MASTER CLASS OF MARTIN CROWE
Mclean Park, Napier • 3 March 1992
The fifth World Cup played in Australia and New Zealand in 1992 had many firsts to its credit. It was the first time that coloured clothing was being worn, as also the white ball being used, and some of the matches played under lights. The teams were not divided into separate groups, but each played every other side. It was also marked by some innovative captaincy by Martin Crowe, aided no doubt by other members of the think-tank. He had off-spinner Dipak Patel open the bowling, and sent in Mark Greatbatch as opening batsman with instructions to hit the ball over the top in the first 15 overs when the field was up. Doubtlessly, the New Zealanders played inspired cricket for much of the tournament.
Their match against Zimbabwe was badly hit by rain, necessitating some quick scoring. In fact the innings was interrupted twice, and their cause was not helped by the loss of two early wickets. That was when Andrew Jones and Martin Crowe got together in a stand of 129 runs.
Crowe was brilliant. His smooth, majestic strokeplay brightened up a dull, damp day, and brought much-needed warmth and cheer to a crowd huddled under umbrellas and raincoats for long spells. Nothing that the Zimbabweans had to offer could unsettle him. The Kiwis were allowed just 20.5 overs of batting but that was enough for Crowe to equal the World Cup record for the fastest half-century, off a mere 30 deliveries. This had been achieved by Chris Old and Imran Khan earlier, though by 2007 Brendon McCullum brought the mark down to 20 balls.
Jones provided valuable support with a fifty of his own. When rain brought the innings to a close, Crowe had hit up an unbeaten 74 off just 44 balls, having cracked 2 sixes and 8 fours. It was one of the finest exhibitions of exquisite strokes. There were no violent hits or crude heaves, just shots of a master. Martin Crowe was indeed a cultured batsman, his head still, and right over the ball. There was class stamped all over when he was at the crease.
To overhaul a score of 162 was a mammoth task, as much in view of the small number of overs available as because of the dismal conditions. When the overs were curtailed further to 18, and the target score became 154 by taking into account the New Zealanders' lowest-scoring overs, the Zimbabweans were virtually out of the match even before their innings began. They lurched to 103 for seven when play ended mercifully.
The bleak and dreary end to the match contrasted sharply with the proceedings while Martin Crowe was in the middle. A charismatic batsman like him has the ability to put life into even the most boring of matches and to add a golden glow to the kind of bleak conditions that dogged the game the whole day.
As so often in his career and throughout this tournament, Crowe was a delight. In such a mood he had few peers and even they would have applauded him all the way back to the pavilion after his glorious innings.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email firstname.lastname@example.org).
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