January 13, 2015

Wasim Akram’s form in the first part of the 1992 World Cup was patchy. Inspired by skipper Imran Khan to play like “cornered tigers”, Pakistan made a strong comeback to qualify for the semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 1992. It got past an impressive New Zealand side that was playing on home ground, to reach the final – where England awaited.

Boosted by Imran Khan’s statement in the media, Akram gathered momentum towards the business end of the tournament and produced one of the best all-round performance in a World Cup final.

Imran Khan was wearing a t-shirt with a tiger’s picture on it at the toss and said, “If the boys play like tigers then I don’t mind if they win or lose.” Pakistan lost both openers in the first nine overs, but the veteran pair of Imran, who promoted himself to No.3, and Javed Miandad, laid a solid platform with a stand of 139 runs for the third wicket in 31 overs.

After Imran and Javed’s departure Pakistan were on 197 for 4 and the responsibility fell on Wasim Akram and Inzamam-ul-Haq to step up the scoring and their stunning response left the England bowlers short of ideas. Akram, who had aggregated 29 runs in his previous seven innings in the tournament, helped himself to an 18-ball 33 that included four boundaries, and added 52 runs in six overs with Inzamam. Akram was run out off the last ball of the innings, but by then he had done enough to set England a target of 250 runs.

Akram wasn’t done yet though. At the breakfast table before a must-win game against Australia in the league phase, he had read Imran’s comments in local newspapers, where the captain said, ‘I don’t mind Wasim bowling no-balls as long as he bowls quick’. Imran’s unconditional backing transformed Akram’s mindset and he never looked back.

Fighting cramps in his hamstring, Akram consulted with Imran and decided to bowl from round the wicket and it proved to be a masterstroke. Ian Botham was the first wicket to fall when he nicked a delivery that came back, and soon England was reduced to 69 for 4. Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb steadied England’s innings with a 72-run stand, and as Imran was assessing his stocks at the drinks break Akram suggested that his captain bring him back into the attack.

“The one player who really stood out for me was Wasim Akram. It was in that tournament that we realised just what a special talent he was and how much trouble he was going to give us and the rest of the world in the years to come. What a player he was.” – Ian Botham on Wasim Akram’s performance in the 1992 World Cup.

Assisted by reverse swing, he produced a high-quality over and picked up two wickets in two balls as Pakistan surged ahead. Lamb was the first to go. The ball pitched at an awkward length and first arrested Lamb’s foot movement, and then swung late enough to disturb the stumps. Immediately after that, Chris Lewis failed to block an incoming delivery that was comparatively short of length and was bowled.

“It sunk in that we won the World Cup only two or three days later. First of all, we couldn’t sleep that night. I remember I had to share half a sleeping pill with Ijaz (Ahmed) to go to bed because we couldn’t sleep till three or four in the morning.” – Wasim Akram on what happened after the World Cup win.

England was eventually bowled out for 227, Akram’s 18-ball 33 and the three-wicket haul earning him the Man of the Match award and Pakistan lifted its first World Cup in front of a then-record crowd of 87,182 at the MCG.

Akram established himself as the world’s best left-arm seamer and became the first bowler to pick up 500 wickets in One-Day Internationals. He ended his career in 2003 with 502 wickets, a mark that was eventually surpassed by Muttiah Muralitharan. Akram’s bowling also won Pakistan many Test matches and he remains among the top ten wicket-takers in the longest format of the game.

Courtesy: INDIA TV

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