Imran's Tigers turn the corner

Imran Khan lifts the World Cup Getty Images

World Cup No. 5
Teams 9
Minnows Only Zimbabwe

Format This was the Cup that thought it was a league. All played all in a qualifying round that went on for ever. It was fair, but about as exciting as the Nullarbor Plain. The good news was that South Africa joined in for the first time, following the end of apartheid.

Innovations Four big ones ... 1) Coloured clothing, with names on the back. 2) Floodlights for most of the 36 games. 3) The white ball: in fact two of them, one at each end (so they didn't get too grubby), which meant they swung prodigiously. 4) The fielding circle rules were refined, allowing only two men outside the ring in the first 15 overs. After that, it was as before: a minimum of four inside the circle. Result: the birth of the pinch-hitter. Ian Botham did the job for England, with mixed results.

Early running Australia, the holders and hosts, were such hot favourites that the pressure got to them. They lost the opening game, in New Zealand (Martin Crowe 100*), and then faced England at Sydney. Botham sniffed the chance to trample the Aussies into the dirt for one last time, took 4 for 31 and then made 53 not out as England won by eight wickets. Pakistan started dreadfully, losing to West Indies by 10 wickets, and would have gone out if rain had not saved them at Adelaide after England bowled them out for 74. England and New Zealand were the best teams for a long time, but both had peaked too soon. Imran Khan famously told his team: "Listen, just be as if you were a cornered tiger," and they moved into top gear.

The semis What's the Afrikaans for "We wuz robbed"? South Africa, playing England, needed 22 off 13 balls when it rained. By the time it stopped, they needed 21 off one ball. However, Kepler Wessels had chosen to bat second, and South Africa had bowled terribly slowly. NZ's brave run came to an end as Pakistan successfully chased 262, with the unknown Inzamam-ul-Haq thumping 60 off 37 balls.

The final Pakistan were on fire, and England were not. Derek Pringle (3 for 22) removed the openers, but Imran Khan and Javed Miandad (44 and 57* in the semi) made 72 and 58 as Pakistan recovered to 249 for 6. England were soon 69 for 4 (Botham 0), and when Neil Fairbrother (62) and Allan Lamb (31) launched a recovery, Wasim Akram snuffed it out, bowling Lamb and Chris Lewis with consecutive beauties. Pakistan won by 22 runs.

Last hurrah A whole herd of giants headed into the sunset. Imran never played again, Botham managed one last injury-ravaged summer, and it was also the last World Cup for Gooch, Border, Lamb, Des Haynes ...

First hurrah Haynes's opening partner was a young thruster named Lara. Mushtaq Ahmed shone for Pakistan, and Jonty Rhodes became the first superstar fielder.

Not to be forgotten Crowe opened NZ's bowling with Dipak Patel's offspin. When England met India at Perth, Botham faced Sachin Tendulkar for the only time in an international: a fascinating little duel ended with Tendulkar caught behind for 35.