This article was published in the Herald on February 24, 1992, following New Zealand's 37-run victory over Australia in the first game of the 1992 Cricket World Cup at Eden Park.

There have been great sporting moments, brilliant individual deeds, superb feats of cricketing arms at Eden Park over the years, but never quite the conjunction of the great occasion and the inspired atmosphere which Martin Crowe brought to his leadership, and to New Zealand's brilliantly decisive defeat of Australia in the opening match of the World Cup on Saturday.

Everything fitted neatly into the grand pattern - sunshine, a moving opening ceremony, a crowd growing close to 30,000 and noisier by each passing thrilling minute, and then the majestic progress of Crowe to his unforgettable century and New Zealand to their win with 37 runs and 11 balls to spare.

Such an enthralling sporting script could not be designed by human agency. It seemed more a grand conspiracy from the spirit of sport that demanded high skills and higher courage, careful planning and carefree activity.


For close to nine hours the drama of the occasion and the daring of the players held the crowd in thrall, as if isolated in some time warp dedicated purely to the glory of sport.

It was the perfect opening to the World Cup, an event which before had been more a curiosity than a compelling competition.

The fact that New Zealand, against so many odds, should outplay the champions, Australia, in the first match will have a profound effect on the whole contest.

The Australians are no longer impregnable. Every team prepared to play with the totally admirable skill and determination of the New Zealanders on Saturday will now know that they can beat any of the other eight sides.

Each match will now be vital in the pursuit of points which will move the top four into the semifinals in a month's time.

Perhaps, and breathe it gently, New Zealand will now have a strong chance of gaining that select level - the summit of their modest ambition before Saturday - and if that is the case and the semifinal is at Eden Park, then might it be too much to expect that Crowe and his men could regain their brilliant touch of Saturday. After the defeat of Australia anything is possible.

The great script for this heart-throbbing drama may have come from some sporting Valhalla, but the man who embodied all that was great about the day, the man that made the win, was Crowe himself.

Neither Crowe nor his team (nor his watchers) has had the happiest memories of the past four weeks. Even when Crowe mentioned on Friday that his team would switch quickly from the doubts and despair of the England tour to the demands of the World Cup it sounded too optimistic to be true.


But Crowe, Warren Lees and their men were already laying plans, which must have been built around the winning of the toss and batting first - perhaps the decisive part of the whole drama.

The selection, the ticklish decision to leave out the higher horsepower of Danny Morrison, the crafty plan to open the bowling with Dipak Patel - which drew grudging praise from the Australians, for they know the merit of pulling a sporting con trick.

And then, after the early disasters with John Wright flicking the ball on from his thigh-pad in Craig McDermott's first over and with Andrew Jones falling to some distant relation of the real lbw law, came Crowe leading his troops from the front.

With Ken Rutherford (57) at his side, Crowe found the 118-run stand for the fourth wicket which turned the game towards New Zealand.

At the same time Allan Border's creases of worry turned to deep frowns. A routine catch had been put down in the second over, and every time the bowlers dropped too short and either Crowe or Rutherford carved for the fence, Border's fieldsmen were always five metres short of stopping the boundary.

The Australian bowling did not improve. The brilliant catches that turn an innings failed by fractions of centimetres.

When Crowe was 18 he hoiked high to mid-wicket and there Dean Jones, the super-fieldsman, made a stunningly brilliant attempt for the catch, which just flicked away from his outstretched fingers.

In Australia's good old days that catch would have stuck and they might well have stayed sitting comfortably on their throne.

Instead the New Zealand script went word-perfectly along. Rutherford was run out, but had done his job. So did Chris Harris and Ian Smith and Chris Cairns with incandescent little innings while Crowe went bravely on towards his hundred.

It came in the last over, only another ball to spare. Sadly, the mad mob from the east buried Crowe, when he should have been allowed to stand and take alone the tribute that came from everyone, the Australian players included.

There was the hint that someone had picked up the wrong lines when David Boon so launched into Cairns that the youngster went for 30 from four overs, while at the same time Patel was cheerfully tying Geoff Marsh into knots.

Then, on cue, came the quiet achievers of the New Zealand bowling, Gavin Larsen, Harris, Rod Latham - none of them likely to endanger the skin of a rice pudding, perfectly in harmony with the slowing pace of the pitch, quite outside the Australians' macho bowling methods.

Crowe even had Harris and Latham alternating, two overs at a time, from one end, an interesting measure of his confidence.

Boon stood alone, defiant, a pugnacious bulldog of a batsman, getting his teeth into anything short. But he lost Jones to a run-out (and Cairns wiped out any memories of his bowling with his throw, and then a catch from Border), and Boon did not receive any support until Steve Waugh came in at 125 for five.

By now the overs were trickling out and when Waugh was gone at 199 for six in the 46th over, all that really remained was the mopping up.

But not before Boon had completed his century, a marvelous innings which rivalled Crowe's, for Boon stood alone for so long.

And his bold innings had a fitting specular end - run out by a direct hit from Harris, 40 metres away, side-on, at a time when the whole New Zealand side was into supercharged success.

Then the victory, the mad scramble for the safety of the pavilion, again the regret that Crowe could not have solemnly marched off his men in solitary triumph. He and they deserved no less.

And then the press conference, and Crowe towards the end suggesting that he and his team might have answered some of their critics.

Fortunately everyone there was sure Crowe was looking at someone else.

New Zealand 248/6 from 50 overs
Crowe 100 not out, Rutherford 57, McDermott 2-43

Australia 211 all out 48.1 overs
Boon 100, S Waugh 38, Larsen 3-30