“The Windies, who were a force to reckon in that era, were beaten by a South African-born English cricketer Allan Joseph Lamb, who remained unbeaten on 67 from 68 balls to help England win by two wickets and three balls to spare”
With the Cricket World Cup less than two months away, we look back at the very first closely fought Cricket World Cup was played back in 1987 when India and Pakistan historically co-hosted the mega event.
Unlike the one-sided encounters that were mostly witnessed in the first three World Cups that were hosted by England, the 1987 World Cup kick-started with a string of thrillers. The opening encounter saw Pakistan, the favourites, were run over by Sri Lanka, the defending champions India suffered a one-run loss to Australia followed by England succeeded to score 35 runs off the last three overs to defeat the West Indies.
The Windies, who were a force to reckon in that era, were beaten by a South African-born English cricketer Allan Joseph Lamb, who remained unbeaten on 67 from 68 balls to help England win by two wickets and three balls to spare.
The match was played in Pakistan’s city of Gujranwala, which was almost an hour’s drive from Lahore where the teams were based out. The game was titled in the favour of the West Indies at the end of the first innings itself. The Windies posted a total of 243 out of which 92 runs came from the final 10 overs and the way the Caribbean batsmen dominated over the English, the balance in the match had slightly shaken towards the West Indies. In reply to that, England opener Graham Gooch started off well before he was dismissed for 93-ball 47. Soon after his dismissal, England suffered a batting collapse and when they needed 91 runs from the last 10 overs, they had Lamb at the crease as the last specialist batsman.
It was a massive opportunity for the Langebaanweg, Cape Province-born cricketer to finally make a mark in his career. When he was signed from Western Province by Northamptonshire as their overseas player in 1978, he was close to a stranger in the cricket fraternity. Playing for England was destiny for Lamb, who was persuaded by Ken Turner, their secretary, to invoke his English-born parents to play for England as South Africa were years away then from returning to Test cricket. In the next decade or so, England had Lamb in the middle-order scoring 4,000-plus runs in both Test and ODI formats respectively.
One of Lamb’s memorable knock came against Australia in Sydney in the same year of 1987. He smashed 2, 4, 6, 2, 4 off BA Reid to lead England to a superb victory with a ball to spare against Australia in the CB Tri-series that also involved West Indies. England won the series and headed to the World Cup with boosted confidence.
A few months later, when Lamb stood like rock solid in England’s World Cup opener against West Indies in Gujranwala, he would have taken confidence from that knock of his. “I had been in such situations before, so I was fairly confident that we could get the runs as long as I remained at the crease. I had the skills and confidence batting at the death, which was beneficial for me and England that day again,” Lamb, later on, said in an interview in regards to his match-winning knock of 67 from 68 balls in World Cup ’87.
By the time West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh started to bowl the 48th over, England still needed to get 34 more runs. Lamb scored 15 runs from that Walsh over before West Indian pacer Patrick Patterson bowled a tight penultimate over as he gave away only five runs. That brought down the equation for England to 14 required from the final over, which was again going to be bowled by Walsh.
But there was one man on the field who was confident – Lamb.
Walsh bowled the first ball of the final over short and Lamb pulled it for a couple. The second ball was bowled towards the leg-side and Lamb smashed it for a boundary. Under-pressure Walsh then chose to bowl the third delivery down the leg side, which the wicketkeeper could not stop and England earned more four runs with a run due to the wide signal. The following fall was declared as a no-ball and Lamb managed to take a single.
Although England won due to Lamb’s efforts, it was Neil Foster, who got to hit the winning runs as he charged down the wicket and deflected a fuller-length ball wide of the third man.
While Walsh was a young aggressive bowler, Lamb, being a good player of yorkers and pace, especially in the death overs, played him well. Interestingly, England played these opponents twice in the World Cup and had exciting finishes on both the occasions but the first win was because of Lamb, who later said, “It was absolutely boiling in the middle. When we came off I was completely dehydrated and had to replenish with a lot of liquids. Once back in the dressing room I just sat in the bathroom and they kept pouring cold water over me.”
England eventually made it to the final but lost a close final to Australia by seven runs. While Gooch finished as the top-scorer in the tournament with 471 runs in 8 games, Lamb was England’s batsman with the best average in the event with 299 runs at 59.80.