By Aaron Callaghan
Welcome to Part One.
I split this blog post into two parts as it’s 2019, people read in a weird and wonderful ways, mainly on the toilet and sometimes just prefer videos. Who knows with you millennials.
Let’s stroll back into 1999, what a year! The Y2K bug, Fight Club, The Matrix, Livin La Vida Loca and The Backstreet Boys all culminating in an Australian sporting climax … a crescendo of world cup triumphs in rugby union and cricket.
Steve Waugh’s 1999 cricket world cup squad fumbled, bumbled, limped and made Herschelle Gibbs look like a goose on their way to a famous victory.
The 1999 cricket world cup final was almost a non-event after Australia’s run through the knockout stages but first it is time to go back and start at the start. Games were held in the United Kingdom and the power house of world cricket that is ‘The Netherlands’, with the final at the home of cricket, Lords. Nine tier one ICC members started the tournament - Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, England, West Indies, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. Kenya, and for the first time in history Bangladesh and Scotland qualified through the 1997 ICC Champions Trophy.
Let’s quickly recap the state of world one day international cricket in 1999. Well for starters stadiums were still packed as people actually went to one day internationals. The axis of power belonged to Australia and South Africa with India and Pakistan just in behind them.
South African Cricket : The Perfect Villain
It was an interesting time in South African cricket history and the late 90’s is the start of their current run of not quite a golden age but complete competency as a cricketing nation years after stumbling out of cricket exile in 1992 like a rowdy reveller rolling home drunk from a Johannesburg nightclub. Fresh off winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal, which no doubt went straight to the pool room, the South African team was jam packed with stars. The batting line up featured the reliable and steady hands of Gary Kirsten, Jaques Kallis and Hanse Cronje wearing the captain's armband and power hitting from Hershelle Gibbs and Lance Klusener. The bowling line up struck fear into opposing lineups led by white-lightning Allan Donald and one of the games greatest all rounders - Shaun Pollock. Pollock’s stock was skyrocketing, in his 14 tests in 1998 - Pollock took 69 wickets and firmly announced his presence on the international scene.
South Africa would go on to play Australia in the semi-final, more on that in part two. In the group stages South Africa breezed through Group A with four wins and one loss - tripping up with a loss to probably the greatest Zimbabwean team ever assembled.
The Incumbent Hero : The Australian Cricket Team
Steve Waugh perhaps very close to peak of powers led a stacked team to England to bring back the silverware. Listen to these names;
Adam Dale .... Adam Dale … yep, had to say it twice.
Ricky Ponting and
And breathe. Wow. What a squad. Superstars.
The real question is can they get it all together, can Steve Waugh bring his team together during the round robin and into the knock out stages?
Well ‘just barely’ is the answer.
Australia quite fortuitously gets the easier ride in the round robin stages facing off against New Zealand, West Indies, Bangladesh, Scotland and on paper the only real test being Pakistan.
Cruise Control : The Cricket World Cup Group Stages
The group stages serve a few very important functions; The group stages weed out bad teams, sending them on holiday early, grab the camera and sunscreen Scotland and Bangladesh.
Secondly, the group stage puts profit in pockets filling up stadiums, fattening up TV deals and advertising placements.
Thirdly, it affords good teams the opportunity to work out selections, work out strategy and gel together. Team cohesion - figure out the kinks before the winner takes all games.
First up Scotland offered very little resistance and cruised past Scotland - Mark Waugh 67 and Shane Warne 3 for 39.
The first real stern test for the Aussies came against an old rival and Waugh's team jumped straight into the first hurdle, knocked it flat and grazed their knee in falling over to record a second up loss to New Zealand.
Geoff Allott tore through the Aussies taking 4 for 37 off his allotted 10, you might not remember Geoff Allott, I don’t, he only clocked up 31 one day internationals and 10 tests. Allott - 19 test wickets at nearly 60 and striking every 106 balls.
I wonder where it all went wrong for Geoff?! Did he just catch some English green tops during this world cup run?
New Zealand chased 214 to win, collecting the runs in the the 46th over on the back of Chris Cairns smashing 60 off 77 and the real hero English born kiwi Roger Twose hit 80 not out from 99 deliveries.
New Zealand victories over Australia hurt every single time, it’s particularly cruel at a world cup or Olympics.
A chance for redemption again Inzamam Ul Haq’s Pakistan team was third on the slate for the now 1 - 1 Aussies at Headingley.
Pakistan batted first and Inzamam Ul Haq blazed away collecting 81 in fours, sixes and turning easy two’s into cheeky singles assisted by Abdul Razzaq’s 60 Pakistan set Australia 276 to win. Damien Fleming took 2/37, relishing English conditions conducive for swing bowling where he had it swinging around corners.
The run chase didn’t start particularly well with Adam Gilchrist gone on the third ball of the match. Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh consolidated with a treble of 40-odds.
Enter Michael Bevan, the finisher. Australia’s rescue man. Surely if anyone can guide Australia home and fend off an advancing, threatening Wasim Akram its Michael Bevan, one of the greatest one day batsmen of all time.
Bevan calmly added 61 off 80 but unfortunately it amounted to nil as Australia fell 10 runs short. Wasim Akram took 4 for 40 and Saqlain Mushtaq snared 3 for 51.
Australia slumping in their World Cup campaign to one win and two losses and needing a miracle only ‘JC’ himself could gift the Aussies.
It is important to note at this point Australia are 1 and 2 with only two group games remaining against Bangladesh and Brian Lara’s West Indies. Australia need a couple of results to go their way and most importantly win games of cricket and win well to up their net run rate. Their first big break of the tournament is the West Indies beating New Zealand the day after Australia’s loss to Pakistan which leaves the door just slightly ajar.
Punishing the poor Bangladeshis is a must for the Aussies and they achieve that by handing out a Stone Cold Steve Austin ass-whoopin. The ‘deshis struggle, scrape and crawl to 178 with Tom Moody being the chief destroyer taking 3 for 25 off his full 10.
The small chase is the perfect platform for Australia’s batsmen to claw back the precious net run rate which will ultimately decide their fate. Adam Gilchrist opens the account with a quick 69 and the man of the moment Tom Moody who was kissed on the cock by a gypsy somewhere outside of London, smoked 56 off 29 deliveries and Australia chased down the total inside 20 overs.
The 28th match of the tournament and Australia’s last group stage hit out was a must win to give themselves every chance to qualify for the Super Sixes and a convincing win could inconceivably catapult them into second place in the group.
Glenn McGrath made big promises and delivered with a five for and a host a prized scalps as the West Indies slumped to an ICC associate-country like 111 all out off 46 overs. The real controversy from this game was Australia taking 41 overs to collect the required 112 in an attempt to push New Zealand down the standings - Steve Waugh and John Buchanan obviously annoyed at the Black Caps for the group stage victory and seeking to exact passive-aggressive cricket revenge on the Kiwi’s in a completely petty move which I love. It’s like when all of the mens basketball teams at the Olympics do whatever it takes to avoid the Team USA Dream Team which is packed with NBA stars, except this time Australia was trying to avoid Craig McMillan and Dion Nash.
Glenn McGrath took 5 for 14 after talking Muhammad Ali levels of shit in the media, young ‘Pidge’ really did have a chip on his shoulder - a fast bowlers level of anger pretty much 24/7.
Glenn McGrath lays down the smack talk - Cricinfo
I often think of the imagery of McGrath collecting his hat from the umpire after completing his over and punching the inside of his baggy green before hastily pulling the cap over his head, trudging off to fine-leg muttering all manner of swear words. Of course he probably only conceded two runs from the over with an edge through third man and had a close leg-before-wicket appeal turned down, a success by any other bowler’s personal matrix.
Looking back it’s perhaps only a fleeting thought of questionable links but the cavalier attitude and playing style of Steve Waugh and John Buchanan’s teams during that golden run was probably a foreshadowing of what the Australian team was to become from - “Get ready for a broken f**kin arm” through to the darkest day in Australian cricket history - ‘Sandpaper gate’. I’m not sure I’m ready to make that link, I’m just saying there is some dark shadows looming off the coast.
For those playing at home after the Australia v West Indies fixture there was only two games left to round out the group stage and only one of any importance, the New Zealand Black Caps needing to cane Scotland like a medieval colonial massacre to qualify for the knockout stage and eliminate the West Indies of whom Australia gave a chance to by scoring so slowly.
Why do Aussies hate to see New Zealand do adequately well? I mean, Trevor Chappell just bowl the ball normally. We, Aussies also took great delight in the All Blacks world cup failures for many years. I don’t get it - poor Kiwis.
Here’s the cliff notes.
Australia were red hot going into the tournament.
Flog Scotland first up - a nice warm up really.
Lose to NZ in their second game - “Ok no big deal, we can regroup”. Roger Twose bombs 80-odd - Who the f**k is Roger Twose?!
Inzamam Ul Haq, Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq destroy Australia - “Stop panicking, STOP PANICKING!!!”
“We can still make the super sixes?? … How??” - Steve Waugh, probably.
New Zealand choke against the West Indies.
Australia flogs Bangladesh and helps them pack for the Spanish coast. Tom Moody has the game of his life tacking a bag full and smashing runs.
Australia flogs the West Indies who collapsed to be all out for 111. The Aussies bat really slowly, Geoffrey Boycott slowly in an attempt to deny New Zealand a place in the knockout stage. It fails.
New Zealand smashes Scotland well enough to book a knockout berth on the back of a Roger Twose 54 not out. ‘Fair dinkum’ this bloke must be batting for a new contract or his life because he is carrying the Black Caps.
Pakistan qualifies atop of Group B, Australia second and New Zealand third on net run rate. The West Indies, Bangladesh and Scotland are off to see Big Ben, the Tower of London and the Beatles crosswalk.
Group A - The group of death sees South Africa, India and Zimbabwe progress through the knockout stage. Leaving 1995 champions Sri Lanka, Kenya and the host nation all off for an early holiday. Well at least England will have the 1999 Rugby World Cup to atone this failure … right?
That rounds out Australia and Group B of the 1999 world cup. A stumbling bumbling effort, filled with controversy, Glenn McGrath shit-talk and Tom Moody playing himself into the history books. Pakistan qualified top and looked good in the process - surely they will be hard to beat in the super sixes.
Part two will reveal all from the knock out stages and go in to games in greater depth. The Unsportsmen will be back with the knockout stage oral history during the Cricket World Cup. Subscribe to The Unsportsmen newsletter in the sidebar on down below on mobile.
READ PART 2 HERE