Pakistan 249 for 6 (Imran 72, Miandad 58, Pringle 3-22) beat England 227 (Fairbrother 62, Akram 3-49, Mushtaq 3-41) by 22 runs
In the end, it had to be Imran. Pakistan’s captain, leader, talisman and icon is into his 40th year and will surely never be seen again on a cricket field after this, the triumph to end all triumphs. But when, with the game out of reach for England and only pride left to fight for, Richard Illingworth launched a tired wipe to Rameez Raja on the edge of the ring, it was Imran Khan, the bowler, whose upraised arms confirmed the end of a career-long quest, and the seizure of Pakistan’s maiden World Cup triumph.
The scorecard will say that Pakistan outlasted England to win by 22 runs – and Imran’s role was fittingly front-and-centre, in particular a captain’s innings of 72 that set the agenda for everything that followed. And yet, the numbers tell only a fraction of the story of a fraught, tense encounter in which a sprinkling of magic proved the difference between the teams.
The match panned out much as the two teams’ runs to the final had done – England, the early pace-setters, pushing Pakistan to the absolute brink in the opening exchanges, only for a few moments of good fortune to turn the tide and drain the energies of the men in light blue. And then, slowly at first, but then in a crescendo with bat and later with ball, Pakistan shed their inhibitions and turned to their inner tigers to finish with a roar that no opponent could have withstood.
The critical moment came as the players paused for drinks after 34 overs of England’s run-chase. Faced with a stiff target of 250, England had been rocking at 69 for 4 but found, in Neil Fairbrother‘s eye for a deflected single and Allan Lamb‘s old-school pugnacity, a fifth-wicket pairing with the requisite fight to take the game deep. Their stand had exactly doubled England’s total to 138 and reeled the requirement back to a manageable seven an over, when Imran decided it was time to turn back to his strike bowler, Wasim Akram, with licence to let rip.
It was a moment by which legends are born. After another new-ball burst in which Wasim’s consummate skill had been undermined by the degree of movement on offer, his return with an older, tamer ball wrecked the contest. With reverse-swing from the outset, England were on their guard, but even knowing what was liable to come his way, Lamb had no response to a delivery from the Gods, an inswinging, out-seaming gut-twister that snaked one way then the other, opening the batsman up like a can of worms before kissing past a groping edge to flick the outer half of his off stump.
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And if that was good in isolation, then the follow-up to Chris Lewis conferred the double-whammy instant iconic status – a flip of the shiny side of the ball to unleash a howling inswinger, one that started so wide of off stump, Lewis might have believed it would be called as such, before hurtling back through his defences as if caught in a gravitational pull, to smash the top of the stumps, and confirm that England’s hopes were gone.
Fairbrother withstood as best he could, top-scoring for England with a gutsy 62, but Pakistan had too many snake-charming overs left in their repertoire for their opponents to get back on track. If there was an error in England’s approach, it was their failure to take the attack sooner to the left-arm spin of Aamer Sohail, who burgled his way through 10 overs for 49 in the crucial mid-innings rebuild, and allowed Pakistan to paper over the fact that, with all due respect to Imran’s glorious past, they came into the game with just three frontline bowlers.
But what a trio they proved to be. Until Akram’s intercession, it seemed that Mushtaq Ahmed‘s outrageous googly to Graeme Hick might prove to be the crowning moment of the night, but his 3 for 41 was no less critical for being upstaged. In fact, in luring the ever-dangerous Graham Gooch to his doom on the slog-sweep for 29, he arguably did as much as anyone to point Pakistan towards glory.
The boy-turned-man who took that catch, sprinting, stretching, sprawling at deep midwicket for an inspired take – was the zippy seamer Aaqib Javed, whose precociously commanding performance at the top and tail of the innings returned figures of 2 for 27 to ensure that the injured Waqar Younis was barely given a passing mention. Throw in another display of unfettered strokeplay from Inzamam-ul-Haq in the latter stages of Pakistan’s innings, and it’s clear this triumph – Imran’s overlord status notwithstanding – was a testament to Pakistan’s eternal faith in youth.
But how they were made to battle by a team that came into the final as favourites after a supremely disciplined campaign, but who crucially lacked the same youthful spark to augment the ageing giants in their line-up. With the ball, Derek Pringle produced one of the great losing performances in World Cup history, and Gooch and Lamb both had their moments with the bat. But Ian Botham’s last hurrah was less of a joy. His old-pro outswingers had hoovered up 15 wickets in England’s run to the final, but just one belated scalp on the night. And with the bat, he suffered the ignominy of a sixth-ball duck, adjudged caught behind off an Akram lifter, even as umpire Aldridge was beginning his walk to square leg.
Mind you, Pakistan’s own innings hadn’t started much better. On a lively deck with juicy early movement for the seamers, their gameplan had been clear from the outset. Bed in at all cost, at the expense even of forward momentum, and trust their middle-order artillery to reprise the late onslaught that unseated New Zealand in Saturday’s thrilling semi-final.
It was a tactic fraught with risk, especially once the canny old pro Pringle had proven his fitness after missing the South Africa match with a rib injury. Manipulating the new ball like a yo-yo on its string, Pringle served up a supreme spell of wickedly intelligent medium pace, bowling eight overs off the reel for 13 runs, with only his own size-12s breaking the spell, as he overstepped for a total of five no-balls, coupled with three wides.
Pringle accounted for both openers in that first spell, Aamer Sohail for 4, who flashed with flat feet at one that nipped off the deck outside off, before Rameez Raja was pinned lbw for 8 by the inducker, a brace of deliveries that showcased his mastery of seam position, honed in so many Championship-winning seasons at Chelmsford.
But at 24 for 2 in the ninth over, and with Pakistan’s veteran pairing of Imran and Miandad already united at the crease, both teams knew that the game could be won and lost with the next breakthrough.
Initially Miandad seemed to know it more acutely than his captain. Whereas Imran was content to plant an imperious front foot down the wicket, blocking the straight ones and leaving those outside off, his partner got off to an unusually skittish start by the standards of his formidable tournament. He might have been caught in the gully on 1 as Lewis bent his back in an excellent new-ball spell, before scuffing a drive inches short of midwicket two balls later.
And then, in the space of two deliveries, came a pair of let-offs will surely haunt Pringle to the end of his days. With teasing shape back into the right-hander’s front pad, Miandad was rapped plumb in front of the stumps, then plumber still – from an even fuller length, so taking out any doubt about the height. On both occasions umpire Bucknor shook his head, and Pringle could only flap his hands in disgust, ruing a moment lost, but confident it could yet come again.
For even with those let-offs, Pakistan were seemingly going nowhere on 34 for 2 at the 17-over drinks break. But as Imran might as well have muttered during a mid-over conflab, “Ghabrana nahin hai (don’t panic)”. Sure enough, the introduction of Ian Botham broke the shackles a touch, as Miandad skipped to the pitch of a drive through mid-on for four in an opening over that yielded nine.
But it was Imran himself who had the next key let-off when, on 9 from 41 balls, Phil DeFreitas banged in a short ball that rushed onto a pre-meditated pull. Gooch at square leg, all 38 years of him, sprinted full pelt as the ball plummeted over his shoulder, but despite a valiant dive, he was unable to wrap his fingers round the chance.
Whether that was the game there and then, who knows. But slowly but surely, the MCG’s vast outfield began to look chock-full of scoring opportunities, as England’s tiring team – already feeling the strain after a long winter campaign – began to be pulled apart at the seams. From 70 for 2 at the halfway mark of the innings, the game was still in their grasp. At 96 for 2 after 30, they were getting anxious for a wicket. And at 125 for 2 after 35, with Dermot Reeve flogged from the attack with a 12-run over that brought up the hundred partnership, they were getting desperate.
Miandad, in his fifth World Cup, duly became the first Pakistani to score 1000 runs at the tournament, and by the time he was finally extracted in the 40th over for 58 – unfurling the reverse-sweep against Illingworth where conventional mowing through the line had been serving him just fine – the arrival of the helmetless Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s break-out star of the semi-final, wasn’t exactly a blessing. At 163 for 3 with ten overs in which to make merry, the stage was perfectly set for Pakistan’s much-vaunted finishers.
Imran knew it too. On 72, having done his bit and more, he aimed an ambitious wipe at his fellow legendary allrounder Botham, and picked out Illingworth on the edge of long-on boundary. He departed to a rich ovation, safe in the knowledge that he had risen to the occasion in what will surely now be his final, final farewell. And handed the reins to his other young gun, Akram.
Between them, Inzamam and Akram drained England’s troops of their resolve, adding 75 in 53 balls between them, with Inzamam’s initial flurry of four fours in his first ten balls giving way to a supporting role as Wasim took up the cudgels in the final five overs. He cracked four fours in his 18-ball 33, including a brace of venomous swipes to wreck Lewis’s figures in his final over, and though Pringle returned to outfox Inzamam for a richly deserved third wicket, a target of 250 – four more than England had failed to chase in Calcutta five years earlier – was daunting.
And by the time Pakistan had sprinkled their magic on the contest, it was overwhelming.
Eoin Morgan says England players are ‘open to helping in whatever way possible’
Eoin Morgan has insisted England players are “open to helping in whatever way possible” as the game struggles to come to terms with the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morgan, the captain of England’s limited-overs teams, said he was “open to absolutely everything” that might be required to help the game through a crisis that Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, has warned could cost up to £300m if the entire season is abandoned.
And that help, Morgan said, could include a temporary pay cut. While such a cut has not been forthcoming as yet – Harrison sent an email to the PCA (the players’ union) requesting a voluntary cut on Sunday but revealed on Tuesday that the ECB were no longer seeking such a scenario – Morgan suggested conversations were ongoing.
“I’m extremely willing to help where I know it will make a difference,” Morgan said. “So in the extremely uncertain times where no-one seems to have any answers on the actual impact it will have on international cricket or county cricket, I’m open to absolutely everything.”
“As players we are open to helping in whatever way possible. We want to hopefully make an impact. The difficult thing at the moment is to work out what the best way to help out as players is.
“Is it by social media? Is it to engage in other streams, sit back and let this pass and then hopefully play? They are answers we don’t have and can’t have at the moment.
“However, I think in the coming weeks when things become clearer, we can start putting in a strategy to implement. Getting back on the field seems quite a while away.”
Jos Buttler has taken things into his own hands. His offer to sell the shirt he wore in the World Cup final has, at the time of writing, attracted bids in excess of £65,000 with more than six days of the auction remaining. The money will be donated to the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals charity. Morgan was full of praise for Buttler’s generosity.
“It’s an incredibly kind gesture,” he said. “We’ve seen people donate during the Australian bush fires; we saw Shane Warne auction his Baggy Green cap for a million dollars or something absolutely ridiculous.
“The impact that can have on many lives as opposed to sitting in someone’s drawer as a bit of a trophy… personally it’s something I don’t understand.
“People have come out and said they would never do it. Justin Langer said he could never see a situation where he would do something like that but I find that hard to believe.
“Ultimately, when we find ourselves in such a crisis, things like that have absolutely no relevance to what is going on in the outside world. His shirt will go for a lot of money and it should do. But the gesture itself, to help buy new equipment, is absolutely outstanding.
Morgan also confirmed that even if the T20 World Cup is delayed, he intends to play in it. Morgan had considered retirement after England’s 50-over World Cup win in 2019 and had previously committed himself only until the end of the next T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to start in Australia in October.
“I’m looking to play both the next two T20 World Cups,” he said.
The tournament is scheduled to be played in India in October and November 2021.
Eoin Morgan open to fielding two England teams at once
New father Eoin Morgan wants to do all he can to ensure cricket is played during the English summer, even if it means England’s red and white-ball squads playing international series concurrently.
Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, said that given the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing uncertainty surrounding its impact, he saw “every option being viable during this extraordinary time”.
“The serious nature of the situation economically and financially for the game is something that we have never come across,” Morgan said. “Certainly from a player’s point of view we want to do as much as we can to try and keep things going.
“If there’s an opportunity to play as much cricket as we can, I’d like to think every player would be behind it. I certainly am. But obviously times are still uncertain at the moment.
“Realistically we can’t think about playing, when our first game will be, or how many we will play until the situation is downgraded from a pandemic. As ridiculous as it sounds that’s how serious it is.”
The ECB has said no professional cricket will be played in England or Wales before May 28 and is working on various scenarios to squeeze the domestic season – including the new Hundred competition – and international tours by West Indies, Australia and Pakistan into a curtailed timeframe beginning in June, July or August. The County Championship was due to begin on April 12, with seven rounds of matches scheduled up to May 27.
As things stand, England are due to play a three-Test series against West Indies in June, T20 and ODI series against Australia in July and three Tests against Pakistan from the end of July thorugh most of August. Changes to that schedule now appear inevitable.
International fixtures, the T20 Blast and the Hundred will be given priority in any revamped season as the most financially important competitions for first-class counties, but there is no guarantee that any cricket will be played during this northern summer. There are also doubts over whether the World T20 Championship will go ahead in Australia in October and November, the next global tournament for Morgan, who led England’s victorious 50-over World Cup campaign last year.
Morgan was also taking a broader world view given that his wife Tara gave birth to their first child, a son called Leo, three weeks ago.
“We have been preoccupied looking after the baby,” Morgan said. “We’ve been dealt a really good hand when it comes to things that are going on at the moment and have been bunkered away for a while, and haven’t been under pressure to go off and play cricket, which has been really nice.”
Misbah-ul-Haq bats for full World Test Championship, equal opportunity for teams
Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq has called for a “fair and equal” resolution to the World Test Championship when cricket finally resumes even if it means extending the tournament, warning that a shortened competition would fail to give a “true picture” of the standings.
With cricket, like nearly all major sports and activities, forced to a grinding halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the key questions is how to bring the inaugural World Test Championship, which is scheduled to run until June 2021, to an agreeable conclusion.
Several series that are part of the Championship have been postponed over the past few weeks, with the scheduling and limited time-frame meaning it is virtually impossible to fulfil all the fixtures before the end date.
“When we finally start moving back to normal life and cricket can resume, every side should get equal opportunities and the tournament shouldn’t be shortened,” Misbah said in a video press conference.
“No matches should be struck off, even if that means prolonging the Championship. Every side should get the chance to play all the games they had scheduled in this cycle.
Otherwise, you won’t get the true picture of what the rankings should have actually been and only some teams play all their games. That will disrupt the balance of the tournament. To me, it doesn’t matter if this goes beyond 2021 if that’s what it will take for everyone to get equal opportunities. That’s not a problem.”
England’s three-match Test series in Sri Lanka and the second Test of Bangladesh’s series in Pakistan are among the most notable World Test Championship fixtures to be postponed, but it remains exceedingly likely most, if not all, cricket over the next few months won’t go ahead.
That means England’s three-match Test series against West Indies and Pakistan are also in jeopardy, as is West Indies’ two-Test series against South Africa.
The seasonal demands of Test cricket mean rescheduling these games before June 2021 is improbable, and if all games in the Championship are to be honoured, extending the tournament would appear to be the only solution. That would mean delaying the start of the second World Test Championship competition, due to start immediately after.
Misbah also spoke about the challenges players faced trying to keep themselves fit while ensuring they stayed home, revealing the coaching staff were monitoring their progress through fitness watches.
“All of our centrally contracted players and those in our wider pool are in complete contact with the coaching staff and the fitness trainer. We send them the training plans that we want them to follow and to keep ourselves in shape to the best of our abilities. We want to ensure when cricket resumes, the physical conditions of our players should be the same as it was before and meets the demands of international cricket.
“We have groups online where we check in with players on how they think they’re doing. We share plans with them on the exercise regimen to follow even if they don’t have access to gym facilities.
“Because we can’t practice on the ground, what we can do is make sure we do our homework properly. That goes both for me and the players. We look at the last couple of series we played there and how England played in the last season at home. We analyse what we can do better so as soon we get the opportunity, we hit the ground running.
He did have a few choice words for Sharjeel Khan, acknowledging he had the ability to be an explosive asset in T20 cricket, but expressed disappointment with his fitness levels.
“He has the strike rate you’ll need at the top of the order at the World T20, especially against pace bowling on Australian pitches. But I think Sharjeel needs to work harder. He’s emerged back onto the scene after such a long time, so the one thing he could have ensured was his fitness, the one thing he could control, was up to the mark.
“If you’re serious about making a comeback, the you should have been in perfect physical shape. If he thinks he can come into the side without having made any changes, then selecting him would be an injustice to the other players. I wasn’t satisfied to see that at all. Now that there’s no cricket, he should be thinking day and night he needs to become super fit.”
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