Welcome to #RetroLive, ESPNcricinfo’s answer to the ongoing global sporting outage. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be dredging through the archives to relive classic matches via our unrivalled ball-by-ball commentary. And when better to start than this coming Wednesday, March 25, the anniversary of the England v Pakistan 1992 World Cup final? If you don’t want to know the score, look away now…
After 38 matches and 32 days, it all comes down to this, at the ‘G. England v Pakistan in the World Cup final, in front of a crowd that is expected to push 90,000. At some stage on Wednesday evening, Graham Gooch or Imran Khan – two of the most senior statesmen in the world game – will hoist the Benson & Hedges crystal-globe trophy to confirm the new first-time world champions. What a tantalising prospect we have in store.
If, after the spectacle we’ve been witnessing for the past month, pyjama cricket still isn’t quite your thing, then fear not, the two teams will be back in whites soon enough, locked in a five-match Test series during the English summer – one that is sure to have an extra piquancy given how much will have been won and lost in the coming hours.
But, even for die-hard traditionalists, it would be hard to dispute that cricket’s World Cup has come of age during its maiden staging in Australia and New Zealand. A festival of the sport that began, almost as an afterthought, in England in 1975 and was rattled off in a fortnight, has now grown to become a powerhouse competition in its own right.
And in the country where floodlit cricket was pioneered, 15 long years ago, by Kerry Packer and World Series Cricket, the concept has stepped up another level this month – the coloured clothing, white balls and black sightscreens providing a sneak peek into the sport’s future as a 21st century spectacle. And thankfully, the cricket, by and large (and give or take the odd rain rule), has lived up to its heightened billing.
Even in what proved to be a subdued and ultimately futile campaign, the hosts and holders, Australia, played a massive part in ramping up the excitement. After crashing to chastening losses to their Southern Hemisphere rivals – New Zealand in the opening match and South Africa in their thrilling return to the sporting big-time – the Australians’ tooth-and-nail battle to save their skins was compelling. But an agonising one-run win over India gave way to one final Botham-ing against England, and after that, they were always playing catch-up.
And so we are down to two. And while it’s customary to quibble about the exact identity of a tournament’s finalists, no two teams epitomise the spectacle of the 1992 World Cup better than England, the early tournament pace-setters, and Pakistan, the late-charging thoroughbreds, whose respective campaigns have utilised all the permutations that the tournament’s excellent round-robin format was designed to make possible.
Gooch’s men hit the ground running with five wins and a hugely significant no-result (more of that in a moment) in their first six matches, but they’ll need to blank out the slight nagging suspicion that they have peaked a week or two early. With qualification to the last four already secure, a distracted pair of defeats against Zimbabwe and New Zealand dented their aura a touch, and while they still have enviable depth in their batting and bowling stocks, injuries and fatigue after a long winter are encroaching.
Mind you, if ever there was an occasion to dredge one’s last ounces of energy, this is it. And while some of the squad, notably Robin Smith and Chris Lewis, are young and talented enough to lead the line in Asia in four years’ time, for several old warhorses – Gooch, Ian Botham, Allan Lamb, Derek Pringle – there can be no more tomorrows. Each of them has been in a losing World Cup final dressing room before – in Gooch’s case, twice – and each knows how long the regret can linger.
Pakistan, by contrast, have had to grift and graft their way back into contention after looking for all the world as though their tournament was over following three losses in their first five. But, led imperiously by Imran, who would probably back himself to unite the subcontinent given half a chance, Pakistan then thumped Australia in a massively significant showdown in Perth, and have scarcely looked back. Breezy victories followed over Sri Lanka, again at the WACA, and the table-topping New Zealand in Christchurch, and few could argue that they have hit their stride at precisely the right time.
Unlike England, who boast an extraordinarily balanced XI in which every player has a first-class century to his name, Pakistan have got where they need to be with bursts of timely inspiration rather than any sort of coherent plan. And let’s not forget either their burst of divine intervention in Adelaide, when against these same opponents, Pakistan were routed for 74, only for rain to sweep to their rescue with elimination staring them in the face. The point they salvaged there proved just enough to vault them into the last four, and now here we are. Maybe Allah will be smiling on them after all …
Back on the field, Wasim Akram‘s travails with the new ball have epitomised Pakistan’s yin-and-yang campaign – in a tournament for swing bowlers, he’s got the ball to talk too much on occasion up front. But hand him an ageing Kookaburra and watch the mastery take root. With his fellow king of reverse swing Waqar Younis missing the tournament with a stress fracture of the back, he’s got the stage and the talent to bid for immortality.
Whatever transpires at a packed MCG, it’s been a month to remember. The emotional return of South Africa, and their every-bit-as-emotional departure; the home-spun endeavour of New Zealand, raised to the brink of glory by Martin Crowe’s class with the bat but foiled in the final analysis by his cruel hamstring tear, allied to Pakistan’s soaring faith in youth. And the galvanisation of Gooch’s one-day wonders – a team whose sky-blue shirts will surely retain a special place in their fan’s affections, whatever transpires on the day. But, for God’s sake, let’s hope it doesn’t rain …
England WLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
With his high-born lineage, Imran was bound to evoke the majesty of the tiger in rallying his cornered team, but Javed Miandad, Karachi’s natural-born streetfighter, has probably had something more down and dirty in mind while leading the charge in his inimitably pugnacious fashion. While Pakistan as a whole have had a rollercoaster ride to the final, Miandad himself has been a pillar of indomitability at No. 4, with four half-centuries to date and only one score below 30 (albeit that came against England in that infamous escape in Adelaide). And whether he’s been aping Kiran More’s incessant appealing behind the stumps or anchoring the semi-final chase to allow Inzamam-ul-Haq to cut loose at the other end, his ubiquitous presence has been tournament-long proof that you can never write Pakistan off.
For a man who is indisputably England’s greatest all-round cricketer, Ian Botham has long had a curiously underwhelming one-day record – at least until this, his farewell to the true glory days. Prior to his belated arrival in New Zealand (after completing his stint as the king in Jack and the Beanstalk), Beefy had amassed 1738 runs at 22.35 and 122 wickets at 29.14 in 99 ODIs – steady but far from swashbuckling. Since then, however, he’s turned on the bravado, compiling a career-best 79 in Christchurch before mocking the Australians on their home patch in Sydney with his best ODI figures of 4 for 31, not to mention another buccaneering fifty. He goes into the final as England’s leading wicket-taker for the tournament with 15 wickets at 17.60, and with a licence to have a go in his pinch-hitting role alongside Gooch at the top of the order. And if Botham’s sense of occasion is anything to go by, we can expect another concerted bid to steal the show.
England wait anxiously on the fitness of two key players, Smith, who trapped a nerve while practising before the semi-final, and Pringle, who missed the South Africa semi-final with an intercostal injury. Pringle, in particular, has been an immense factor in England’s canny use of the two new balls, finding teasing swing allied to impeccable line and length to deny any opposition batsmen any liberties, and though Gladstone Small is an able deputy, his absence would be a huge blow. Smith, meanwhile, will surely find a way back into the starting XI, either in place of Lamb, who’s yet to make a big contribution in his three games, or – perhaps more likely, given Lamb’s big-match experience and their wealth of allrounders – Dermot Reeve, whose sparky cameo in Sydney doesn’t quite justify his retention, though his medium-pacers are a useful go-to option.
England (possible): 1 Graham Gooch (capt), 2 Ian Botham, 3 Alec Stewart (wk), 4 Graeme Hick, 5 Neil Fairbrother, 6 Robin Smith, 7 Allan Lamb, 8 Chris Lewis, 9 Phil DeFreitas, 10 Derek Pringle/Gladstone Small, 11 Richard Illingworth
The spectacular coming-of-age of the new boy wonder Inzamam in the semi-final has justified one of the key decisions Pakistan took to arrest their free-falling form in the early part of the tournament – namely the promotion of Imran himself to No. 3, to provide a sheet-anchor in the event of early wickets, and a foil for the in-form Miandad. It’s a gamble to rely on an explosive finish to your innings in an ODI, but at least it’s a plan, and with the likes of Saleem Malik and Ijaz Ahmed (a likely recall in place of the second legspinner) still to produce telling displays in this tournament, Pakistan know they have untapped resources to call upon. With the ball, so much rests on their three key spearheads – Akram, Aaqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed. After that, it’s Imran living on fading glories, and not a lot else.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Aamer Sohail, 2 Rameez Raja, 3 Imran Khan (capt), 4 Javed Miandad, 5 Inzamam-ul-Haq, 6 Ijaz Ahmed, 7 Saleem Malik, 8 Wasim Akram, 9 Moin Khan (wk), 10 Mushtaq Ahmed, 11 Aaqib Javed
Pitch and conditions
There’s a threat of rain in the air in Melbourne, and given everything we have learnt about the rules for adjusted targets in this tournament, it’s hard to see how either captain could risk bowling first if they won the toss. But the pitch looks very true, and will surely hold up across 100 overs, even under lights, when the threat of dew could add a further jeopardy for the chasing team.
Stats and trivia
England have reached at least the semi-finals in each of the previous four World Cups, and Gooch has played in each of their previous two finals in 1979 and 1987. But they have yet to lift the trophy.
Miandad, with 379 runs at 63.16 in eight matches so far, needs another 78 in the final to overhaul New Zealand’s Crowe as the tournament’s leading run-scorer.
Only Australia’s David Boon has matched Rameez Raja’s tally of two hundreds in the tournament to date. Raja’s came against West Indies in Pakistan’s opening match and New Zealand in Christchurch.
With 15 wickets apiece, more than any other bowler, Botham and Akram are locked in a tight battle to be the tournament’s leading wicket-takers. Mushtaq (14) is poised to leapfrog both of them.
“I want my team to play today like a cornered tiger, you know when it’s at its most dangerous.”
Imran Khan first issued that rallying cry ahead of their critical group-stage win over Australia at the WACA. But it worked then, so it’s hard to see him changing his T-shirt in a hurry.
“Paraded in, sat down – really don’t want to be there. Got my mind a million miles away.”
Ian Botham is less than amused after walking out of an eve-of-World-Cup-final dinner as a comedian takes the mickey out of the Queen.
Mitchell Starc: Saliva ban risks ‘boring’ cricket without balance
Cricket runs the risk producing “boring” contests, losing followers of the game and reducing the number of young aspirants to bowl fast if a better balance isn’t struck between bat and ball. These are Mitchell Starc‘s views in reaction to the interim ruling offered by the ICC to ban saliva from shining the ball in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Having bent his back on a succession of unhelpful pitches in home Test matches over the past few summers, Starc argued similarly to his colleagues Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. He thinks the ICC’s prohibition of saliva, but not sweat, from being used to shine the ball out of health concerns needed to be counterbalanced by another measure.
While the ICC’s cricket committee has suggested more sporting pitches could be a solution currently, Starc was understandably wary about the prospect of administrators and ground staff acquiescing to this instruction, and instead pushed for a temporary allowance for an artificial substance with which to polish the ball. This concept, as reported by ESPNcricinfo, was discussed by the ICC committee before being ruled out on the basis that it took the game too far from its existing laws.
“I understand that completely and hear what they’re saying in terms of a foreign substance, but whether that can be controlled by the umpires in terms of they have a portion of the wax and you can only use a small amount, I don’t know, but there needs to be a maintaining of the even contest,” Starc said. “I understand what they’re saying with foreign substances and that it’s black and white in terms of that, but it’s an unusual time for the world and if they’re going to remove saliva shining for a portion of time they need to think of something else for that portion of time as well.
“Whether it be the wickets being not as flat or at least considering this shining wax to a degree, there needs to be some thought on that I think. I guess you use both those things [saliva and sweat] to shine the ball. I’ve probably been a bit more on the sweat side, just trying to not get my hands in my mouth too much, but yeah, I agree completely with what Pat commented on last week – that contest with bat and ball, we don’t want to lose that or get further away from that even contest, so there needs to be something in place to either keep that ball swinging.
“They’ve mentioned that it’s only going to be there for a period of time and then once the world gets back to a relatively normal situation then saliva can come back into shining the ball. But if it’s going to be a window of time there, maybe then instruct people to leave more grass on the wickets to have that contest or if they’re going to take away a portion of maintaining the ball, there needs to be that even contest between bat and ball, otherwise people are going to stop watching, and kids aren’t going to want to be bowlers.”
Administrators have long supported the concept of more lively pitches for bowlers, but far too often the practical outcome has been the preparation of surfaces devised to see a Test last for five days, typically producing a very attritional brand of cricket. Starc was clearly casting his mind back to India’s previous tour of Australia in 2018-19, where after two evenly-fought matches on fair pitches in Adelaide and Perth, Virat Kohli’s team ground the Australians into the beige turf of the MCG and SCG to close out the series.
“I think as we saw in Australia the last couple of years, there’s some pretty flat wickets, and if that ball’s going straight, it’s a pretty boring contest,” Starc said. “I think Kookaburra have been developing a shining wax or something of the sort, so whether there’s consideration of that, there needs to be some [thought to] maintaining that even contest. Generally the spinners reckon that the wickets that seam a bit also spin, so maybe if you bring the bowlers back into the game, you’ll tick all the boxes.”
Bundesliga injuries show need for sensible management of seamers, says Surrey physio
Fast bowlers need to build up their workloads “as sensibly as possible” in order to help mitigate against increased injury risk as they look to return from a prolonged period of rest, according to Surrey’s lead physiotherapist.
Plans are being drawn up around the world for players to return to training after an enforced break from the game, and Alex Tysoe told ESPNcricinfo that building up progressively will be vital for seamers in order to avoid the “undesirable” injury scenario seen in Germany’s Bundesliga.
A report by sports scientist Joel Mason found that injury rates shot up from 0.27 per game to 0.88 in the first weekend of top-flight football in Germany for two months, with soft-tissue injuries particularly prevalent as teams rushed back to the pitch. Tysoe said that fast bowlers needed to find a sensible balance as they prepare to return to cricket.
“There’s a lot about elite sport and the Covid situation which is not ideal, and we’re possibly seeing the effects of a sustained lockdown on football” he said. “You’ll have seen in the Bundesliga, there were a reported six soft-tissue injuries in the first eight games, which is an unusually high number for that league and sport.
“Bowling is a lot more difficult to facilitate during this period because players haven’t been able to use their local clubs or outdoor facilities. We know from a research point of view that one of the ways to mitigate the risk of a sharp rise in workload is to try and improve the individual’s relative strength, and then all you can do is be sensible when you get back into things: increase people’s bowling workloads as fast as possible but as sensibly as possible too.”
Tysoe is a co-author of a recent paper published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport which examined bowling loads and injuries for 49 fast bowlers at six different counties, and some of the conclusions drawn are relevant to the ongoing crisis.
The study was primarily methodological, exploring the ability of ‘differential loads’ to predict injury risk compared to the widely-used ‘acute-chronic workload ratio’ method, but also demonstrated that large week-to-week increases in bowling loads and bowling after a long period without are associated with the possibility of heightened injury risks.
“A simple analogy is that if you’re flying a plane, you have to consider the throttle, the level of the nose, and keeping your wings level on the horizon,” Tysoe said. “If you can keep all those within certain ranges, then your plane is much more likely to have a nice smooth journey; if you move the nose up and down, the wings left and right, and you’re messing around with the throttle, it’ll be a bumpy ride. It’s about getting up to cruising height nice and smoothly and staying there.
“It’s similar in the case of fast bowlers: it’s about making sure that they’re not doing too much, too soon, relative to the last 42 days, that on a week-to-week basis they’re not adding to what they’re doing too quickly, and that if they do have a break it’s not for too long. What we want now is to have a nice smooth take-off, to get back to that analogy, where we’re getting bowlers to take off reasonably quickly while doing it as safely as possible.”
Tysoe has been at The Oval in the past week, overseeing Sam Curran and Amar Virdi‘s first few sessions back bowling, and said that things had gone “really smoothly”. Eighteen England bowlers are now back in individual training, with a seven-week run-in between their return and the planned first West Indies Test on July 8.
The ECB’s performance director Mo Bobat has previously said that the schedule for this summer is likely to be “pretty brutal”, and that it may be necessary to rotate fast bowlers in order to reduce injury risks. Seamers have been bowling around six overs each per session and will gradually build up over the coming weeks.
“A lot of work went into drawing up the protocols with the ECB, and then implementing all of the logistics,” Tyose said. “The important thing is that the players are safe, and that they can still have some quality training – otherwise there’s no point doing it. The ECB have been brilliant throughout the process, and we’re looking forward to seeing how things progress.”
ALSO READ: How are cricketers keeping fit in lockdown?
Surrey are one of two counties, along with Lancashire, not to have furloughed players during the lockdown, meaning the squad have been checked in on regularly. The club have run weekly Zoom yoga sessions to help increase the squad’s mobility, and Tysoe is hopeful that if a county season is possible later in the summer, players “are not going to take too long to turn around at all”.
“We’re satisfied that they’re in as good a position as they could be at the moment. When we do get the green light to get back in and know when fixtures are, we’re in a position where we’re comfortable we can get them turned around in a relatively quick period of time.
“For the fast bowlers, they can’t bowl in the nets or outside but we can mimic those movements with medicine balls to make sure soft tissues are used to repeatedly producing those powerful, dynamic movements.
“One of the things we can’t do is influence the bone density of the spine. Pete Alway, who did a PhD with the ECB, did his research on spinal density of fast bowlers, and we now know that there’s nothing that can strengthen the spine for bowling better than bowling itself. You lose spine density pretty quickly when you stop bowling, and predictably it can take you longer to build that up: we need to be mindful of building them back up sensibly.”
ECB handed discretion over move to stage two training by government
The path for England’s return to international cricket has become clearer after the UK government published stage two guidelines for the resumption of elite sporting training.
Stage two of competitive training sees players given exemptions on social-distancing rules where necessary as part of training, with the decision on when to move from the first to the second stage at the ECB’s discretion.
Eighteen bowlers returned to training on a strict individual basis at the end of last week, with players adhering to a precise set of protocols regarding personal hygiene and social distancing under the supervision of a physiotherapist.
England are likely to name an enlarged squad of up to 45 players later this week, with players gradually returning to training as required. Batsmen and wicketkeepers are due to begin training on Monday, June 1, while white-ball players are likely to return later. The first Test against West Indies is pencilled in for July 8, while the first limited-overs internationals are likely to be a three-match ODI series against Ireland at the end of July/start of August.
The new guidance says that stage two training is anticipated to “start with smaller ‘clusters’ of 2-3 athletes and eventually progress to larger groups of 4-12 athletes, and ultimately full-team training”. It also stresses that social distancing should be maintained “at all other times aside from technical training”.
The guidance differs slightly from that issued by the ICC last week, which encouraged players to maintain social distancing during training.
It is highly likely that players will be encouraged to continue practices from individual training, such as bowlers bringing their own set of balls, regular use of disinfectant wipes, and washing hands regularly. The guidance recommends keeping communal areas like changing rooms closed, and re-states that athletes and staff should be made clear on their option to opt out at any point.
The ECB should also ensure that coaches and athletes are “briefed on, understand and are able to operate within the risk mitigation strategy associated with stage two training”, the guidance states.
“This new guidance marks the latest phase of a carefully phased return to training process for elite athletes, designed to limit the risk of injury and protect the health and safety of all involved,” Nigel Huddleston, the sports minister, said.
“We are absolutely clear that individual sports must review whether they have the appropriate carefully controlled medical conditions in place before they can proceed, and secure the confidence of athletes, coaches and support staff.
“Given the wide-ranging input we have received from medical experts, we believe these pragmatic measures should provide further reassurance that a safe, competitive training environment can be delivered, as we work towards a restart of professional sport behind closed doors when it is safe to do so.”
A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) statement said: “The elite sport return-to-training guidance intends to minimise the risk to the elite sports community, while also minimising any pressure elite sport places on healthcare workers and the wider community during the resumption of training. Like all changes to current measures it will be kept under review in accordance with the government’s Covid alert system.”
Man Utd owners the Glazers nearly made shock Old Trafford decision
What Newcastle players think of Steve Bruce keeping job as £300m takeover edges closer
What Man Utd think is required to complete Jadon Sancho transfer
Angel Gomes names three Man Utd stars who inspired him as Old Trafford exit close
Real Madrid eye Man Utd target as Paul Pogba transfer raises three problems for Zidane
Boxing news: Anthony Joshua's Mike Tyson verdict, Tyson Fury doubt, Manny Pacquiao talks
Mitchell Starc: Saliva ban risks ‘boring’ cricket without balance
F1 2020, news: Nico Rosberg on Michael Schumacher Mercedes mind games
NFL vice president Troy Vincent pans launch of pass-interference replay
Lou DiBella trying to find positives in a world without fights or baseball
MLB5 days ago
Our first-ever Universal DH Power Rankings for all 30 MLB teams
Soccer5 days ago
What Arsenal hero Thierry Henry thinks about Gunners transfer target Odsonne Edouard
MLB7 days ago
The 9 worst games in fantasy baseball history
MLB7 days ago
Tim Kurkjian’s Baseball Fix – Two homers and a no-hitter, and other tales of pitchers who actually hit
Soccer5 days ago
Man Utd set new minimum Jadon Sancho transfer terms, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea latest
Soccer2 days ago
Newcastle news: Chances of clear-out following £300m takeover discussed
Boxing3 days ago
Boxing news: Anthony Joshua breaks talks Fury fight, Mike Tyson slammed, Wilder ripped
NFL3 days ago
Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes touches on perseverance in speech to Texas Tech graduates