The ICC Cricket World Cup 1987 was a special moment indeed for Australia cricket not only because we ended up winning it but because it was a turning point especially in limited-overs. We really got a crack on from that point.
Bob Simpson was on the coaching staff and he made sure that we got our basics rights. We made good preparations. We had toured India in 1986 and had played that tied Test in Chennai. So, we were familiar with the conditions especially because we played our first couple games there.
We won both those games. I remember the first match against India particularly well. It was the defending champions and was the co-host as the event was travelling out of England for the first time. Towards the end of our innings, there was a peculiar incident.
Dean Jones struck a ball off Ravi Shastri over long-on. The umpire signalled a four. But, the ball landed up right in front of our viewing area and we knew it had gone for a six. So, our team manager spoke with match referee Hanif Mohammad, and our score was changed from 268 to 270 runs. And it mattered because India got 269 runs!
It was a thrilling game and this quirky adjustment was the difference between us winning or losing. We were a young bunch and for us to win the first game against the defending champion was a major boost. We gained early momentum and wanted to work it through our next set of games.
There were two groups each with four teams, playing each other twice. The top two teams from each group progressed to the semi-finals. We had India, New Zealand and Zimbabwe in our group. India beat us in the return game (in Delhi). So, our matches against New Zealand became very important to qualify for the semi-finals.
Both those matches were tight contests. I remember both the matches hung in balance until the end. We were lucky and won, going through to the semis. I say lucky because little things worked in our favour, like a catch or a run-out and it changed the course of the game. Fate conspired in our favour and we gained even more confidence.
Finishing second in our group behind India meant that we played Pakistan in the first semi-final. Everyone expected the final at Eden Gardens to be an India versus Pakistan encounter and that would have been incredible. But it didn’t turn out that way.
Our semi-final was a tough match and people expected us to fail. In those days 240-250 were good ODI scores. We were aiming for that when Steve Waugh played a brilliant late cameo, taking 18 runs off the last over, propelling our score to 267. We felt very confident during the break and came out looking to carry on the momentum. Craig McDermott was firing for us immediately and Pakistan were reduced to three-down for nothing.
We were aware that the match could yet turn when Javed Miandad and Imran Khan started building a partnership. But Waugh had pushed the score beyond their reach and our young team scored a fantastic upset. We were in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 1987.