SK Flashback: Narrow escape for Kiwis, glory to Houghton in the 1987 World Cup
Zimbabwe had already established a reputation of being doughty fighters in the previous World Cup. New Zealand were no pushovers either, having reached the semi-finals of the first two World Cups and narrowly failed to do so on run-rate in the third tournament. The stage was set for a keen battle.
It was surprising to see medium-pacer Martin Snedden partnering John Wright as the Kiwis began their innings on a bright note. The two put on 59 for the first wicket, and the man to go at that stage was Wright, the regular opener, caught behind to the bowling of veteran off-spinner, John Traicos. This paved the way for the entry of the star New Zealand batsman Martin Crowe.
The classical stylist, Crowe, and Snedden, playing like the lower order batsman that he really was, added 84 for the second wicket. At 143 for one, New Zealand were poised for a huge total. Just then wickets started tumbling at frequent intervals. Snedden went for 64 and Andrew Jones for a duck. Skipper Jeff Crowe helped his brother in a useful little stand, but the Zimbabweans did well to restrict New Zealand to 242 for seven in 50 overs, not the least due to their outstanding fielding.
Zimbabwe were in trouble right from the start. As wickets started falling one after the other, the cynics once again questioned in a most derisive fashion the abilities of the minor cricketing nation. Not many could argue with them as the score stood at 104 for seven.
David Houghton, who had come in one drop was, however, in no mood to allow the critics the satisfaction of seeing his team humiliated. He found an able ally in Iain Butchart. Houghton went for the bowling with a vengeance. He soon brought the somnolent crowd to life with a barrage of hits to the boundary, and some over it as well.
The two got so well entrenched, and on top of the bowling, that a shock win for Zimbabwe seemed the most likely outcome. Houghton was simply blazing away, and at 221, victory was just 22 runs away. At this stage, he struck Snedden high on the on-side. Martin Crowe turned and ran against the flight of the ball. As it finally came down towards the turf, Crowe was still some distance away. He made a headlong dive and most incredibly came up with the precious spheroid in his hands. It took the catch of the tournament to end a dazzling inning, and that too at such a crucial stage. Houghton had hit Zimbabwe’s first-ever century and put on a record 117 runs for the eighth wicket with Butchart. Houghton’s 142 off 137 balls contained 13 fours and 6 sixes.
Immediately, Eddo Brandes was run out and the tide turned dramatically. But the last pair, Butchart and Traicos hung on. They added 18 runs amid unbearable tension. With three balls left, four runs were required. But off the next ball, Butchart was run out. Zimbabwe were stranded on the doorstep of what might have been a tremendous victory.
New Zealand: 242 for 7 wickets (50 overs), Zimbabwe: 239 all out (49.4 overs) (CWC 1987)
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