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Attack of the pigeon

When Glenn McGrath put his money where his mouth was

Peter English

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McGrath lived up to the hype with one of the World Cup's great spells © Getty Images
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Glen McGrath
5 for 14 v West Indies, Group B match, 1999

During the early stages of the 1999 World Cup, Glenn McGrath struggled to recapture the form of his first tour to England two years before. He was stuttering like Australia, who needed to beat West Indies at Old Trafford to progress to the Super Six stage, following losses to New Zealand and Pakistan. McGrath had a plan, but rather than carry it quietly he made a very public announcement. In his newspaper column he predicted he'd take care of the worrying threat of Brian Lara and grab five wickets. Nobody else in the team would have contemplated such rhetoric, especially someone operating below his best.

The self-belief and manufactured pressure spurred McGrath to a brilliant performance that secured Australia's passage to the next stage. West Indies were blown away for 110 and McGrath, who was back opening after a first-change experiment, picked up 5 for 14 off 8.4 overs. Most importantly, he fulfilled his claim that he would topple Lara.

Lara arrived to face McGrath's hat-trick ball after the dismissals of Sherwin Campbell and Jimmy Adams, and moved to 9 before falling to a superb delivery. Mark Waugh might suggest Lara played around the ball, but his bowling team-mates say it angled on middle and clipped the top of off. After taking three top-order wickets in 14 balls, McGrath completed his collection with two tailenders to show his predictions were worth listening to.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo

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