1992: Imran’s ‘cornered tigers’ roar
South Africa would have contested the 1992 World Cup final on their maiden appearance after more than two decades of isolation due to apartheid if it were possible to score 21 off one ball.
The tournament was jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand and had all the trappings of a modern event - coloured clothing, floodlights, white balls and black sightscreens.
But Kepler Wessels’s South Africans were not amused because it also had a strange ‘rain rule’.
Rain halted South Africa’s chase when they needed 22 to win off 13 balls against England in the semifinal. The target was revised to a ridiculous 21 off just one ball when the game resumed.
South Africa had no option but to accept their fate.
The tournament had a new format with a then record 39 matches. Nine teams played each other in the league phase, with the top four advancing to the semifinals.
The first day-night game was played at Perth, where England beat India to begin their march towards the final before finishing runners-up for the second successive time, this time to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s recovery from the brink to win the title under inspirational skipper Imran Khan and New Zealand captain Martin Crowe’s shrewd tactics of using off-spinner Dipak Patel in the early overs were among the highlights.
Pakistan were facing elimination after winning just one of their first five matches. Luck also smiled on them when they shared points with England in a rain-ruined match they were poised to lose.
Imran’s instructions to his team to fight like “cornered tigers” produced the desired results as his side won their last five matches, including the final against Graham Gooch’s Englishmen.
Crowe defied conventions, giving the new ball to spinner Patel to surprise the opposition. New Zealand pulled off an upset in the tournament’s opener when Patel conceded just 36 in 10 overs in his team’s win over Australia.
The in-form New Zealand kept playing impressively to move into the semifinal at Auckland where they ran into an unpredictable Pakistan. They rode on Crowe’s superb 91 to post a competitive 262-7.
Pakistan found a match-winner in young Inzamam-ul-Haq when the asking-rate was climbing. Inzamam, his captain’s choice, announced his arrival in international cricket with a 37-ball 60 to help his team win.
Imran led from the front in the final against England, top-scoring with 72 to help his side post 249-6. Javed Miandad (58), Inzamam (42) and Wasim Akram (33) also chipped in useful runs.
England then floundered against the leg-spin of Mushtaq Ahmed, who removed Gooch, Graeme Hick and Dermot Reeve. Left-arm paceman Akram also grabbed three wickets as England were all out for 227.
Neil Fairbrother top-scored for England with 62 before Imran sparked celebrations in his team’s camp by taking the last wicket.
“By playing under so much pressure for so long in the run-up to the final, we were far better equipped to handle it than England who had cruised into the last four,” said Imran.
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