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The Barbados Nation Final: Australia v Pakistan
Tony Cozier - 20 June 1999

No contest

This was not so much an anti-climax as a parody of a World Cup final.

Australia, as we knew they would, approached it with all the fervour and determination becoming the occasion. They had come through too many close scrapes on the way not to.

They had twice scrambled through against South Africa in the past week, the latter in the unprecedented tie in Thursday's semifinal. According to captain Steve Waugh, the experience had made them stronger, a claim supported by an exhibition of awesome efficiency.

Pakistan, as we feared they might, seemed seduced by their breeze over New Zealand in the semifinal and took it for granted that the wonderful natural talent and flair of their players would be sufficient to earn them the game's most coveted prize.

Their approach was as laid back as for a practice session and they woke up too late to the fact that this was a battle for the most coveted prize in the game and that their opponents were the most resolute of all.

The predictable consequence was the most one-sided and shortlived of the seven World Cup finals. It was hardly a match at all, completed in 59.1 of the scheduled 100 overs just after half-past four on a breezy, sunny afternoon.

It was effectively over even before then, once Pakistan could only raise 132 another World Cup low.

They were undone by typically probing bowling led, as usual, by Glenn McGrath's pace and Shane Warne's controlled leg-breaks, backed by breathtaking catches by the Waugh twins and Ricky Ponting and keen fielding.

Pakistan's own limp batting was just as significant as Australia demonstrated in a blaze of boundaries, a six and 17 fours, in accelerating to victory in 20.1 overs.

It was no value for the 30 000 spectators filling Lord's to capacity. The result might just have consoled Australians who paid the official entrance of either 60 or 100 but it was an especially bitter pill to swallow for Pakistanis who reportedly forked out up to 600 on the blackmarket.

There were contrasting emotions for the captains. Both Steve Waugh, in 1987, and Wasim Akram, in 1992, had played in victorious World Cup finals and for both this was almost certainly their last chance at further glory.

It was an especially appropriate triumph for Steve Waugh as he collected the glittering trophy from International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman Jagmohan Dalmayia on the Lord's balcony.

He and eight of his teammates had endured the depression Akram and his men now felt after losing to Sri Lanka in the last final in 1996 and he himself had endured a difficult time since he succeeded the highly successful and admired Mark Taylor as captain in January.

The pressure was greatest when Australia faced the spectre of first round elimination after defeats by New Zealand and Pakistan in two of their first three matches.

Waugh noted then that his team would have to win its next seven matches to secure the Cup. He promised that they would and set the example himself with one crucial innings after another.

His players took the cue and the celebrations on the dressing room balcony as soon as Darren Lehmann square-cut Saqlain Mushtaq to the cover ropes to settle the issue told a story of a team spirit essential for any world championship team.

Akram had inspired his gifted players to some remarkable deeds in the past few months but could not eradicate the unpredictability that so often diminishes them.

Had he returned to Pakistan with the Cup, he would have been a hero, hailed and feted by politicians and people in every city and village. Instead, he now faces an uncertain future as one of several of those featuring in the judicial report into match-fixing to be released this week.

The feeling in informed circles was that Akram lost the match for Pakistan when he chose to bat at the toss. Most One-Day finals at Lord's, it was pointed out, have been won by the teams with the advantage of using early life in the pitch.

These are statistics with which Akram, after 10 seasons in county cricket with Lancashire, would have been aware. Yet he saw a bare, dry surface and, in spite of overnight and early morning rain that caused the start to be delayed by half-hour, backed his batsmen.

They proceeded to let him down.

Left-hander Saeed Anwar's three thumping boundaries in the first four overs a squar-ecut off McGrath and a cut and ondrive off Damien Fleming might have prompted the carelessness than followed.

Wajatullah Wasti, who batted with such ideal judgement in his record semi-final partnership of 194 with Anwar, was pinned down for a single off 14 balls before guiding McGrath wide, but not wide enough, of second slip.

Mark Waugh flew through the air to grasp a breathtaking, two-handed catch.

Two balls later, Anwar drove airily at Fleming and deflected the ball from inside edge, into pad and into the stumps.

For the only time in the innings, the fledgling Abdur Razzaq, 19, and the seasoned Ijaz Ahmed, 35, played with the concentration necessary for rebuilding. They saw through McGrath's miserly opening spell of six overs for six and had put on 37 in 12 overs when there was the first hint at impatience.

Out of the blue, Razzaq chose to hoick Reiffel into the Warner Stand but reached only as far as McGrath's lap at long-off. To everyone's amazement, especially his own, one of the safest catchers in the business let the ball pop out of his hands onto the grass.

It was a only brief respite. At the opposite end, Tom Moody's medium pace had replaced Fleming and Razzaq saw it as light relief. Driving through the line half-way through the 20th over, he lifted the ball just enough for Steve Waugh to leap forward and hold the catch a couple of inches from the turf.

It was the ideal time for Waugh to present Warne. His confidence had suffered after some rough treatment early in the tournament but had been restored by the South African's aversion to leg-spin.

He was immediately into the grove, ripping across from leg-stump on a perfect length and posing questions to the batsmen of whether to move back or forwards.

Ijaz chose to stay back, a mistake to a leg-break that spun past him to hit off-stump. Moin Khan, quick on his feet and nimble in his wrists, was promoted to No.6 to counter the threat.

He swept a couple of twos of his first two deliveries but Warne was too clever for him. He changed his line to off-stump, Moin nibbled and wicket-keeper caught.

Inzamam-ul-Haq remained the last of Pakistan's main batsman but this was not their lucky day. He had carefully gathered 15 off 33 balls and inevitably indulged in his erratic communication with his partners when he pushed and, at television replays showed, missed at one from Paul Reiffel outside off-stump.

Umpire David Shepherd was deceived by the sound of bat brushing pad and Pakistan were 104 for six with only the all-rounders left to save them.

They made little headway and the contest was virtually over.

A stirring response by the Pakistanis would still have given it some credibility. They were simply not up to it as Gilchrist cut Shoaib Ahktar for six and cut, pulled and drove eight fours in 54 off 36 balls, Ponting took up the mantle with 24 off 27 balls and Mark Waugh observed the mayhem while remaining to the end with 37.

It was as bleak a day for Pakistan as it was glorious for Australia. For those who paid to watch it, it was utterly forgettable.

Source: The Barbados Nation
Editorial comments can be sent to The Barbados Nation at nationnews@sunbeach.net