Final: Australia v Pakistan
Michael Henderson - 20 June 1999
Australia on top of the world
In their own minds, Pakistan were running away with this World Cup. Yesterday, faced with the intransigence all good Australians imbibe with their mother's milk, they saw it run away from them.
Steve Waugh, a winner 12 years ago when he was the junior member of a far less formidable team, held the trophy aloft to confirm what everybody knows: they are the best team in the world.
Three years ago, in Lahore, Australia lost the final to Sri Lanka after playing the best cricket in the competition. This time, they did things differently. They lost two of their first three group matches and won the other, unconvincingly, against Scotland.
Waugh said after Pakistan had beaten them by 10 runs at Headingley on May 23 that his players would have to win their next seven games and that, give or take the jaw-dropping tie with South Africa, is exactly what they achieved. They atoned for that defeat yesterday, as their captain might have liked, coldly. He was padded up on the dressing-room balcony, like an emperor, when Darren Lehmann's hit through cover secured victory by eight wickets.
Having played so much brilliant cricket, and having been involved in four of the best games in the tournament, Australia won with surprising ease yesterday. Pakistan, who won the toss, were dismissed for 132, the lowest total in any World Cup final, and so masterly was the batting of Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh that Australia needed only 20 overs to find the runs.
Their dominance was total from the moment Mark Waugh caught a superb two-handed slip catch to dismiss Wajahatullah Wasti in Glenn McGrath's third over. No Pakistan batsman made more than 22 except the valiant last man, extras, who contributed 25. Then, when they required early wickets to undermine the Australian reply, Shoaib Akhtar bowled four overs for 37.
There was nothing wrong with the pitch. It had more pace than most at Lord's, and there was bounce for the bowlers who were prepared to find it, as well as turn for Shane Warne. Pakistan batted poorly and, later, when all hope had evaporated, they fielded badly.
It was a shame for Wasim Akram, who had led them wonderfully throughout the competition, but he has known such days before. This team are, at times, inspired, at times banal, and, at all times, infuriating. They let themselves down badly, and so did some of their bone-headed members supporters, who again invaded the field when the match approached its conclusion.
Because the spectators were deprived of the final they had paid good money to see, it is inevitable that the memory of a flat day will cast a lengthy shadow over the tournament as a whole. That diminishes the Australian achievement. They played the hardest cricket, as they had to, and they can go home tomorrow in the knowledge that, over five days or one, they remain the team others fear most.
In particular, they can thank their captain, whose unbeaten hundred at Leeds last Sunday ensured they won a game they had to, in order to qualify for the semi-finals. If Waugh proposed a toast last night, other than to the Valkyries who preside over Australian captains, it was probably to Herschelle Gibbs, the South African fielder who dropped him that day on 56, when the ball was apparently under his control.
That was one of the great one-day innings, and he was only slightly less impressive in making 56 (oh, bitter irony!) against the South Africans in the epic tie in Birmingham. Waugh is one of the great cricketers of the modern era and, even though the extent of his contribution yesterday amounted only to a couple of catches, they would not have been at Lord's without his 398 runs in the competition.
He has been supported fully by the three other great players in this team. Mark, his twin, carried his aggregate to 375 runs yesterday, and became the first Australian to pass 1,000 runs in World Cup matches. He also held that magnificent early catch, which he took with both hands as he swivelled through the air like a flying dolphin. Could there possibly be a more natural cricketer?
McGrath, again, was outstanding. The man who fired out Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar for ducks in successive matches ended the tournament with 18 wickets after collecting another pair, first in, last out and that one to a superb catch by Ricky Ponting, low, at third slip.
In his first spell, of six overs, McGrath offered only three balls the batsmen could score off, and one of them was a long hop that Saeed Anwar belted past point for four. It was excellent new-ball bowling, based on an off-stump line that tied up the batsmen as firmly as if they were manacled to the crease.
The fourth man takes his leave of this World Cup in glory. Another four wickets gave Warne 202 in one-day internationals and 20 for the competition, a record he shares with Geoff Allott, of New Zealand. If it was not as triumphant as the regal passage that reduced South Africa to such abject forlock-tugging, it was still the performance of a Meistersinger.
They did not play him all that watchfully, in defence or attack. Ijaz Ahmed missed a leg-break with a crooked bat. Shahid Afridi was lbw, defeated in flight as he tried to sweep. Moin Khan was caught behind trying to defend a ball that jagged away from him, and Wasim, having swatted a six in front of the Mound Stand, slogged a catch to midwicket.
The Australian out-cricket was marred by one lapse when McGrath missed a chance that Ijaz hoisted up to long-off.
Warne spoke later, with some feeling, about his future. He has crammed in an awful lot for a man who does not turn 30 until September and it's not as if there are fresh fields to conquer. He has played in the outstanding cricket team of recent years, and this World Cup serves as confirmation.
Nobody who has seen him bowl in the last two games will pay much attention to those who thought that his most productive spinning days were behind him. They may be, but he remains a cricketer in a thousand, and he shouldn't be thinking of jacking it all in just yet. There are more wickets in those fingers and, besides, where will he find the comradeship that exists in a happy and winning team?
Australia are worthy winners, though it was Lance Klusener who was named player of the tournament for his 17 wickets and 281 runs. It won't comfort him to recall that if he had made one run more, South Africa would have contested a final that proved so disappointingly one-sided.
Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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