It was the 5th edition of the World Cup and was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The tournament's format had been changed from the previous ones, with a complete round-robin replacing the former two qualifying groups. All teams were to face each other in the league stage and the top 4 would qualify for the semi-final. South Africa were readmitted into the ICC after 21 years of exclusion due to apartheid.
Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, who had been a part of the Pakistan squad since the 1st edition were ageing and in all probability the tournament would be their last. To top it off, Imran's special cause of building a cancer hospital in the country after his mother’s demise in 1985 was also on his agenda. A young set of effervescent lads accompanied by experienced senior pros, Pakistan had the right mixture.
High on hopes, Pakistan’s start to their campaign was not a significant one as they succumbed to a 10-wicket defeat against West Indies. In fact, in their first five matches they had won only one with another one being washed out. As luck would've it, the washed out match would have been a disastrous one if it had continued as they had been bundled out for their all-time lowest World Cup score of 74 (in a completed innings). Their only win in the first five games came against Zimbabwe when they defended a target of 255 riding on the back of a century from Aamer Sohail.
Pakistan, who were on the verge of being eliminated needed some miraculous performances, which came in their 6th match against the then defending champions and the home team Australia. Batting first, Pakistan got off to a decent start with Sohail and Ramiz Raja joining hands to put on an opening partnership of 78 before Ramiz was dismissed by Mike Whitney. Saleem Malik at number 3, didn’t trouble the scorers as he was dismissed for a duck. Miandad and Sohail in attempt to restore the Pakistan innings put on a partnership of 77 for the third wicket. The innings progression was looking good, until the dismissal of Sohail. His dismissal triggered yet another collapse as was the case in previous matches, from 157 for 2, Pakistan scored only 220 in their allotted 50 overs.
The game was on the line and Pakistan needed their bowlers to step up. Aaqib Javed dismissed Tom Moody and David Boon for single-digit scores, hence gaining an early advantage. The partnership of 85 runs between Jones and Geoff Marsh for the third wicket was looking threatening until the leggie Mushtaq Ahmed got the better of Jones. Thereon, wickets fell regularly for Australia and Pakistan’s win by 48 runs made sure that they would live to fight another day. Exuberant from their win against the home team, Imran's boys went on to win against Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
New Zealand had been in red hot form as the table toppers had won 7 matches on the bounce, but Pakistan would have gone into the semi-final full of confidence after a win against New Zealand in their last league match. After New Zealand skipper, Martin Crowe won the toss and decided to bat first, he led from the front as they set a target of 263 for the men in green to chase.
Chasing a target of 263, the top 4 batsmen provided starts, but none of them could convert it into a big score, thus, Pakistan were in trouble at 140 for 4 with the run-rate creeping. After the dismissal of Malik, entered Inzamam Ul Haq who changed the course of the game. Inzamam’s blazing innings of 60 from 37 balls dragged Pakistan back into the game. The finishing touch was laid by Moin Khan, who blasted 20 off 11 balls. Inzamam was awarded the man of the match for his career-defining knock which took his side into the final.
The big final
Batting first is usually a safe option in a final as there would be less pressure on the batsmen and Imran had the liberty of opting to bat. Regardless of the toss advantage, it was a not a start the skipper was expecting. Derek Pringle ran through the openers in his early overs to provide a head-start for England. Imran, who took matters into his own hands, came in to bat at number 3 and was joined by Miandad. A 139-run partnership between the two got them back into the game. A late surge from Inzamam and Wasim pushed Pakistan to post a fighting total of 249.
It was a disastrous start for England as their top four batsmen were dismissed for under a score of 100. Their first setback was Sir Ian Botham who was dismissed for a duck by a peach from Wasim. Then It was Alec Stewart followed by Graeme Hick and then the skipper Graham Gooch. A sliver of hope developed when Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother were trying to rebuild with a partnership of 72 for the 5th wicket. However, that was ended when Wasim was brought back for a spell. Under lights, Akram got the ball to reverse alarmingly and Lamb was undone by a beauty that went away from around the wicket and the same angle got rid of Chris Lewis, but this time it was an inswinger. Fairbrother was fighting a lone battle, but his resistance also came to an end as he edged one back to Moin off Aaqib Javed. Along with his wicket the hopes for England went and they eventually lost the final by 22 runs.
In front of a fully packed MCG crowd, Imran with the bat and Wasim with ball were the heroes that helped Pakistan lift their maiden World Cup title. After the first five matches, Pakistan’s chance of staying alive in the tournament were remote, but an inspirational skipper urged them to fight like 'cornered tigers' and the rest is history.