Home » ’99 Rewind: McGrath sinks Windies to seal Super Six spot | cricket.com.au

’99 Rewind: McGrath sinks Windies to seal Super Six spot | cricket.com.au

McGrath sinks Windies at 1999 World Cup

Australia had thrashed Bangladesh, but their hopes of progressing to the Super Sixes stage of the 1999 World Cup effectively hung on their final group game against West Indies at Old Trafford.

More pointedly, it came down to a showdown between Waugh’s bowlers and Brian Lara who had averaged a sublime 91 in the four-Test Caribbean campaign earlier in the year.

And with New Zealand odds-on to defeat Scotland a day later, an Australia win at Old Trafford would ensure the trans-Tasman rivals and West Indies all finished the group stage on equal points with run rate to dictate who advanced to the Super Sixes.

Among the motivational methods the Australians had adopted to revive their campaign was to, in jargon let loose from a public-sector training seminar, give the players greater ‘ownership’ of the team’s plans.

More specifically, each member of the starting XI was assigned an individual opponent and asked to explain to their teammates pre-game how they would go about reducing their target man’s impact.

The job of quelling Lara, fresh from his routine dismemberment of Australia’s bowlers in the Caribbean, was handed to Glenn McGrath.

Brian Lara had torched the Aussies in Tests during 1999 was ineffectual at the World Cup // Getty

His strategy, revealed to an expectant Australian team meeting in their hotel not far from Old Trafford on match eve and subsequently leaked to the press, was as economical and incisive as McGrath’s famously frugal bowling.

‘Get him out,’ he scrawled on a sheet of paper.

At face value, McGrath held little claim to the title he would rise to secure – cricket’s most successful pace bowler.

He boasted neither the raw speed of Dennis Lillee, nor the steepling bounce generated by Curtly Ambrose. His weaponry did not extend to the unplayable new ball swing imparted by Richard Hadlee, nor an ability to somehow bend the old one like Wasim Akram.

Where McGrath excelled, however, over fourteen years of cricket’s most attritional art, was in his unrivalled capacity to land the ball precisely where he wanted to. Over after over. Day after year.

Like most so-called champions, his talent was a gift fashioned from ambition and dedication, employing the universal tools of patience and repetition through a childhood of single-minded practice conducted on a rural property at Narromine, in north-western New South Wales.

Glenn McGrath finished with 5-14 from 8.4 overs // Getty

The McGrath academy was a home-made pitch scratched out of the rocks and dust behind his dad’s machine shop.

Having completed his daily chores, he would trundle in and bowl repeatedly at a forty-four gallon oil drum positioned twenty-two yards away.

He came to know the location of every pebble, every contour on that rudimentary strip.

And not only did he understand exactly how the ball would behave upon striking the various grooves and the gravel, he could put it in such a place as to achieve his desired outcomes more often than not.

Their proud place in Trinidadian heritage aside, Brian Lara presented a far different proposition to a steel drum.

Get him out

— Glenn McGrath’s contribution when tasked with devising team strategy for Brian Lara

But on a bitterly grey morning in one of Britain’s dampest cities, it took McGrath just six deliveries to calibrate his radar against the world’s pre-eminent lefthander.

Then, with his seventh, he coaxed Lara to lean marginally forward by pitching on an immaculate length – full enough to commit the batsman to a stroke, but short enough to prevent him smothering any movement.

And move it did.

Sufficiently off the raised seam of the white Dukes ball to deviate past the bat pushed speculatively towards it.

Lara’s back leg twitched instinctively into line as he anticipated contact that never occurred.

Instead, the ball kissed the top of his off stump before skewing off to an elated slips cordon.

Brian Lara was bowled for 9 off 15 balls as West Indies slipped to 3-20 in the ninth over // Getty

After knocking over Lara for nine and his team for 110, Australia knew that – provided they secured victory before 47.2 overs elapsed – their net run rate would remain above their Caribbean rivals and a Super Sixes spot was theirs.

But they also understood that if they chased down the tiny target inside 20 overs as was the case against Bangladesh, West Indies’ rate would drop so drastically the Kiwis only needed to beat Scotland by 40 runs or so to also be assured progression to the next round.

Consequently, the closer to 47 overs Australia pushed out their chase, the greater the likelihood the West Indies would stay ahead of NZ on run rate which meant Waugh’s men would carry at least two points (from the Old Trafford win) into the Super Sixes.

A reinvigorated Shane Warne claimed 3-11 from his 10 overs // Getty

That was why Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan laboured for 13 overs to score just 19 runs before victory came in the 41st over, by which time many in the Manchester crowd had left in disgust and those who remained took to jeering Australia’s go-slow.

“I don’t know about it being moral, but it was in the rules,” Waugh said when grilled about the tactics in his post-game media conference.

“The bigger picture was we’re here to win the World Cup and if we don’t win or perform well and make it to the next round we’re the ones who are going to cop it, nobody else.”

Steve Waugh frustrated his old foe Curtly Ambrose with a sedate 19 off 73 balls // Getty

In the end, the contrivance counted for nought.

New Zealand thrashed Scotland with more than 31 overs to spare in their final group game at Edinburgh, which meant West Indies missed out and Australia went through to the Super Sixes in last place with zero points and net run rate of -0.35.

Waugh’s blunt assessment after the Pakistan loss at Headingley that Australia simply needed to string together seven matches without defeat to lift the World Cup remained as unchanged as it was unlikely.

Australia’s 1999 World Cup

May 16: Beat Scotland by six wickets in Worcester

May 20: Lost to New Zealand by five wickets in Cardiff

May 23: Lost to Pakistan by 10 runs at Headingley

May 27: Beat Bangladesh by seven wickets at Chester-le-Street

May 30: Beat West Indies by six wickets at Old Trafford 

June 4: v India at The Oval (Super Six)

June 9: v Zimbabwe at Lord’s (Super Six)

June 13: v South Africa at Headingley (Super Six)

June 17: Semi-final v South Africa at Edgbaston

Jun3 20: Final v Pakistan at Lord’s