Most incredible matches in World Cup history: 5 - Pakistan vs England, 1992
The World Cup is just around the corner. Pakistan won the cup of glory 23 years back, on the same territory where the tournament is being held this time around, and they will look to repeat the feat. England, on the other hand, who have never won the 50-over World Cup, would like to open their account down under.
As far as the best World Cup encounters go, the 1992 final between England and Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is right up there with the most thrilling games of cricket ever played. Imran Khan’s men defeated the English side led by Graham Gooch by 22 runs, with the star of the day being Wasim Akram.
Road to the final
Pakistan had a shaky start to their campaign, while England, who were the best side on paper in the contest, lost some of their momentum towards the end of the league stage, and did not improve much till the final. Pakistan, who did manage to revive themselves after their early losses, never looked back. Once they got to their winning ways, they were unstoppable.
Both England and Pakistan finished in the top four in the first round which got them through to the semi-finals. New Zealand were defeated by Pakistan in the first semi-final while England got the better of South Africa in the second one.
So, it came down to these two teams who were all set to take on each other in the final on 25 March 1992.
The Pakistan Innings
No team till then had won the World Cup final bowling first. Keeping that in mind, Imran won the toss and put his men into bat first. There were also concerns that rain could interrupt play later on. The openers Aamer Sohail and Rameez Raja were unable to back the decision of their captain and both were back in the hut with only single-digit figures to their names with seamer Derek Pringle being responsible for that.
The skipper then took matters into his own hands and played a masterful innings of 72. Javed Miandad was at the other end, supporting him for a major part of the innings and he himself scored a handy 58. They did not maintain the best run-rate while batting and it was only Inzamam-ul-Haq’s and Akram’s cameos that gave much-needed impetus to the innings and converted what was looking like a below par score into a competitive total.
Inzamam scored 42 off 35 balls, while Akram hit 33 off 18, and both of them were dismissed only in the last over of the innings after Pakistan had put on 249, giving England a required rate of exactly 5 per over.
Pringle was easily the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3/22 in 10 overs. Ian Botham and Richard Illingworth got a wicket each.
The English Reply
Akram had made his mind up to turn this night into his own. After his quickfire 33 with the bat, he opened the bowling and dismissed opener Ian Botham for a duck. Following that, Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick and Gooch got off to starts but could not carry on and make huge scores.
It was only middle-order batsmen – Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother – who revived the scoring and took the scoreboard from 69/4 to 141/4. With about 100 runs still needed to win, England fancied their chances after the early scare since everything was going so smoothly for them.
This was when the shrewd captaincy of Imran and the magic of Akram produced the most important moment of the match, which was also perhaps the most important moment of Pakistan’s World Cup campaign.
With no bowler having any effect on the set batsmen, Imran decided to bring on his star bowler for an early return. And the ruse paid off. Bowling round the wicket, Wasim hit the stumps twice in two deliveries, first sending back Lamb for 31 with a beautiful ball that held its line and clipped off-stump. The very next ball, incoming batsman Chris Lewis could not shield his middle-stump and was bowled on the first delivery he faced.
These two balls sealed Pakistan’s victory and made it clear who was going to lift the trophy. Akram had impressed the 87,000 strong crowd at the MCG and millions of supporters back home in Pakistan.
England’s seventh wicket fell at the score of 180 when top-scorer Fairbrother was dismissed for a well-made 62 by Aaqib Javed, caught behind by Moin Khan. It was only a matter of time before Imran, who had had a brilliant game himself, picked up his first wicket in the form of Illingworth to finish off the contest.
Although Mushtaq Ahmed and Aaqib picked up 3 and 2 wickets each and were responsible for cleaning up the top order, it was still Akram who dealt the decisive blows and ensured the match went Pakistan’s way. Fortunes can change very fast in limited-overs cricket, and that is what exactly happened when Akram claimed two wickets in two deliveries. His performance is remembered as one of the greatest in a World Cup game even today.