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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Flashback

The prodigals return

The Rediff Team | January 06, 2003

                   The Semi Finals

 

England versus New Zealand, Old Trafford, June 20

Thanks largely to the Packer World Series, fitness and its corollary -- athletic fielding -- had become an integral part of one-day cricket. This game, perhaps, provided the first real instance of how fielding could actually win matches -- and England's ebullient Derek Randall, the precursor to the likes of Jonty Rhodes and Ricky Ponting, left an indelible impact on the competition.

England went in with an extra batsman in Wayne Larkins, and a bowler less in Phil Edmonds, with skipper Mike Brearley opting to cushion the out-of-form Geoffrey Boycott rather than drop him.

Batting first, England made 221/8 in the allotted 60 overs, at 3.68 runs per over. Opener Mike Brearley anchored with 53 (115 balls); Graham Gooch batting at number four played a stroke-filled hand of 71 off just 84 deliveries; overs, thanks largely to a composed 71 by Graham Gooch, and though Boycott, Gower and Larkins all failed, Botham with a crisp 21 in 30 deliveries, and Randall with a rapid 42 off 50, gave the lower part of the innings some momentum.

The Kiwi response was a study in contrasts. The opening partnership of 47 was rock solid, and John Wright raised visions of a superb win with a composed innings of 69 (137 deliveries) at the top of the order.

Brearley, however, swung the game England's way with classic captaincy. Setting impeccable fields, he slowed the game down in the middle with non-regular bowlers Boycott (9-1-24-1) and Gooch (3-1-8-0), a period that turned the screws on the Kiwis, raised panic levels and led to the most crucial part of the game -- an outstanding piece of fielding by Randall that saw top scorer Wright, at a time when he looked good to bat through the innings, being run out.

Though the Kiwis battled hard, they never really recovered from that blow. At one point, with 25 needed with three wickets off three overs, it seemed like the chasing side was in with a chance -- but again, defensive off cordons, and tight line and length bowling by Botham and Hendricks, ensured that the batsmen managed only 11 from the first two overs, to ultimately fall short of the target by nine runs.

The standout performer was Randall -- a template for the subsequent construction of Jonty Rhodes. With the bat, he was all bustle, nudging, tipping and running, and generally upsetting the bowlers' rhythm. In the field, specializing in the point-cover arc, he seemed peripatetic, stopping singles, diving around, effecting two run outs including the key one of Wright, and demonstrating how quality fielding could be as important a weapon as batting and bowling, in this form of the game.

Pakistan versus the West Indies, Kennington Oval

By rights, this should have been the final -- on a batting beauty of a track, two teams of identical nature faced off in a shootout. Both teams had brilliant batsmen and incisive pace attacks, both had attacking skippers, both had reputations for playing electric, no-quarters-asked cricket.

Asif Iqbal won the toss and inserted. Gordon Greenidge (73/107) and Desmond Haynes (65/115) combined in a 130-run opening partnership that set the tone for the game, and provided the platform for the array of Caribbean strokeplayers to follow.

Richards (42 off 62), Lloyd (37/38) and Collis King (34 off 25) had the crowd going with scintillating strokeplay. Again, a one-day tradition was underlined here -- on a batting wicket, it was typically the non-regular bowlers, Asif Iqbal (4/56 in 11) and Majid Khan (12-2-26-0) who bowled superbly in the face of a demoralizing assault by superbly talented batsmen.

Pakistan's response began badly, with Michael Holding taking out Sadiq Mohammad with just ten runs on the board. The wicket, however, set up perhaps the best batting display of the entire tournament -- the elegance of Majid Khan and Zaheer Abbas versus the fire and fury of the Windies pace quintet of Roberts, Holding, Croft, Garner and King.

What resulted, was a magnificent 166 run partnership (Majid 81 off 124, Zaheer 93 off 122) that created the template for a one-day chase -- both batsmen used the singles to rotate strike and keep the board ticking over, and classical shots to blunt the pace battery and find the fene. At the end of 40 overs, they had taken the total of 176/1, and looked firmly in command.

The events of this period were to have a lasting impact on the game -- faced with the prospect of defeat (Pakistan needed a mere 118 from 20 overs with 9 wickets in hand at one stage), Lloyd first went defensive, then negative, with packed leg side cordons and short, fast deliveries pitching on or outside leg in a desperate bid to stem the flow of runs. Majid and Zaheer both fell into the trap of trying to accelerate against the negative line, and Colin Croft implemented his captain's strategy superbly to take out both those batsman, plus Miandad for a duck as bonus, to trigger a slump from which the batting side never really recovered.

The bowling card had two points of interest -- Holding's effortless mastery of line and length at extreme pace saw him, in a game dominated by batsmen (543 runs were scored off 117 overs with Pakistan going at 4.4 to the Windies 4.8), turn in figures of 9-1-28-1; and again, a non-regular bowler turned the trick when Richards' slow off spin took out Asif Iqbal, Mudassar Nazar and Imran Khan to rip through the middle order and open the tail up for Roberts.

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