Eden Park, March 21, 1992
New Zealand v Pakistan
Umpires: Steve Bucknor and David Shepherd.
New Zealand: Mark Greatbatch, John Wright, Andrew Jones, Martin Crowe (c), Ken Rutherford, Chris Harris, Ian Smith, Dipak Patel, Gavin Larsen, Danny Morrison, Willie Watson.
Pakistan: Aamir Sohail, Ramiz Raja, Imran Khan (c), Javed Miandad, Salim Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram, Moin Khan, Mushtaq Ahmed, Iqbal Sikander, Aaqib Javed.
It was the best of times.
The long, hot summer of 1992 may have been a precursor to a drought that would eventually play havoc with the country's hydro-electricity supply, but by March it signalled one thing only - cricket. The World Cup, co-hosted for the first time by Australia and New Zealand, was in full swing. These were the days of Midge Marsden's Burning Rain and Mikey Havoc's Push Push but, really, there was only one show in town.
So on March 21, 46,000 jandal-wearing souls descended upon Eden Park (in those days an even more unlovely concrete jungle with its mish-mash of ill-fitting stands and jaunty angles), full of expectation that New Zealand - gravity-defying New Zealand - would defeat Pakistan and book their place in the final.
The next eight hours would provide those 46,000 and the hundreds of thousands gathered in lounge rooms, clubrooms and public bars around the country with some astonishing cricket... and a shuddering denouement.
It is a match that reverberates to this day. We attempted to interview every player in the New Zealand playing XI for this project. Most happily complied but there are some notable absences. Martin Crowe has, quite understandably, other things of greater importance to concentrate on - namely his health. Ian Smith is, well, just being Ian Smith, but John Wright, that's a more complex story. Wright chose not to co-operate saying he was "out of the country". Undoubtedly true, but according to multiple sources, the left-hand opener who was the veteran of many battles won and lost during his 15-year career has long felt bitterness as to how his role in the defeat has been perceived.
And a defeat was what it was - an almost glorious, but ultimately tear-stained defeat.
It was a fin de siècle moment, a figurative end of the golden weather. The momentous month did not lead to an upswing in New Zealand cricket's fortunes: in reality it was a temporary suspension of a malaise that would sweep our summer sport for the best part of a decade.
But what a day.
This is the story of that semifinal, in the words of those who played.
New Zealand's form leading into the World Cup veered between bad and awful. England had destroyed them in a five-match series. So the unbeaten run through the round robins, until their last, meaningless (for them anyway) game against Pakistan, shook the country out of its cricketing apathy.
From public punching bags to local heroes. Hope had turned into expectation - great expectations.
Going out to dinner during the week of the semifinal people were wishing us good luck. We knew it was something big and pretty special. The older guys realised it was going to be one of the biggest days in their cricketing lives. I really enjoyed it, savoured it actually, and I think a lot were like that.
It was a huge occasion and there were a lot of friends and family. People we knew were thinking about Melbourne and the final and booking to go there (chuckles).
On the bus to the ground... I've never experienced that ever in New Zealand. I had experienced it from opposition fans in Pakistan or India when they were all yelling at you. There were people thumping on the bus, thumbs up, shouting: 'You beauty!' It was quite emotional.
We got there a couple of hours beforehand. People were queuing to get in and wishing us luck. It was amazing, a sell-out. The public had really got behind us.
Even though Pakistan had beaten New Zealand in the final round robin game, the hosts went in as favourites. In fact, Pakistan - with four wins and a no result from their eight matches - had to rely on other results to sneak into the semis.
We were praying for the West Indies to lose their match to Australia, otherwise we could have missed the semifinals.
The reality is we'd won seven on the bounce. That was very unusual, almost unprecedented from a New Zealand cricket point of view. It didn't pop a balloon or anything like that. It was just a reality check that we are in a game of sport and there're winners and losers... It was a wakeup call in that respect, but I didn't think in any way it dented our self-belief.
There was pressure on us, but the leadership Imran [Khan] provided throughout the World Cup was impressive and inspired everyone, especially since the match against Australia [won by 48 runs at the WACA]. That was the turning point in the tournament for us. After that win we never looked back. Imran told everyone you have to play like cornered tigers and that would have been our last match of tournament if we'd lost. After that we were so confident but for me the semifinal was the most memorable match.
Moin Khan and Imran Khan discuss tactics during the New Zealand innings. Photo / Herald archives.
The Lancaster Park hammering at the hands of Pakistan in the final round-robin game had one other positive: it meant Australia missed out on the semifinals, which caused some consternation across the Tassie, if this report from NZPA was anything to go by:
"Print union officials and Sydney Morning Herald executives would not comment on rumours that the paper's distribution was held up yesterday by a transtasman punch-up over New Zealand's cricket loss to Pakistan.
"The Herald was on the streets about three and a half hours late and the management and unions the delay was due to a confrontation between two workers in the section where papers are packaged before distribution."
Not that NZ's popular coach Warren Lees would have been troubled by the flare up, of more pressing concern was getting his players' heads back in the game.
The feeling, I think, was that we were still rolling along. That may have been more the senior players saying, 'No, we're okay.' But I do think there was a lot of, 'We've lost one, shivers,' from the younger players.
If any ground was the epitome of home-town advantage, it was Eden Park. NZ knew how to defend the ground's ludicrously short boundaries better than any team and in Crowe, they had a man on top of his game, not only at the crease, but also from a strategic and tactical point of view.
New Zealand fans cheers on their side at Eden Park. Photo / Herald archives
He was the best captain I ever played under without a doubt. He just had the intuitive feel for what was right, what was wrong, when to slip you into the attack or take you out. He had the flexibility and captaincy skill to be able to adjust. He never let a game drift.
That tournament showcased Marty as one of the great cricketers in the history of world cricket. I found myself after the tournament thinking that it was a privilege to be playing with a guy who was in full control of his batting, but more importantly in terms of what we did as a team. Not only did he lead from the front with his batting but from a captaincy point of view I thought he was incredible.
New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat.
The First Innings
We can talk until we're blue in the face about the brilliance of Crowe, but what transformed this campaign from one for cricket fans to one for the everyman, was the explosive hitting of Mark Greatbatch. After a run of insipid middle-order form, Greatbatch missed the first two matches, but an injury to John Wright saw him reborn as a pinch-hitting opener.
I have a feeling I hit the first ball of the semifinal for six. I know I hit Wasim for a six and hit another off Aaqib into the new corporate boxes in the North Stand.
Greatbatch plays at shot during his innings in the semifinal. Photo / Herald archives
Wasim Akram was the big threat we saw, especially bowling with the new nut.
Wasim was incredibly difficult. He never had a long run-up so you relaxed thinking, 'Oh well, he's just ambling in off 10 yards,' but then came the delivery stride and quick arm and the fact he could swing it both ways at 140-145km/h and had terrific control over length.
The explosive start did not translate into a big knock. Greatbatch was dismissed for 17. Wright soaked up 44 balls for his 13 and the consistent Andrew Jones was only marginally better, chewing through 53 balls for his 21.
Offering Crowe much-needed support was Rutherford. The two batsmen were a contrast in styles and personalities, which didn't always mesh well off the field. The lazy, yet popular, analogy was that Rutherford was a pie and a public bar man, whereas Crowe was wine and fine-dining. In this tournament, however, their games gelled, though Rutherford's start at Eden Park was a tenuous one.
Ken Rutherford struggled at the start of his innings needed 23 balls to get off the mark. Photo / Herald archives
I cringe most about taking something like 23 balls to get off the mark and wonder, if I'd got out on the 22nd ball, would that have been my last game of cricket? It was embarrassing. I remember trying to cut the wrong 'un from Mushtaq Ahmed but it didn't matter what I tried, I couldn't get a single. Desperation took hold and I think I smashed one back over his head to get off the mark. Crowey and I put on a few from there . The first 15-20 minutes of that partnership was soul-searching stuff from my perspective. Crowey was at the pinnacle of his powers. It goes without saying he was the batsman of the tournament and has been feted as such ever since. It was extraordinary batting.
Martin Crowe had an outstanding tournament and was named player of the World Cup. Photo / Herald archives
Martin Crowe's epic World Cup
v Australia, Eden Park, 100* (134 balls)
v Sri Lanka, Seddon Park, 5 (23)
v South Africa, Eden Park, 3* (9)
v Zimbabwe, McLean Park, 74* (43)
v West Indies, Eden Park, 81* (81)
v India, Carisbrook, 26 (28)
v England, Basin Reserve, 73* (81)
v Pakistan, Lancaster Park, 3 (20)
Semifinal v Pakistan, Eden Park, 91 (83).
Totals: 456 runs (502 balls), Strike rate: 90.8, Average: 114.
Chris Harris replaced Rutherford, but his cameo of 13 from 12 balls was ended by an unlikely source after he was stumped of Iqbal Sikander, very much the lesser of Pakistan's two legspinners.
Chris Harris is stumped by Moin Khan for 13. Photo / Herald archives
I have great memories of keeping to Mushtaq Ahmed and Iqbal Sikander, who were both leggies, so you always got a chance for some catches and stumpings, like the one on Harris. You had to be ready for that and I was because Iqbal used to play with me in my home team and I'd been playing with Mushy almost two years. I always had to make the judgment quickly as to what they were doing, especially for the googly or the flipper.
The most pivotal moment of the game, no, the most pivotal moment of the tournament came when Crowe pulled a muscle while running between the wickets.It had ramifications on both his innings and the match. Greatbatch, Crowe's old Auckland Grammar schoolmate, returned to the fray as his runner.
Crowe receives attention after pulling his hamstring during the New Zealand innings. Photo / Herald archives
It was a great innings, as a captain he played his role and, from a New Zealand point of view, it was unfortunate he pulled his hamstring. From a keeping point of view, I remember, it was a fast throw from mid-wicket [Salim Malik]. The runner [Greatbatch] was coming towards the crease.
It was near to bloody impossible because of all the noise. Martin was batting with Smithy [Ian Smith] and hit one into the outfield. I tried to get back for two and was run out. That was a long, slow walk back to the changing sheds because of Martin's pulled hamstring. We got to the tunnel and I'm pretty sure he went right and I went left. I know I wasn't that keen to go back to the viewing area to see him.
Despite the unfortunate ending, Crowe's 91 off just 83 balls still set NZ up for 262, a total they would have taken any day off the week if they had been offered it.
We won the first half well and truly. That score, on that wicket, was well ahead of par.
We put 262 on the board. These days that would be a 320-340 score. It was a big score back then.
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