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1987: Australia master sub-continent

Allan Border of Australia is congratulated by team-mates after capturing the wicket of England captain Mike Gatting in the final of the 1987 World Cup in Calcutta. (GETTY)


When the 1987 World Cup arrived in the sub-continent, Australia were definitely not the favourites to win it in front of 70,000 spectators at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta.

The unthinkable happened when Allan Border’s young side posted a stunning seven-run victory over Mike Gatting’s Englishmen in the final.
The format was the same as that of the previous edition, with four teams in two groups playing each other twice in the league and the top two from each group advancing to the semifinals.
The tournament was the first to see neutral umpires and the matches were not confined to major cities, but spread over more than 20 venues in a bid to take the game to the masses.
The live telecast of the final was watched by more people than before and television would continue to play a major role in the development of the game in coming years.
Australia emerged the best in the contest, their discipline and determination being the talking points. Led by a strong captain, they held their nerve when it mattered most.
Border summed up his team’s successful campaign when he said: “We unearthed players like Steve Waugh, Dean Jones, Simon O’Donnell, Geoff Marsh and Bruce Reid who all blossomed over the next few years.”
Australia opened the tournament with a one-run win over India at Madras (now Chennai). The ability to win close matches stood them in good stead, culminating with winning the Cup after another tight finish against England.
It was not the only thriller on low, slow sub-continental pitches where spinners also played crucial roles, with Pakistani leg-spin wizard Abdul Qadir often grabbing the headlines.
But it was not the tournament for the hosts who had left the party in the semifinals, leaving millions of fans in India and Pakistan disappointed.
Australian paceman Craig McDermott stopped Pakistan with a five-wicket haul to lead his team to victory at Lahore. He was also the tournament’s most successful bowler with 18 wickets.
India were in the mourning the following day at Bombay when England’s Graham Gooch swept the hosts’ spinners on way to a superb century which led to his team’s win in the other semifinal.
The Bombay match was also Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar’s last international appearance.
Australia enjoyed the crowd support at the neutral Eden Gardens venue after England had knocked out the hosts. They were also fortune’s favourites as an ill-timed reverse-sweep by Gatting suddenly made their fortune.
Australia rode on David Boon’s 75 to post 253-5, a total which never looked safe during the Bill Athey-Gatting partnership. England were strongly placed at 135-2 before disaster struck.
Gatting (41) attempted a reverse-sweep off his counterpart Border, an occasional left-arm spinner, only to give wicket-keeper Greg Dyer a simple catch. England eventually fell short in their second appearance in the final.
The next edition, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, saw coloured clothing for the first time and South Africa’s return to international cricket after more than two decades of isolation due to apartheid.