The 1992 World Cup was supposed to be the dawn of the new era of cricket. Coloured outfits, white balls and floodlights made the event a spectacle like never before. But the real drama was the introduction of a new rain rule formed by ‘God knows who’. All the shine and drama was reduced to ashes as this rule robbed a team full of talented bunch, a possible place in the finals.
On March 22, 1992, World Cup debutants South Africa were on their way to seal a fairytale semifinal win over then favourites, England. But then the work of a few geniuses (rain rule makers) was stacked against the Rainbow Nation. England managed a competitive 252/6 thanks to a worthy knock of 92 from Graeme Hick. The first innings were stopped at 45 overs as South Africa had bowled their overs slowly.
In reply, the Keppler Wessels-led side were trudging on as they lost their way after a decent start. Jonty Rhodes did the repair job in the middle order bringing South Africa back into the game with some sharp running and occasional boundaries. Needing 47 off five overs then was a big task; but then this side was up for any cricketing challenge. That’s when the drama began.
The brooding Sydney skies opened up for a moment and the target was then reduced to 22 off 13, still achievable. The rain only grew heavier and that’s when umpires Steve Randell and Brian Aldridge decided to consult the players. England was adamant to leave the field finding it difficult to grip the ball and play on a soaking outfield. The Proteas obviously wanted to continue.
The umpires found the English argument to be valid and called the players off the field. Whatever time lost was to result in the number of overs being deducted, and the then funny and strange competition rules said, the least productive for the side batting first. Proteas had bowled two maiden overs when England were batting. This meant that with 2.1 overs remaining any time lost would not result in a reduction in the target but would mean the debutants would have lesser balls to complete the target.
The skies closed and the shower stopped. About 12 minutes of total time was lost. The new equation said that one over was deducted and South Africa had to score 22 off seven deliveries.
Confusion reigned further. Before the South Africans could come to terms with the new equation, they got a further jolt getting to know that the six balls reduction was incorrect. The gloomy shade of Sydney skies was now visible on the faces of South African players.
The worst part of the whole situation was that neither the players nor the crowd were aware of the actual equation; 21 needed off one delivery. Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson were informed at the centre about the new, farcical situation and... ... The rest is history.
The Proteas felt humiliated and were obviously upset. Still they came out to the field after the match, shook hands with the visibly embarrassed English players and also did a lap of honour as one and all including English supporters cheered the unlucky heroes.
Though everyone raised a stink about the farcical rain rule, nobody questioned the broadcasters’ (Channel Nine) insistence on finishing the match the same day inspite their being a reserve day for the semifinals.
Probably that was South Africa’s best chance to lay their hands on the World Cup ever or even come close to winning it or even be runners up to that matter. The 1992 team, which was just two years old into international fold, exhibited daredevilry throughout the tournament. They beat defending champs Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe enroute the semifinal.
Their performance showed that a vivacious nation was born again with the apartheid establishment dying a slow death. But then that one moment of nature’s unpredictability combined with ludicrous set of laws ensured that all fairytales don’t have a happy ending.