Exhumed from the archives, with minimal revision, a rebirth of a piece written about the experience of being at Lords to see Australia win the 1999 World Cup. Thanks to a delightful fellow whom this correspondent met during the trip, Mopsy, social media revives memories.
Just a few quiet Aussies abroad celebrating the World Cup victory in 1999.
Anyway, allow me to share this indulgence from the time capsule, hope that some may find it enjoyable. No links, nothing fancy, just straight text.
THE FINAL – AUSTRALIA V PAKISTAN @ LORDS, 1999
A journey that had started with the expectancy of being thrilled at seeing Australia compete for the World Cup on foreign soil, had now reached the point where the ultimate prize was only one step away. Australia was now in the final at Lords against Pakistan.
For this traveller there was still one small problem left to encounter – how to get a ticket for this event at Lords, which had been sold out for months.
Since the unbelievably, climactic scenes at Birmingham the thought processes and network of contacts had been exhausted to come up with a way of securing a ticket. The only option it appeared was to buy a ticket from a scalper. Prices were speculated at ranging up to 800 pounds (ticket face value was 100), likely to be around the 500 mark but the demand was sure to be keen due to the involvement of the hysterical Paki fans.
A plan, with some other desperate cricket fans, had been devised that we should meet at Lords Tavern and watch the beginning of the game. With a bit of luck, the prices from the “touts” would fall to a few hundred quid which was within reason.
Anyway, in an effort to find some extra cash I embarked on a trip to the Ascot races on the Saturday with my mate Richie and his wife Loretta, all frocked up for the event as it was the last meeting of the annual carnival. Richie and I went casual, very casual. The train was bursting at the seams for the trip with locals all decked out in their best royal watching finery, on the way to Windsor to check out the wedding for Edward and Sophie.
Arrived at Ascot, a magnificent spectacle and a crowd of about thirty thousand in various descriptions of social etiquette. First three races were a complete wipe out (even the third which was a five horse race where I backed a thing called Social Scene owned by Sangster, an omen I thought – stone motherless was the result).
Another difficulty was understanding the complicated form guide; it was like reading a statistical thesis. Caution was thrown to the wind and I decided to bet nearly everything left (about forty pounds, leaving some change for beer) on a horse called Brilliant Red that was decked out in all red that matched the colour of Loretta’s hair. The good thing duly saluted at 7/1 and we were off and celebrating, now I could eat as well as drink. Backed the next winner at 4/1 and followed up with a narrow second in the last at 12/1. Hastily departed the course avoiding distractions, with about 400 hundred quid in pocket which was what I was prepared to spend on a ticket, if needed, the next day.
Magnificent plans of meeting up with many outside Lords before the game went slightly astray as after the races at several pubs in Islington, we all got horribly pissed. I slept in and did not arrive at Lords until 10.30.
A typical London summer scene greeted me as I emerged from the St Johns Woods tube. Gloomy overcast and light rain falling. Touts were everywhere asking for 600 quid for a ticket. I decided to get close to the ground and wait.
The scenes outside the ground were amazing. Carloads of Paki fans blowing trumpets, letting off firecrackers and screaming support for Wasim, Inzamam and taunting as to how Shoaib would knock our collective blocks off. In general the fans were extremely rude and aggressive towards anybody not Pakistani. The police presence was enormous and the air had a hostile sense about it that bordered on impending violence.
Eventually I arrived at the steps of Lords Tavern to discover it was a lock in, containing mostly Aussie and African supporters to keep them separate from the Paki’s. Deciding that out the front and alone was not the best place to be, I jumped over a railing fence while being helpfully obscured from security by Pat Symcox doing a live radio cross to Capetown.
Upon entering the pub unfortunately I could not find anybody that I really knew. The television screens showed Waugh and Akram walking to the middle for the toss. Th pub went silent as Akram won the toss and decided to bat, a very strange decision given the weather conditions with the afternoon expected to be warm and sunny. Due to the weather an announcement advised that play would be delayed until 11.00am. This was good as it gave me some extra time to try and secure a ticket.
I moved out to the front of the bar and stood on a timber table so that I was well above the crowd in the hope of spotting a familiar face. The seething mass of humanity that consisted of the typical Lords brigade resplendent in suits and club tie, Paki fans draped in the green, white and orange flags of their country, numerous bobbies accompanied by reinforcements in riot gear and some on horseback amongst the thousands of other fans did not offer me anything recognisable.
Then somehow I made eye contact with a gentleman attired in suit and MCC tie across the barricade about fifteen feet away.
Towards me he mouthed the words “have you got a ticket?”
“No,” I replied.
“Do you want a ticket?” he questioned.
Involuntarily my head began to nod furiously, a frenzied head wobble. He motioned me over towards him and it took me no time to scamper out of the pub, over the steel barricade and greet his open hand with a firm handshake.
He repeated the questions to me again, which I responded to in the same manner. He introduced himself to me as Jimmy and directed me away from the main gates to a street running along the back of the ground. The adrenalin was pumping as I realised that I was about to get into the famous ground and be part of the World Cup Final. My mind not quite comprehending how this had eventuated.
Jimmy spoke to me in a proper, slightly clipped accent. He was aged in his early forties, explained to me in his profession he was a “dick doctor” and that he had a spare ticket from his Lords allocation due to a friend showing disinterest after England had failed to proceed.
“Just wait outside here while I make the arrangements,” advised Jimmy, as I stood beside a twelve-foot high metal fence.
He reappeared and guided me past the security guards and pressed into my hand a ticket. The feeling that flowed through my mind when the small rectangle of gold and light blue paper labelled “The Final” touched my hand was incredible.
Warner Stand Upper, Row 11, Seat 113.
The sort of thing that never would have happened in my wildest dreams, and only did because I had put myself in the position where something could happen. I quickly reached for my wallet to give him the hundred pounds, but more good news came as Jimmy told me that because our seats were at the side of the stand, with a slightly obscured vision of deep backward point, the tickets were only fifty pounds.
“The game won’t start for another ten minutes, let me buy you a couple of pints,” said Jimmy.
I was still stunned so I just nodded and followed him through a doorway at the base of the Plum Warner Stand.
Here I was in the Plum Warner bar, which is in the members reserve area, right next to the main members stand at the most famous cricket ground in the world. My fellow drinkers were all looking smart in their blazers and ties, here I was in jeans, scruffy Doc Martens, gaudy and bright Australian one day team shirt and my back pack. Nobody seemed to mind my presence even though I felt slightly awkward, it didn’t matter. I was there in Lords to see the mighty Australian team compete for the ultimate one-day cricket trophy.
The players emerged from the majestic and grand pavilion onto the Lords arena that looked as immaculately, perfect as could possibly be imagined (the arena is used for match play only, all warm ups have to take place in the practice area behind the new commentary position).
McGrath opened from the pavilion end; his first two balls to Saeed Anwar were of a typical, dangerous short length that he did well to keep down. The third ball was shorter and wide which Anwar cracked to the point boundary. The game was now on however this would be one of the few scoring opportunities the Paki’s would receive from Pigeon as he settled into his usual, miserly line and length at respectful pace.
Fleming was struggling with his line and this enabled Anwar to take the responsibility expected of the senior partner. He was in slashing form having scored 353 runs in the series, including 103 against Zimbabwe in the Super Sixes and 113 not out against New Zealand in the semi final. Anwar was off to a flyer striking three early boundaries but it was McGrath who found the outside edge of Wasti’s bat in his third over. The ball flew sharply and wide to Mark Waugh’s right and he held a superb catch that had his teammates celebrating wildly, 1/21 in the fifth over.
The over finished, Anwar called to the dressing room for a new grip for his bat. To think that an opening bat would not have fixed this before his innings just demonstrated the casual nature that is the Pakistan game at times. After what seemed like an eternity, Anwar faced up to Fleming who produced an absolute brute of a ball that cut back into Anwar’s pads and went onto break the stumps – 2/21 in the sixth and now both bowlers had a wicket. But even better the dangerous Anwar was out for 15 from 17 balls. The decision by Akram to bat first was now looking a very ordinary one.
Ijaz Ahmed joined the youngster Abdul Razzaq at the crease and they both put their heads down to rebuild the innings. They were able to see McGrath off but the paceman had offered only three balls that could be scored from in his spell of six overs. The feeling was that Razzaq had been sent up the order to protect Inzamam from the swinging Duke ball. .
The pair looked to push some quick singles to keep the score ticking over, but the ball consistently beat the bat outside off stump and for a while the Pakistanis were certainly finding it very difficult to score. Reiffel came on to replace McGrath in the twelfth over and Moody took over from Fleming at the Nursery end, but they seemed to lack the penetration of the new ball pair as Razzaq and Ijaz started to settle. Ijaz punching Reiffel through point to post Pakistan’s first fifty.
The match shifted into a trance like state as neither the batsmen nor bowlers were prepared to change gear. Razzaq, with only 14 of 37 balls, lost his head and tried to loft Reiffel’s penultimate delivery of the 17th over for four. The drive was mis-timed and sailed toward McGrath who waited under the ball to seemingly complete what would be a routine catch. However he unbelievably spilled the chance to the amazement of everybody. It was a miserable effort from McGrath and much more than the shot deserved.
Fortunately only 9 runs had been added, when Razzaq attacked an overpitched ball from Moody and drove into the path of Steve Waugh who dived forward and took a low catch on the roll, 3/68 in the 19th over.
Reiffel’s next over was a maiden to Inzamam and with the pressure tightening Waugh decided to bring Warne into the attack from the Nursery end, hoping to unsettle the laconic Inzamam with a short point and a slip. He also positioned himself at mid wicket and anytime the ball went near him he threw the ball, almost violently towards the batsman into Gilchrist’s gloves over the stumps. The mind games were now in motion and the blow torch was being applied to Pakistan in every conceivable way.
Warne’s first over was tight but didn’t seem to yield any devilish turn that had returned to his repertoire during the battles against the Afrikaans. Reiffel bowled another tight over which did contain a shot from Inzy where he ran a three to the crowds amazement.
Then Warne put it in the right place and beat Ijaz with his first with some sharp turn from leg to off. Ijaz nodded to acknowledge the quality of the ball and came forward to the next two but waited on the fourth. It was a mistake and proved his undoing because he failed to read the leg break and played past it as the ball turned sideways and hit the top of off stump to be out for 22 in 46 balls, 4/77 in the 23rd.
It was an important wicket for Australia even if Ijaz had looked unlikely to set the game on fire as the turn from Warne had sent a phantom like shudder through all the Pakistan supporters. For the Aussie fans it posed a delightful question. Could the great leg spinner produce another match winning performance on cricket’s greatest stage under the pressure of a final?
Neutrals and Pakistanis alike were hoping for a bit of Moin magic and he showed some early promise turning Warne behind square for a near boundary, and edging the last ball of the over through third man for two. In as much as it’s possible for anyone to enthuse Inzamam, Moin’s positive presence seemed to spark Inzy and he played his first full-blooded shot pulling Reiffel towards the boundary, only to find a fielder hovering on the rope to cut it off.
Warne struck again with the first ball of the 28th over drifting a delivery beautifully toward from leg to off. Moin was forced to come forward and delivered a faint edge, which Gilchrist gratefully accepted, 5/91 in the 27th over.
The match was in desperate need of a cameo, and Afridi came out, above Mahmood and Wasim, determined to deliver. This seemed to be another error in Wasim’s judgement as the scene had been set for him to come to the crease and not only demonstrate leadership to his team, but also to take possible advantage over Warne by being a left hander who likes to hit the ball hard towards the short square boundaries.
Steve Waugh left a tempting gap over mid on, too tempting for Afridi who pushed his first delivery away and lofted the second over mid on for four. He was lucky to survive an lbw shout off the last ball of the over, playing and missing across the line but Afridi brought up the hundred in the next over with a single though the covers off Reiffel.
The next breakthrough came not from Warne, whose fifth over lacked guile, but improbably from Reiffel who looked to be bowling out his ten without incident. But his first ball seamed away from Inzamam outside off, beat him and umpire Shepherd gave him out caught behind for 15 from 33 balls, 6/104 in the 30th over. It was an extremely tough decision, and Inzamam made his displeasure clear when he ambled back to the pavilion as slowly as he could manage which was about the speed of intercontinental drift. Reiffel finished the over with figures of 10 overs 1 maiden, 29 runs for 1 wicket. Yet again he had filled his role for the team and had gone a long way to atoning for the missed catch at Edgbaston.
Warne’s ambition seemed to get the better of him in his next over and he appealed for a catch as Afridi missed a sweep outside leg. Bucknor waited, deliberated, seemed about to give Afridi the slow death and then signalled a wide. But Warne had spotted the weakness, and after Afridi played a succession of sweeps without success, he was rapped on the pads and adjudged lbw in a surprisingly quick decision from Bucknor, 7/113 in the 32nd over.
Lest Pakistan felt their luck might change, McGrath returned in the 33rd over and found some bounce and lift. It might have pleased Akram were it not for the fact that Pakistan clearly hadn’t made enough runs to make the most of it after the break. McGrath was striving for that one more wicket to completely break Pakistan, but Wasim had other ideas and hit a wonderful cross batted six over long on off Warne. Azhar then belted McGrath through the covers in the next over for another boundary. Could this pair rescue the game for Pakistan?
Waugh, unwilling to risk the possibility of a Wasim and Mahmood partnership replaced McGrath with Moody at the pavilion end. Perhaps he was tempting the batsmen a little too much, as Moody bowled very full to both players, tempting the drive. A slightly overpitched ball, the last of the over, had Mahmood coming forward aggressively and Moody picked up a fine return catch at boot height, 8/129.
The pressure on Akram was now immense as Saqlain joined him. But two balls later Wasim tried to slap Warne over midwicket and only managed to pick out Steve Waugh and any lingering Pakistani hopes were rapidly fading, 9/129.
The innings was perfectly capped off when McGrath with the last ball of his ninth over found the edge of Saqlain and the ball flew low and wide towards Ponting who dived at greater than full length to hold a superb catch that brought the entire crowd to their feet in appreciation. The Australian’s were cheered from the field for a brilliant exhibition of fielding and another superb performance from Warne. The total of 132 looked hardly imposing and a routine victory was being contemplated, as the Pakistani spirit seemed broken not only on the field but also in the stands.
A solid start was needed by the Australians and even though Gilchrist’s tournament was ordinary by his standards he set about to attack Shoaib and Akram as if he was playing a regular game on his home deck at the WACA. A top edge off Shoaib fell perilously close to the third man but from then on every shot came off the middle of his Kookaburra bat. Cuts and pulls raced to the short square boundary ropes, a top edged cut flew over third-man’s head for 6, as Gilchrist brought up his half century from only 33 balls with eight boundaries. If Pakistan held any hope of an improbable victory, Gilly had shattered them with a brutal innings that contained all of the powerful shots square of the wicket that are his trademark.
Mark Waugh was playing the support role to perfection, putting away any ball that strayed to leg through the field in his own nonchalant manner. Incredibly the score had raced to 75 in the tenth over, with seemingly every ball raising some cheer or response from the crowd that was now overwhelmingly behind the Australians. It was here that Gilchrist drove Saqlain’s first ball to be caught by Inzy at mid-on (poor effort to break the “SYCC team rule here Gilly!!!), damaging the fingers of the hulking Pakistani who for the second time that day trudged off to the solace of the dressing room like a brooding glacier – 1/75 in the 10th.
To greet Ponting, Akram brought Akhtar back on from the Pavilion end as though it was some last roll of the dice to maybe crash through some of the batsman and expose Lehmann and Bevan early. It was not to be as Punter ensured that the innings would maintain it’s rapid fire pace. He smashed 24 from 27 balls including what I felt was one of the best shots that I saw for the tournament. A front foot straight drive to a 148 kmh delivery from Shoaib that raced up the Lords hill and smashed into the pickets as the bowler was finishing his follow through. Unfortunately Punter edged a ball from Akram to Moin, 2/112 in the 17th.
Lehmann joined Waugh and with Akram and Mahmood acting out the role of the orchestra on the Titanic, playing on valiantly as the ship went down, Waugh and Lehmann began to pick off the remaining runs at will. Lehmann driving with purpose through the covers to leave Australia needing under ten for victory. Waugh clipped Wasim crisply through midwicket and with just four runs needed for victory Wasim produced a decent yorker which Waugh played with utter serenity.
A ridiculous pitch invasion by some Pakistani spectators was fortunately dealt with quickly and Darren Lehmann thrashed Mahmood’s first ball of the twentieth over to the point boundary to post the winning runs for Australia and a well deserved, if thoroughly anti-climactic victory in the context of a contest after so much drama in the semi finals.
The crowd stood as one and cheered a completely crushing victory by the Aussies that as a match paled into insignificance against the dramas at Leeds and Birmingham, but the Cup was ours and now was the time to seriously celebrate.
I could probably write another thousand words on the celebrations if I could remember most of them but the chance to spend the next two hours on the hallowed turf (some which I souvenired and still have in a container in my fridge), cheer the presentations, rejoice with all the other travellers who I had become friends with on this journey, take loads of photos, be interviewed by 3LO and the chance to actually shake the hands of Boof, Flemo, Bevo, Pistol, Moods, Lee and Gilly and thank for them letting us all share in this amazing victory was just brilliant.
With gratitude to Jimmy the “dick doctor” who left at the lunch break, Underneath the Southern Cross I stand……….