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Imran Khan's erratically brilliant Pakistanis won their first World Cup final while Gooch and England lost their third, on the broad field of Melbourne with nearly 90,000 in attendance. Afterwards Imran said it was the most fulfilling and satisfying cricket moment of my life. He described the victory as a triumph for his young team's talent over England's experience; he also stressed the role of his aggressive specialist bowlers rather than the stereotyped attack of Gooch's all-rounders. But he enjoyed an all-round triumph himself with the match's highest score and the final wicket.
Imran's role went deeper, however. He had virtually hand-picked the team, and after the disappointment of losing a key player, the pace bowler Waqar Younis, to a stress fracture before leaving Pakistan, and a disastrous start when they won only one in five matches (two of which he missed), he urged them to imitate the action of a cornered tiger before they went on to five successive wins. They reached the giant stadium in peak form, while England looked exhausted. The players who had toured New Zealand unconquered had gradually weakened in the face of constant travel and frequent injury. As Pakistan had picked up, they had been losing, first to New Zealand and then, most embarrassingly, to Zimbabwe. It's not the end of the world, said Gooch after the match, but it is close to it. We got beaten fair and square. England were worn down by the century partnership of veterans Imran and Javed Miandad, which started slowly but gathered force, and the spirit of their batsmen was broken by successive balls from Man of the Match Wasim Akram which dismissed Lamb and Lewis, one swinging in and then straightening again, the next cutting in sharply.
Remembering the baleful potential of rain, and knowing that no one had won a World Cup final chasing runs, Imran had chosen to bat. At first England prospered. In nine overs Pringle reduced Pakistan to 24 for two. Then Imran and Miandad, the sole survivors in this World Cup of the 1975 tournament, settled down to see off the new ball. Progress was slow: Imran was nine from 16 overs when Gooch spilled a running catch. But although Pakistan were only 70 halfway through, and Miandad had summoned a runner, they accelerated to add 139 in 31 overs before Miandad attempted a reverse sweep. Soon Imran's strokeplaying protégés, Inzamam-ul-Haq (35 balls) and Wasim Akram (18 balls), took up the fight. Their 52 in six overs brought the runs from the last 20 overs to 153, though Pringle's final over cost just two and saw them both dismissed.
England's pursuit of five an over started badly when Botham was surprised to be given caught behind. The next time Moin Khan claimed a catch, Stewart escaped judgment, but not for long, and Mushtaq Ahmed's leg-spin accounted for Hick (baffled by the googly) and Gooch. With England requiring 181 from 29 overs, Lamb, preferred for his experience to Smith, whose fitness was in doubt, added 72 in 14 with Fairbrother. But Wasim returned to devastating effect. Deprived of heavyweight partners, and using a runner, Fairbrother top-edged to Moin after an hour and a half. The tail threw the bat to no avail. Imran dismissed Illingworth to complete his triumph, and pledged the proceeds of his success to the cancer hospital planned in his mother's memory.
Man of the Match: Wasim Akram. Attendance: 87,182.
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