World Cup Vignette

One false shot, and a World Cup lost

Mike Gatting, not particularly known for his daredevilry, chose the 1987 final to play an impetuous reverse sweep that cost England more than just a wicket

In the 1987 final - the first played outside England - Australia, having chosen to bat, put up 253 against England, thanks largely to David Boon's 75. In reply, England were coasting at 135 for 2, with the captain, Mike Gatting, and Bill Athey at the crease, when Allan Border stepped up for his left-arm orthodox.
Border was no mug with the ball, and Gatting was not particularly known for his risk-taking daredevilry. Conventional wisdom had it that with his team comfortably placed, Gatting would face his opposite number's first ball with some circumspection.
Yet as the ball pitched around his off stump, something snapped in Gatting and he got down on his haunches - a not inconsiderable feat - and effected a reverse sweep. Except it didn't quite come off. The ball hit his shoulder and flew up and behind to Greg Dyer, who was so surprised he almost dropped it.
The innings subsequently faded into the November dusk. Allan Lamb, coming in at No. 5, hit 45, but was unable to spark a revival, as England fell short by seven runs. For Australia, though, the spontaneous celebration and fireworks that followed - how Calcutta cheered for the underdogs - were a precursor to world domination. Blame it all on Gatting.
This article was first published in 2019