After nine attempts, England are still searching for that elusive first World Cup. Huw Turbervill examines the reasons why.
The inaugural tournament in England was refreshingly short – just a fortnight, culminating on June 21. India were not quite the one-day juggernauts they are today. In their group game, England smashed 334 for four in 60 overs at Lord's, and India 'hit' back with 132 for three, opener Sunil Gavaskar infamously 'blasting' 36 not out from 174 balls, with one four, as he seemingly opted for practice in the belief that the hosts' total was unsurpassable. England came unstuck in the semi-final at Headingley, Gary Gilmour taking six for 14 as the hosts were dismissed for 93 on a poor track. Australia limped over the finish line six wickets down, but then lost to the West Indies in the final.
Lesson for England: Don't bat first on a sticky wicket.
Again in England, again a fortnight-long, but this time the hosts made the final, which was once more won by the West Indies.
England made a hash of their tactics. Viv Richards smashed 138 not out as his side reached 286 for nine in 60 overs. Captain Mike Brearley (64) and Geoff Boycott (57) put on 129 in 38 overs for the opening stand and thought they had left their side well-placed. But it gave their colleagues too much to do against such an excellent pace attack, and Joel Garner (five for 38) blew them away, England losing eight for 11 as they fell 92 runs short.
Lesson for England: Don't rely on your mates to finish the job off.
England failed for a third time to triumph in spite of home advantage, coming unstuck on a slow Old Trafford track that was said to play into the hands of India's steady seamers. The visitors used the extra pace of Bob Willis, Graham Dilley, Paul Allott and Ian Botham to their benefit to win comfortably. They then stunned the West Indies in the final, defending a total of just 183, in a result that no one saw coming.
Lesson for England: Pick the right attack for the conditions.
For the first time the tournament was staged outside England, in India and Pakistan. England did well to nudge West Indies out at the group stage, and then won brilliantly against India in Bombay. Graham Gooch played sweep after sweep as he made 115, and Eddie Hemmings proved the unlikely destroyer with four wickets.
It was tailor-made for an England win at last as they faced Australia in the final, just a year after Mike Gatting's men had beaten them in the Ashes and one-dayers Down Under. England were on 135 for two chasing 253 for five when Gatting played 'that' reverse sweep against the occasional slow left-arm of Allan Border. They fell seven runs short and Gatting never heard the last of it.
Lesson for England: Don't take unnecessary risks when victory is in sight.
Probably the best Cricket World Cup, the 10 teams played each other in the first round, before going through to the semi-finals. The rain rules (this was pre-Duckworth-Lewis) were somewhat farcical and helped England beat South Africa in the semi-final in Sydney, but otherwise Australasia put on a great show, with coloured costumes, white balls and black sightscreens for the first time, and all the expertise learned from Kerry Packer's Circus.
England had a quality side, with specialists Graham Gooch, Ian Botham, Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick, Neil Fairborther, Allan Lamb and Gladstone Small augmented by all-rounders like Dermot Reeve, Chris Lewis, Derek Pringle and Phil DeFreitas who were a cut above some of the 'bits-and-pieces' players that pulled on the sky-blue shirts in later years.
England ran out of steam in the final, however, and lost to an Imran Khan-inspired Pakistan. As well as Pringle (three for 22) bowled in the final, Wasim Akram (three for 49) was the quality quick bowler in the match, and Mushtaq Ahmed (three for 41) considerably more potent than England's Richard Illingworth. It was galling for England, as they had bowled Pakistan out for 74 earlier in the tournament, only for rain to force an abandonment. If Pakistan had lost, they would have been knocked out.
Lesson for England: Keep something in reserve for the final.
Back on the subcontinent, England's campaign followed on from a disappointing tour to South Africa. Ray Illingworth was the team's supremo, but his tactics were muddled, and England managed wins only against the United Arab Emirates and Holland.
Illingworth insisted on using Neil Smith as a pinch-hitting opener, and opening the bowling with a spinner, Richard Illingworth, just as New Zealand had done with success four years earlier. But the experiments looked outdated and they failed, and it was no surprise when England were knocked out by Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals.
Lesson for England: Don't start tinkering once the tournament has started.
England's cunning plan was to stage the tournament in early summer, with bowlers like Ian Austin exploiting the conditions. They started well enough, beating Sri Lanka at Lord's and Kenya at Canterbury, but lost the games that mattered, emphatically to South Africa at the Oval and India at Edgbaston. Despite beating them at Bristol, it was Zimbabwe who went through at their expense. A dispute about tournament fees leading up to the tournament didn't help England's cause.
Lesson for England: Leave the cunning plans to Baldrick.
England's refusal to play in Zimbabwe in protest at the regime of Robert Mugabe cost them a place in the Super Sixes. England beat Holland, Namibia and – memorably thanks to four wickets from James Anderson – Pakistan. They lost to India but had Australia on the ropes in the crucial final Pool A match. The Australians slumped to 135 for eight, chasing 205. Nasser Hussain entrusted the 49th over to the wicketless Anderson rather than Andy Caddick, who had taken four for 35. Andy Bichel, who had earlier taken seven for 20, hit Anderson for a six and a four to lead his side home, making 34 not out.
Lesson for England: Opt for experience over youth at the death.
Another overlong tournament, played in front of empty seats thanks to overpriced tickets and overzealous security (no flags and no musical instruments allowed) in the West Indies. England beat the minnows – Canada, Kenya, Ireland and Bangladesh – but lost to the big boys again, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Same old, same old. A one-wicket win over the West Indies was too little, too late.
Lesson for England: It is important we beat somebody decent this time.
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