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Dreaming of a classic World Cup final

Australia need four runs to win off the final delivery with India's Javagal Srinath bowling to Michael Bevan during the World Cup final at the Wanderers on Sunday.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 17:06 IST

Australia need four runs to win off the final delivery with India's Javagal Srinath bowling to Michael Bevan during the World Cup final at the Wanderers on Sunday.

A dream finish? History suggests it will not happen. World Cup finals have rarely sparkled.

The closest final in the 28-year history of cricket's showpiece was played at the sprawling Eden Gardens in Calcutta in 1987 when Allan Border's Australia defeated England by seven runs.

England looked on course to overhaul Australia's 253 when skipper Mike Gatting, on 41, attempted a reverse sweep against part-time spinner Border's first delivery, got an edge and was caught behind.

England never quite recovered and by the time the last ball was delivered they still needed 10 to win.

The next best finish was at the inaugural World Cup in 1975 when the West Indies won the first of two back-to-back titles with a 17-run win over Australia at Lord's.

Imran Khan's Pakistan defeated England by 22 runs in Melbourne in 1992, but the remaining four finals have been almost one-sided with victory margins ranging from 92 runs to eight wickets.

Probably the most anti-climatic - and shortest - final was played four years ago at Lord's when Steve Waugh's Australia bowled out Pakistan for 132 to win by eight wickets and almost 30 overs to spare.

Luckily, some finals have at least been illuminated by brilliant individual performances.

In 1975, West Indies captain Clive Lloyd made a superb 102 against an Australia attack featuring legendary quicks Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee.

The Australian reply was notable for three spectacular run-outs by a young Vivian Richards which derailed Ian Chappell's side.

When last man Thomson was caught off a no-ball, hundreds of West Indian fans ran onto the field mistakenly thinking their side had won.

In the chaos that followed Thomson and partner Lillee kept running, the umpires eventually awarding three runs.

Richards once again came to the fore in 1979 when he hit an unbeaten 138 and Collis King smashed 86 off 66 balls after England had reduced the West Indies to 99-4.

Four years later, seasoned Indian all-rounder and captain Kapil Dev turned the final in India's favour when he ran backwards at mid-wicket to catch out dangerman Richards for 33 off the innocuous medium-pace of Madan Lal.

Australian paceman Craig McDermott stole the show in the 1987 final with 5-44, while Pakistan's Wasim Akram starred four years later with 33 off 19 balls and 3-49, including the wickets of Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis off successive deliveries.

It was Aravinda De Silva all the way in 1996 when he took 3-42 and then hit an unbeaten 107 to help Sri Lanka avenge the humilation of Australia refusing to play in Colombo for security reasons.

Star spinner Shane Warne took centre stage in his last World Cup four years ago with figures of four for 33 against Pakistan.

Warne missed out this time due to a failed drugs test, but Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Brett Lee are at hand to raise hopes that an exhilerating finale could still be on the cards.

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 17:06 IST