It took more than 12 years for Australia to reach the final of One-Day World Cup after having done the same in inaugural tournament back in 1975. Not only 12 years, but it also required an inspirational leader for Australia to not just reach the final but also lift the most coveted trophy in cricket.
It was under the leadership of Ian Chappell when Australia reached the final of inaugural World Cup 1975 and lost to Clive Lloyd-led West Indies by 17 runs. 12 years later, Allan Border-inspired Australia completed the circle by winning the tournament, which was hosted in India and Pakistan together for the first time. The final was played at the iconic Eden Gardens, Kolkata, which was then known for highly enthusiastic and sporting crowd.
For Australia, it was their rivals England standing between the trophy. Not to forget that England had also reached the final of World Cup previously in 1979 and they too lost to West Indies. India halted West Indies’ streak with a shocking win in 1983 by lifting the trophy at Lord’s.
Moreover, it was not just a World Cup win but was also the turning point in international cricket as that win gave India upper hand to host the next edition of the tournament in their nation along with Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan crowd were witnessing a mega event of this stature for the first time. In addition, this was the first ever World Cup tournament with 50 overs per side instead of 60 overs, which was the tradition in previous three.
Obviously, India and Pakistan were the favourites but both got eliminated in the semi-finals by the eventual finalists. It is often said that crowd at Eden Gardens were supporting Australia in the final, not because of their anger over horrors of British Raj but more or less because England had beaten India in the semi-final.
However, coming back to the final of 1987 World Cup, the match is widely remembered for the reverse sweep shot played by England captain Mike Gatting at the time when they were cruising towards a win.
After diciding to bat first, a composed knock from Australian opener David Boon (75) and the late blitz by Mike Veletta, who scored an unbeaten quick fire 31-ball 45; helped Australia post a decent total of 253.
Coming to chase, England’s score was 135-2 after 31 overs with skipper Gatting and Bill Athey at the crease; when the former played that reverse-sweep against his counterpart Border. The leather hit the top edge of the bat, rose straight up in the air and Australian wicketkeeper Greg Dyer pouched it safely. Interestingly, Dyer was surprised with himself after taking the catch safely. The English skipper walked back in regret after scoring 41 off 45.
Not to forget that the same Gatting remarked “silly stroke” when Indian captain Kapil Dev played a slog-sweep earlier in the semi-final match of the tournament, which was caught by the England captain himself.
Crowd at Eden Gardens were ecstatic, but Allan Lamb kept delaying the victory for Australia by standing firm for 55 balls and adding 45 to the scoreboard. Post Gatting’s departure, England still had the chance to win the contest but a major collapse triggered when Athey was run out by Steve Waugh and Bruce Reid together at the score of 170 after adding 58 off 103.
England seemed under pressure with required rate kept rising and Australia took the advantage of the situation by taking wickets regularly. Soon England were 7 wickets down after Lamb’s departure at 220 with only three overs to go.
With more than 30 runs needed, it almost looked hapless for England with Waugh and Craig McDermott sharing the ball. But Phil DeFreitas, who had come into the English side a season earlier, produced some hitting with his 10-ball 17, which included 2 fours and a six.
But that hope ended too as DeFreitas departed at the score of 235, dismissed by Waugh and caught by Reid. Gladstone Small and Neil Foster needed 17 in the final over to get past the winning line but was not going to happen with McDermott bowling the last over. He conceded only 9 and Australia won the final by 7 runs and lifted the World Cup trophy for the first time in their history, which is often said the dawn of another era of Australian domination.
David Boon was adjudged with Man of the Match award for 75-run knock and there was no player of the series at that time. On the other hand, captain Border was carried on shoulders of Dean Jones and Tom Moody during Australia’s lap of honour at the venue with trophy in skipper’s hand.
Earlier in the year 1987, Australia were humiliated in their own backyard with a 2-1 Ashes defeat at the hands of England. The World Cup victory later in the same year looked like a sweet revenge. Not only that, but Australia went on to dominate the English side in next 8 Ashes series — between 1989 to 2002-03.
Australia 253-5 in 50 overs (David Boon 75, Mike Veletta 45; Eddie Hemmings 2-48) beat England 246-8 in 50 overs (Bill Athey 58, Allan Lamb 45, Mike Gatting 41; Steve Waugh 2-37, Craig McDermott 2-38) by 7 runs.
Player of the match: David Boon