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Wasim Akram's wiles condemn England to bridesmaid status again
The 1992 World Cup final was a contest between the best team on paper (England) and the most improved side (Pakistan). Fortunes swung through the game. After a circumspect start Pakistan mustered 249 for 6 thanks to a late flurry from Wasim Akram.
It wasn't the last England saw of him either. Akram sent Ian Botham packing early with a brute of a delivery, and soon after, England found themselves in a hole at 69 for 4. Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother kept the score ticking at a rate of knots, adding 72 in just 14 overs, and Pakistan's hopes diminished with every passing run. Something had to give.
The ball was already 34 overs old when Imran Khan tossed it back to Akram, a bowler virtually unplayable under lights, and one who had the pace to complement his vicious swing. Allan Lamb, batting on 31, took strike to face his first ball from Akram.
Bowling round the wicket, Akram thudded it in just short of a length, swinging it in at searing pace. Lamb put his foot forward to play through the line but was squared up as the ball straightened after pitching. He had barely a fraction of a second to adjust his stroke and the ball crashed into the off stump, the death rattle resonating through the England camp as a stunned Lamb walked off.
Chris Lewis was up next. Akram this time pitched it fuller, curving the ball beautifully through the air. Lewis thrust his left leg forward with a big stride across the stumps, in two minds whether to play or leave it. He chose the former and brought his bat down, but wasn't quite quick enough as the ball caught the inside edge and hit the top of middle stump. With two absolute peaches, Akram was on a hat-trick and the crowd of over 87,000 had just witnessed a work of art.
Aaqib Javed: "Those two deliveries were unplayable. It was perfect reverse swing. Wasim will remember that unique spell all his life."
What happened next
Dermot Reeve played out the the hat-trick ball but the scars were already inflicted. With few wickets in hand, Neil Fairbrother did his best, pushing the score to 180. But his dismissal took the fight out of England's chase. Pakistan wrapped up the innings for 227 and took the silverware home for the first time. Akram was deservedly named the Man of the Match.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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