There was great excitement all around Chepauk as the reigning champions took on Australia on home turf. As many as six players had survived from Kapil Dev’s 1983 winning squad, while the solitary Aussie link to the previous World Cup was skipper Allan Border.
In other words, on one side there was a home team brimming with confidence, and on the other was a relatively inexperienced side which was not expected to give a very tough fight.
But as the game got underway it gradually dawned upon everyone that this was a very determined Australian team. David Boon and Geoff Marsh put on a century partnership for the first wicket. Then Marsh combined with the belligerent Dean Jones, and took the score to 174.
Marsh carried on calmly and notched up his third ODI century. He took his side to a formidable position even though they lost a few wickets towards the end trying to accelerate the scoring.
During the interval, adjudicator Hanif Mohammad converted a four into a six, which would eventually prove decisive. A total of 270 in 50 overs was a very large one by any standard, and had the home supporters worried.
Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth, however, gave India a flying start. For once Gavaskar outscored his unorthodox big-hitting partner. The crowd went into raptures as the legend and the local boy treated the bowling attack with disdain.
When Gavaskar fell, 69 runs had been put up on the board. His place was taken by Navjot Singh Sidhu, whose clean hitting had been a revelation in the run-up to the tournament.
Sidhu soon began carrying his newfound reputation forward. He and Srikkanth butchered the bowling and suddenly, 271 did not seem like an unattainable target.
Srikkanth was leg-before for 70, but that only let Sidhu loose. With the experienced Dilip Vengsarkar playing in mature fashion at the other end, Sidhu attacked with gusto. He hit five towering sixes which created a carnival-like atmosphere in the stadium.
At 207 for two, victory seemed just a few big blows away.
That was when India began to stumble. The Australians kept their cool and bowled intelligently, and their fielding was outstanding.
Wickets crashed at regular intervals. In the panic, there were two needless run outs at crucial stages. Soon the score was 265 for nine.
There were six runs left as Steve Waugh began the final over to last man Maninder Singh. Suddenly the tied Test played between the two teams at the same ground a year earlier flashed into everyone’s mind. In that Test too, Maninder had been the batsman in the firing line.
This time, he managed four runs off the first four balls. The excitement was unbelievable. Two runs were needed, and there were two balls left with one wicket in hand.
But it was Waugh who kept his head, sending one that was bang on target.
Maninder was bowled off the fifth ball, and Waugh was nonchalant: "It was just a confidence thing. Allan Border thought I could do it. I knew I could do it," he said later.
India had lost by a solitary run. For the second time running, the reigning champions had been beaten in their opening encounter.
Australia: 270 for 6 wickets (50 overs), India: 269 all out (49.5 overs) (CWC 1987)Published 07 May 2019, 20:53 IST