Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - An England 1999 World Cup victory that made them dangerously complacent
May 18, 1999 - A loss to Australia in the semi final of the 1975 World Cup, a loss to West Indies in the final of the 1979 World Cup, a loss to India in the semi final of the 1983 World Cup, a loss to Australia in the final of the 1987 World Cup, a loss to Pakistan in the final of the 1992 World Cup, a loss to Sri Lanka in the quarter final of the 1996 World Cup.
Just like this, England had participated in 6 ODI World Cups but had managed to win none. Each time the team threatened to cross the line, they fell just short. From the 1999 World Cup onwards, things went pear-shaped for them until 2019 arrived.
Months before the tournament, Adam Hollioake was sacked from captaincy and Alec Stewart was appointed the skipper in his place. Stewart and coach David Lloyd then made a blunder in their very first match of the tournament, dropping established opener Nick Knight for Nasser Hussain, who later drew criticism for his slow batting.
Nevertheless, the hosts got off to a reassuring start against defending champions Sri Lanka in the opening encounter of the showpiece event. Sanath Jayasuriya, who had terrorised England in the last World Cup quarter final, looked like a mere shadow of himself as the opener made a terribly slow 29 off 52 deliveries.
Alan Mullally was at his best and restricted the Lankans to 204. In response, England chased down the target without breaking a sweat to win by 8 wickets.
Their next match was against Kenya and with a 9-wicket victory over their opponents with as many as 66 balls remaining, the team gave themselves and their fans a false sense of hope.
It was pacer Darren Gough who starred for the side as the fierce fast bowler ended with figures of 10-1-34-4. The bowling load was well shared and none of the bowlers conceded over 5 runs per over.
Ravi Shah, Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo were the top scorers for Kenya but all they could do was to crawl past the 200-run mark. Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain had a 45-run opening partnership to settle the nerves, if a chase of 204 warranted any. Hussain then got the support of Graham Hick as the two breezed past the target without any trouble.
England were hosting the World Cup after 16 years and it looked like they would go on to have a much better outing then many expected.
The fairy tale was not to be as England suffered a crushing 122-run defeat against an in-form South Africa. Although the team beat Zimbabwe by 7 wickets in their next match, Zimbabwe beat India and South Africa to make things tricky.
In their next encounter, a defeat at the hands of India by 63 runs in a match that was played over two days meant that their journey came to a screeching end.
England proudly sat at the top of Group A after two wins from two matches and were still looking good with three wins after four games but their big loss against India and Zimbabwe's shock victory over South Africa overturned their campaign within a matter of hours.
Hollioake, who felt bit hard done after being removed as captain just before the World Cup, sums up England's 1999 campaign in a crude but crisp manner, "As a kid you imagine playing for England and think this is going to be the best time of your life, playing with your best mates. Then the weather [at the World Cup] was miserable, the ball was horrible, the pitches were doing all sorts, our team didn’t really like each other, we played terribly. It was over before it got going. It was one of those moments in my career where I was like, ‘Well, that was shit’."
England players took their belongings and left the scene after the India defeat without any debrief, not that they had to go very far.
David Lloyd resigned as coach and took up a job as a commentator with Sky. Alec Stewart was removed as captain and the combination of Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher began a new chapter in England cricket.
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