World Cup Vignette
Veletta's forgotten gem
When talk turns to the 1987 final, Mike Veletta's match-turning 45 is rarely given its due
Mike Veletta owns the most forgotten match-turning innings in a World Cup final. Mike Gatting's reverse-sweep to Allan Border, David Boon's Man-of-the-Match 75, and Steve Waugh's second last over - he removed Phil DeFreitas and went for only two - have grown into the memorable moments of the 1987 showpiece. In dispatches, Veletta is lucky to get "45 off 31 balls" and the innings is not mentioned in Border's autobiography. Veletta did have a hand in Border's run-out - the captain wanted a second and was turned back - but his run-gathering impact was far greater, especially for a batsman who collected rather than collared at state level.
Three wickets had fallen for 17 when Veletta arrived to partner Border in the 39th over and the side was in danger of handing England an easy chase. Veletta had played only four games in the tournament, scoring 0, 43 and 48, but he regained Australia's energy with a hot-stepping display. England's two spinners, John Emburey and Eddie Hemmings, were operating so he was forced to aim square of the wicket and rely on sweeps, deflections, quick running and improvisation. "The gods were smiling on me," he said. A couple of pull shots contributed to his six boundaries and in ten overs, Veletta and Border rattled 73. Another 11 came in the 50th as Veletta and Steve Waugh targeted DeFreitas, pushing Australia to 253 for 5.
"Veletta played a gem of a cameo, using all of his crease to dance and manoeuvre around, prima ballerina-like, almost to the point of distracting the bowlers," Waugh wrote in his autobiography. The magazine Australian Cricket called Veletta the "find of the tour". Two years later his international career was over, and after two decades his outstanding cameo is usually only a mark on a scorecard, but Veletta himself was not too unfazed. "I'm happy with my place," he later said. "We were the first [Australian] team to win the World Cup and we were never expected to do it."
This article was first published in 2014