to salvage some of their lost prestige in this return match. For a long while, however, they were a worried lot as wicketkeeper David Houghton launched a ferocious attack on their bowling. Only a late-order Zimbabwe collapse in the face of some fine bowling saw them through. Nevertheless, the undisputed hero in this game was the powerfully-built policeman from Harare, David Houghton.

Zimbabwean David Houghton's assault on the Aussie bowlers stoked fears of a second upset over them in the World Cup 1983.
Zimbabwean David Houghton's assault on the Aussie bowlers stoked fears of a second upset over them in the World Cup 1983.

Australia began well and kept consolidating their innings. They eventually reached a formidable 272 for seven in their 60 overs. Graeme Wood top-scored with 73 on his return to the side after recovering from a facial injury, courtesy Michael Holding. Veteran off-spinner John Traicos conceded only 28 runs in his 12 overs, capturing the invaluable wickets of Wood and Kim Hughes. 

It was a formidable task for the Zimbabweans, but openers Robin Brown and Grant Paterson began well, putting on 48 runs. Then followed a collapse. Two needless run-outs added to the misery as five wickets fell with the score having advanced to a mere 109. It was at this stage that Houghton was joined by allrounder Kevin Curran. 

The two took the attack to the Australians. Houghton, in particular, was in irresistible form. As he made some powerful hits, Kim Hughes was forced to go on the defensive. Still, they gathered runs at a brisk rate. With 12 overs remaining, the asking-rate was 7.5 runs per over. But as long as the pair was in the middle, the chase was on.

Rodney Hogg returned to the bowling crease and was promptly hit for eight runs in the 49th over by Houghton. He then banged one from Trevor Chappell over square-leg for a six. The Australians were downcast, with the possibility of a second successive defeat by first-timers Zimbabwe looming large. 

Houghton seemed unstoppable. He had hammered the Australian attack in a merciless manner that would have done an experienced international batsman proud. Here was this 25-year-old versatile sportsman, who played for his country as a hockey goalkeeper as well, appearing in only his fourth international and toying with an attack containing Dennis Lillee and Rodney Hogg. He reached his second consecutive half-century, having scored 54 against the mighty West Indies three days earlier. 

Houghton and Curran added 103 in 17 overs, and at 212 for five, things looked bleak for Australia. Then, out of the blue, the youngest Chappell struck. He trapped Curran leg-before, and a run later there was mayhem. Hogg had Iain Butchart and Peter Rawson leg-before without scoring. Immediately came the deathblow. With the score still on 213, Houghton drove Chappell uppishly and was taken with undisguised glee by Kim Hughes in the covers. That was the ninth wicket, and with Houghton gone, victory was but a mirage even though the last pair battled valiantly. Had he lasted a few overs more, maybe Zimbabwe would have humiliated Australia again. But he did manage to shake up the fancied opponents with his brilliant 84 off 108 deliveries with 9 fours and a six. Though he finished on the losing side, Houghton won the man-of-the-match award.

Australia 272 for 7 wickets (60 overs), Zimbabwe 240 all out (59.5 overs) (CWC 1983)

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