KARACHI: The oldest cricketing rivalry has virtually been a one-horse race with the reigning champions Australia enjoying an overwhelming 5-2 win ratio against England in the overall history of the World Cup.
Tuesday’s sellout encounter at Lord’s will be the first time in more than 40 years that these great nations face each other on the English soil since the days of white-clothing mega event edition. Just imagine what it was like way back in June 1979.
The opening-day fixture was far from being a contest because England were taking on an Australian side which was bereft of top players like the Chappell brothers — Ian and Greg — Doug Walters, Rodney Marsh, Dennis Lillee, Max Walker, Gary Gilmour and Jeff Thomson.
In overcast conditions, the feeble batting line-up at Kim Hughes’ disposal struggled to 159-9 in 60 overs — with as many as four batsmen getting run out — despite being 97-1 at one point after Mike Brearley chose to bowl first. England rode on a century stand between Brearley (44) and Graham Gooch (53) to seal victory in 47.1 overs.
But four year earlier in the semi-final of the inaugural World Cup, England were at the receiving end of a memorable spell of swing bowling from Gilmour. After being put into bat by Ian Chappell with dark clouds hovering over Headingley, England were blown off their feet by the 23-year-old left-arm swing bowler. Bowling unchanged from the Football Stand End, Gilmour reduced the hosts to 36-6 before finishing with 6-14 in 12 overs.
England made partial recovery but still were skittled out for 93 in 36.2 overs; Australia also stumbled in the chase when they slipped to 39-6 but Walters (20) and man-of-the-match Gilmour (28) added 55 without being separated to guide them home in 28.4 overs.
The closest England ever came to winning the World Cup was in 1987. The final at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata went down to wire before ‘rank outsiders’ Australia capitalised on a false stroke from rival captain Mike Gatting and then held nerves to pull off a narrow seven-run victory.
After opener David Boon (75) had Mike Veletta (45 not out) had lifted Australia to 253-5 in 50 overs, England were on course for victory with just two wickets down for 135. And then the decisive moment of the game when skipper Allan Border’s left-arm spin induced Gatting to play a reverse sweep but the shot didn’t come off and the England captain was caught at off a leading edge by wicket-keeper Greg Dyer for 41.
The holders fared badly in the 1992 World Cup fixture in Sydney where England cruised to a crushing eight-wicket win after Australia had been dismissed for 171 with Ian Botham, in his last match against the old rivals, taking 4-35 and then scoring 53 as an opener.
The World Cup rivalry between these teams was put on hold for the next 11 years chiefly due to England’s poor showing in the 1996 and 1999 tournaments when both sides were placed in separate pools. And when they finally confronted each in 2003 it turned out to be a thrilling encounter in Port Elizabeth.
Andy Bichel played the match of his life. Not an automatic selection, the Queensland paceman returned incredible analysis of 7-20 in 10 overs as England made 208-8. He then came to the crease when Australia were down in the more at 135-8 after Andy Caddick (4-35) had done most of the damage.
Partnering the indefatigable Michael Bevan (74), Bichel scored 34 in the unbroken partnership of 73 as the champions won with two deliveries to spare.
The subsequent two World Cup games in 2007 and 2015, respectively, were one-way traffic. Even Kevin Pietersen’s unbeaten 104 failed to save England as the Aussies sealed a seven-wicket success at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, while Aaron Finch made Chris Woakes pay dearly for dropping a simple catch as the opener hit 135 in front of over 84.000 fans at the MCG as Australia romped to a 111-run victory.
June 18, 1975 — Headingley, Australia won by four wickets
June 9, 1979 — Lord’s, England won by six wickets
Nov 8, 1987 — Kolkata, Australia won by seven runs
March 5, 1992 — Sydney, England won by eight wickets
March 2, 2003 — Port Elizabeth, Australia won by two wickets
April 8, 2007 — North Sound, Australia won by seven wickets
Feb 14, 2015 — Melbourne, Australia won by 111 runs.
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2019