23 August, 2014 / Shawwal 26, 1435
The tournament in 1998, failed to provide electrifying sort of cricket mainly due to slow, low types of pitches. -File photo
The tournament in 1998, failed to provide electrifying sort of cricket mainly due to slow, low types of pitches. -File photo

IN the late 1990s the International Cricket Council (ICC), then headed by influential Indian business tycoon Jagmohan Dalmiya, came up with the philosophy of pumping additional money into the coffers of the game’s governing body by spreading the sport to emerging cricketing nations between the quadrennial World Cup, the showpiece event of the ICC.

Hence the ICC Champions Trophy was launched with the first two editions titled as the ICC Knockout events, although the first was officially named as the Wills International Cup.

The idea to stage the competition in developing countries was discontinued in order to expand the tournament’s format while noting the dwindling interest of all the stakeholders. One more key element was that gradually the event began to lose its charm because it was being close to the main course — the World Cup.

The upcoming eight-nation jamboree in England and Wales will be the seventh and final time it is being staged because the ICC had already decided to replace it with a World Championship among the four top-ranked Test teams from 2017 onwards.

Bangladesh — who still had yet to earn Test status — were belatedly chosen as the host country for the inaugural tournament after the ruling body opted against organising it in either first-choice Florida or Sharjah.

The selection of venue and timing of the tournament (just ahead of the 1998-99 Ashes battle Down Under) dissuaded England from fielding their best players with a number of fringe individuals picked in the Dhaka-bound squad led by Australian-born Surrey captain Adam Hollioake.

The tournament, staged from Oct 24 to Nov 1, 1998, failed to provide electrifying sort of cricket mainly due to slow, low types of pitches at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, which later hosted Bangladesh’s inaugural Test (against India in November 2000) but subsequently converted into a full-time football arena since March 2005 with cricket finding new home in the capital at the newly-constructed Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.

Most teams had competed in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in August that year but ironically, Bangladesh were not invited to the nine-team ICC gala with eight day-night fixtures squeezed into nine days. As the title suggested, all matches were played on a knockout basis.

In the only preliminary quarter-final, New Zealand edged out Zimbabwe with a last-ball victory set up by skipper Stephen Fleming’s 96 after captain Alastair Campbell (100) and Andy Flower (77) had helped the Africans post a competitive 258-7.

South Africa, the eventual champions, downed England by six wickets in the first of the quarter-finals after Hollioake had raised his team’s hopes with a breezy unbeaten 83 from 91 balls. Arjuna Ranatunga starred in Sri Lanka’s five-wicket win over New Zealand in the second of those last-eight ties with an undefeated captain’s innings of 90.

Sachin Tendulkar’s belligerent 141 from 128 deliveries inspired India to a 44-run success against Australia in the third quarter-final with little genius also snaring four wickets, including prized scalps of Aussie captain Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan.

Pakistan’s campaign, sandwiched between the Test and one-day series against Australia in Pakistan, was also brief as a disjointed unit led by Aamir Sohail lost to the West Indies by 30 runs in the last quarter-final.

The players were mostly preoccupied by censures and contradictions at the bribery inquiry back home and it showed as the unhappy lot were hardly in the mood to counter Keith Arthurton’s occasional assortment of left-arm spinners on a wearing track.

Opener Philo Wallace set the tone with a blazing 79 off 58 balls that provided West Indies the impetus to pile 289-9. Wasim Akram claimed three wickets but conceded 55 runs in his overs, while off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq’s seven overs cost 44 runs with no wicket.

South Africa prevailed over Sri Lanka in a rain-disrupted first semi-final with Jacques Kallis contributing an exhilarating 113 (unbeaten) off 100 balls in Proteas’ score of 240-7 from 39 overs. Sri Lanka capitulated for 132 in 23.4 overs while chasing 224 from 34 under Duckworth-Lewis Method.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul (74) and skipper Brian Lara’s unconquered 60 sealed West Indies’ six-wicket triumph against India in the other semi-final and a date with Hansie Cronje’s South Africans in the title-decider.

Wallace hammered 11 boundaries and five sixes in making 103 off 102 balls but his departure in the 35th over with the total on 180 enabled South Africa to regroup. Kallis was on song as his seamers fetched him five wickets for 30 runs in 7.5 overs while the West Indies lost the final five wickets for 32 runs.

South Africa, chasing 246, made a decent start with Daryll Cullinan and Mike Rindel putting on 54 inside eight overs for the first wicket until both were run out by Arthurton. Kallis struck 37 before setting the stage for Cronje to provide the final touches by finishing on a defining 61 not out.

His 77-ball knock contained four fours. Kallis was the deserving recipient of the Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Tournament awards. Curiously, not a single journalist from either of the two finalists attended the final although the tournament saw massive turnouts in all matches despite the absence of the hosting nation.

This is the first of a six-part series in which Dawn looks back at the past happenings in the ICC Champions Trophy, an event which is aptly described as the ‘mini’ World Cup.

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