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On his first Test tour of England in 1997, Glenn McGrath finished a six-game series with an astonishing 36-wicket haul that included an innings tally of 8 for 38. Two years later, he was back in the country with the Australian team for the World Cup, looking to recreate some of that form.
Both McGrath and Australia were stuttering in the tournament. After losses to New Zealand and Pakistan, Australia needed to beat West Indies in Manchester to progress to the Super Six stage. 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.
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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 tail-enders to show his predictions were worth listening to.
The match dawdled to a finish as Australia slowed down their chase of 111 to a crawl, trying to get West Indies to pip New Zealand for a place in the Super Six. The Australians openly admitted their intention, though they were unsuccessful in the end. Under tournament rules, they would retain points won against fellow-qualifiers in the Super Six. Against New Zealand, that meant nought; against West Indies, two. Spectators at the Old Trafford booed, slow hand-clapped and walked out, leaving McGrath's 5 for 14 the redeeming factor.
This article was first published in 2014