Australia v India, The Oval, Friday June 4th 1999

It was 15 years ago today that Australia played India in the first of the Super 6’s finals format of the 1999 ICC World Cup.

Also coincided with the first time had the pleasure of sharing a sporting experience with Mopsy, soon to join the Footy Banter Team. From the archives we have exhumed a copy of the match report written on the day from the old hard drive.

Thanks to Leachy and Mopsy for the memories rekindled, enjoy.


Having now been in London for two and a half days, already endured three hangovers and feeling acclimatized to the ever changing weather (four seasons every hour until late afternoon), the day had arrived where I would be attending the first match of the Super Six Finals Series in the 1999 ICC World Cup. Australia against India at The Oval.

The preparations were complete. My lunch comprising bread rolls and dry biscuits packed, my Richmond jumper laid out, plenty of film for the camera, tickets – check. I arose from my temple of disjointed slumber (fold out couch) and readied myself for the ninety minute Tube journey to Kennington.

As I walked to the Rayners Lane Tube, the drizzle and dark clouds didn’t fill me with optimism as judging by the surrounding water we had received a fair bit of rain overnight, this coming after two days of glorious sunshine. Took my seat in the carriage to Baker Street with copies of the Mirror and Star tabloids to entertain me, simplistic amusement fodder.

As was typical in these publications the cricket content was minimal, the only story on the World Cup in the Star was about Azzharudin’s clothing label – Azza 99 – to celebrate India’s apparently routine victory of the World Cup. I hope that Azza didn’t spend too much on design and early stock ranges as their only use would be to adorn flaming effigies in the homeland. As I learnt later in the day Azza, is not terribly popular amongst the Indian fans.

Changing trains in the city I started to see my first glimpses of cricket fans as the powder blue Indian shirts and flag colors were frequently spotted amongst the underground crowd.

Arrived at Kennington and no sooner had I stepped from the platform when I was thrust forward by the crowd movement into the outside world for the first time in ninety minutes. Here I was confronted by some bewildering sights in that it was pissing down with rain and there were all these blokes (touts ie: scalpers) approaching every spectator wanting to buy tickets. The general asking price was 150 quid (I paid 36 for my ticket) and there appeared to be a roaring trade going on.

The Oval ground was directly opposite the Tube exit so I decided to enter the ground, even though there was still over an hour before play was due to start, as the excitement and anticipation was high – even with the rain coming down. The Oval is the home to Surrey Cricket Club, and depending upon the composition of the national team at the time, Surrey is the county team for Alec Stewart, Mark Butcher, The Hollioake’s, Alex Tudor, Graham Thorpe, Ian Salisbury, Martin Bicknell. A bit like the NSW team in that if you play for Surrey there is a fair chance that one day you will play for England.

The external surrounds of the ground are so old and brown, a complete contrast to the lush green surface of the ground, the whiteness of the stands and the multi colored electronic video scoreboard that was directly opposite. My seat was in the Lock Stand, an upper deck at wide mid-on when the batsman is facing the pavilion end, completely exposed to the elements. To my right was the Gasometer landmark and to my left was the main pavilion crowned by an enormous Fosters sign which seemed odd at first. Fosters had recently bought the naming rights to The Oval, hence the full reference – The Fosters Oval.

The Lock Stand consisted of basically two blocks of seats that held in total about eight hundred people in rows of thirty, an aisle on each side to an exit and one down the middle that only split the sections and didn’t actually lead to anywhere. This meant that when spectators wanted to leave their seat the whole aisle had to put on their own mini version of the wave to enable the departure to occur – maximum disruption all times which only accelerated in frequency as the day wore on and the effects of the alcohol consumption kicked in.

Having located my seat (at this stage I was the only person in my area as the rain was still falling) the realization that I was finally at the beginning of my cricket journey caused me to reflect on what a great decision I had made to journey to England for the World Cup.

A faint cheer arose from the sparse gathering of spectators as the rain stopped, some sunlight appeared and the Indian team started to file onto the field for their warm up. The players gathered directly in front of the Lock Stand so I raced to the ground level and took several photographs at close range of these worshipped men. Throughout my journey I observed that there was no fan more passionate or knowledgeable about the game than the Indians, they were on a different level compared to the rest.

The Indians under the direction of Bobby Simpson, resplendent in their bright blue outfits went through a series of fielding drills that involved sharp throws over thirty metres and back up support positioning of the receiver. The difference in class between how we field at South Yarra was as wide as the distance between Melbourne and London. The stumps were hit with monotonous regularity and misfields were scarce. Meanwhile the Australians had started hitting up in the background, the synthetic balls raising sprays of moisture from the outfield as the ground staff swung into preparation action.

The familiar sound of Ian Chappell’s voice came from the loud speakers to inform us that play would start fifteen minutes late and that the captains would soon toss.

Steve Waugh and Azza strode to the middle of the ground with their images displayed on the giant video screen. By now the ground had started to fill quite quickly. A vast range of colors on the terraces and an audible hum had started around the ground creating an air of expectation. The screams for Sachin from the Indian supporters grew louder in volume, accompanied by the outrageous shrieking of whistles and horns.

The toss decided with Azza sending us in. Australia to bat with improving conditions forecast, maybe better for India chasing. It would not be easy early on with any advantage expected to be with the bowling side early.

As I settled into my vantage point my immediate surrounding spectators consisted of about six hundred and fifty Indians, a hundred or so Poms, eight Australians and the remainder of various descriptions. The initial eye contact to a fellow Aussie (he was wearing a Hawthorn jumper) was greeted with a respectful polite nod, tinnies of Fosters raised with the knowledge that there was no way we could compete with the cacophony of noise that was continually building and surging around us.

In my row I was placed right in the middle of a group of sixty Indians who had travelled that morning from Birmingham. A three hour journey I was informed. Some had finished their night shift at 7.00am and come straight to the cricket. Initially they assumed I was a cousin of Basi but once they discovered my Aussie background the banter was full on, although I was adopted as an honorary turban wearing Indian for the day.

A classic line came early from one of the Pom contingent when asked by the Indians who was supporting he replied: “I have to go for the curry munchers as I would much prefer a nation of 800 million to be happy than 15 million”. He was still dark on the Poms as this would have been England V Australia if the locals had have showed any spine in the final qualifying game.

Gilchrist and Mark Waugh began in convincing fashion although Javagal Srinath did look lively and capable of taking a wicket at any time. Apart from Srinath the bowling was wasteful in conditions that should have suited. Mohanty and Prasad were not troubling either batsman and a partnership in excess of fifty was achieved comfortably.

Ganguly, very popular at the moment as he had just made 183 against the Sri Lankans, came onto bowl his medium pacers and was greeted by a chant from a solitary voice In the Lock Stand.

He comes from Calcutta –a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a
He plays for India-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a
His name is GANGULY-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y

Climaxing with enormous roars of approval throughout the heaving terraces. Magnificent stuff. This became even more celebratory as the first wicket was about to fall.

Just as Gilchrist appeared to be settling in with some fluent drives his innings came to an end. This was becoming all too consistent with him for the tournament so far, after he played a big shot at Ganguly. However a solid opening was established, something we had been lacking to date. Mark Waugh was beginning to emerge from his slumber, a state that he can get into early in his innings. A large score appeared imminent.

Ponting took some fifteen balls to settle in, striking the ball crisply in defence before he launched into a cover drive off Robin Singh that flew like a tracer bullet barely above head height clearing the fence at extra cover to get off the mark. This brought the crowd to life, it was hard to believe at times the level of noise, if you closed your eyes it would not be unbelievable to imagine that instead of being in London we were actually in Calcutta. The beers, homebrew, rum and samosas were being consumed by my Indian mates at a fearful rate, I began to wonder if they would make it to lunch without passing out, the more they drank the louder and noisier they got.

Meanwhile the Aussies are pouring on the runs at a steady rate with a score of 270+ looking like no problems. This didn’t bother my Indian friends as they constantly reminded us all that it didn’t matter how many were scored because “we have Sachin”. Fair logic in a sense as Tendulkar did paste us all over the countryside during the last Indian tour and they were coming off recent match scores of 6/373 and 2/329.

At the first drinks break at the end of the mandatory ground announcements, the announcer requested “would Mr Bin Shod please report to the secretary’s office”. Well the Indian crowd went into raptures at this, laughing and screaming like lunatics. It was later explained to me that Bin Shod in the native language loosely translated as “f**k your sister”.

After Mark Waugh’s departure for a typically effortless 83, including a number of sixes off Singh, none of the others were able to build a large innings. Ponting bowled for 23 after looking in sensational touch and Steve Waugh caught for 36.

Boof Lehmann (26) was filthy on Bevo creating a run out as he looked set to absolutely murder what had become a rather insipid bowling attack. With Bevo finally getting his eye in (22) and Tom Moody (26 n.o) playing some audacious swats the Australian total finished at 6 for 282, a satisfying total and something that would present a real challenge providing we bowled well.

The stampede to get out of the ground was frightful. As the bars inside the ground were shut, most of the crowd left the ground to have a few quick pints in the numerous surrounding pubs as well as restocking on take-aways for the afternoon session. A pint in a plastic cup inside the ground was three pounds. Shocking price for what was generally shit beer.

An announcement was made that Courtney Walsh was in the Surrey Souvenir shop so I set off and battled my way through the hordes of people (imagine a stadium like Optus Oval before the Legends stand was built) completely full, but with access ways like the inside of a typical primary school. Absolute chaos and madness as it took more than ten minutes to travel less than eighty metres. Upon arriving at the shop I was told by a security attendant the announcement was wrong as he was actually on the other side of the ground in a sponsor’s marquee.

Despondently, I resumed the battle back to my seating area, stopped off for a look at the Ladbroke’s odds on the way back. Tendulkar 7/4 (too short), Jadeja 6/1 (should have taken it) and then arrived in the Lock Stand as the Australians walked onto the arena. The atmosphere was quite eerie as the stadium was less than a third full with most people still consuming their lunch and catching up on social issues. If you have gone to the bloody trouble of coming to this game and see Tendulkar bat you would want to make sure that you saw the whole innings. Unfortunately most people missed the little master as McGrath demonstrated a brilliant piece of quick bowling sensing that Sachin was looking at getting after him.

Ganguly took the first two balls, before Sachin had the strike, nothing special about McGrath at this stage – the pigeon just moving into stride. First two balls to Sachin just on off stump at about three-quarter pace to give him a sighter, played into covers with minimal effort.

Next ball was a little quicker, off stump line, the bounce beating the edge. Then the perfect follow up, luring Tendulkar a bit further forward off an immaculate length. The healthy edge on the way through to Gilchrist as Tendulkar hesitated committing to the shot. The yellow and greens went delirious as the master trudged off before the umpire raised the finger knowing that under the pump he had failed abysmally.

The celebrations in the stand, while not as loud as the turban brigade earlier in the day, was every bit as energetic as we gave Sachin the big see you later but not at this tournament – YOU ARE GONE – send off.
Possibly the only positive for the supporters was that most of them missed it (in fact India were three for when most of them returned).

McGrath, ably supported by Fleming, proceeded to destroy the top order by taking four wickets between them (Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Azza) with very few runs on the board. They were finding it difficult enough to lay bat on ball and survive. When Azza parried meekly at McGrath to Steve Waugh in the gully there was no cheer at all. It was like a wake as Robin Singh who had copped a fearful sledging from his own earlier during a pedestrian bowling performance, came to the crease and joined Jadeja.

The overs went by as the Indians ground out the basis of a partnership. At times we had four slips and a gully in place (I took a photo as proof in a one day game) and this helped the Indians pick off easy singles, especially when Tom Moody came on to bowl.

The arrival of Warne at the bowling crease injected some much-needed life into a situation becoming dull as the chase looked forlorn. Warne was bowling from the pavilion end, which has the shortest boundary from straight to mid-wicket. Neither Singh nor Jadeja needed an invitation to hit as every time Warne tossed up a bit further in the air they just put the front foot down and clobbered him over the short boundary. The local members in the crowd were enjoying seeing Warne cop some punishment. We politely suggested that Steve Waugh was doing his best to give the lower order some practice for the upcoming Paki match as the Indian top order had crumbled when placed under the blow torch.

During a quiet period, Reiffel fielded a ball at fine leg and the return throw to Gilchrist struck a pigeon, felling it in flight. The stunned bird lay on the outfield, after a period of time where it became obvious that the ground staff had no intention of doing anything other than sit on their chairs, Gilchrist had to rescue the pigeon and take it off the arena where it remained until some young lady took it away. Just an example of how in general a lot of the Poms are content to sit on their arse and do nothing else – a bit like their cricket team, soccer team, rugby team, royal family, etc.

Moody returned and had Singh caught by Fleming with Reiffel and McGrath containing the run flow but not before Sigh had belted 75 and won some confidence back from the fans. The run rate never got less than ten an over so even though they were possibly a rough chance, they actually never were.

Towards the end as the lethargic and useless security staff ringed the ground perimeter to prevent the obligatory pitch invasion the crowd became restless as it coincided with Jadeja getting closer to his century. Richly deserved as he had batted quite soundly and displayed the full range of shots that seem to come so naturally to the quality players from the sub-continent. Several of the colorfully dressed supporters easily evaded the pathetic attempts of crowd control to reach Jadeja and offer support as he completed his ton, not that they needed any encouragement but the drums, horns and whistles were going full on as well.

Steve Waugh decided to have a trundle and in his own inimitable style he stopped the rot by taking two wickets and effecting a run out – game over.

The final wicket taken, Steve Bucknor in his exit from the arena, took an angry swipe and then returned for more at a spectator who attempted to grab a stump. The mandatory pitch invasion complete, the jubilant Aussies growing in confidence having bowled out possibly the best batting line up in the competition.

The Indians looked a despondent team on their balcony with Tendulkar initially sitting alone some distance from the rest of the team. Bob Simpson and Azza were in earnest discussion with the rampant Pakis up next in a match that they now had to win to stay in contention for the semi -finals. The mood amongst the supporters was down, even though they still held hope of a form revival, they were fearful that if the Pakis were in trouble at Manchester the crowd may riot to cause the game being abandoned, in effect denying India the necessary points to remain in the hunt for a semi- final position.

On the ground numerous Australian flags, boxing kangaroos, footy jumpers, rugby union tops and thongs were in abundance – we were not too hard to pick out. Briefly I had a kick of a footy with a young boy in a Carlton jumper – an unusual experience but one that would be repeated around the country as a type of celebration after an Australian victory.

Cheers for Steve Waugh’s appearance on the balcony to claim victory, jeers from the turbans for Azza (I wonder if his family back home have already started packing up their belongings to move to a safe house) and a huge roar and well deserved applause for Glenn McGrath who had followed up his sensational bowling to topple Lara with this performance as the man of the match.

 

About Andrew Walton

Cricket exposure as a player, coach, fan, observer, analyst & tragic! Coach at Melbourne Cricket Club. Academy coach at Karnataka Institute of Cricket, Bangalore.
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