(writes Andrew Hignell)
Saturday, June 1st will see the return of World Cup cricket to Cardiff after an absence of twenty years as New Zealand meet Sri Lanka at Glamorgan’s headquarters in the Welsh capital.
1999 saw the Cardiff Wales Stadium stage its previous World Cup match, following the completion during the previous winter of the National Cricket Centre at the Sophia Gardens ground. The global competition twenty years ago saw Australia based at the Welsh county’s headquarters and during the last week of April, they participated in a number of special events, including a coaching session for talented youngsters from Cardiff and the Vale, with Shane Warne, Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist all passing on tips to the impressionable young cricketers.
The warm-up programme for the Australian side also included a one-day match with Glamorgan, and with temporary grandstands ringing the boundary, a large crowd was expected. However, only ten overs were possible before the heavens opened with Glamorgan on 21/2 and with heavy rain still falling after lunch, the umpires were left with the formality of abandoning the match at 2.15 p.m.
Fortunately, the weather was set fair two weeks later when the Sophia Gardens ground, and it’s impressive facilities, hosted the World Cup group match between Australia and New Zealand – the first-ever One-Day international at the Cardiff ground.
The game saw the Kiwi’s turn the form book upside down as they defeated Australia by five wickets. Only Darren Lehmann and Ricky Ponting looked at ease against a vibrant New Zealand attack for whom Geoff Allott took four wickets, whilst the veteran Gavin Larsen only conceded 26 runs in his accurate ten overs to keep the competition favourites in check.
Chasing a target of 214 in their 50 overs, New Zealand slipped to 49/4, before Roger Twose – the former Warwickshire batsman - and Chris Cairns turned the game on its head with a fifth wicket stand of 148 to see the Black caps to a comfortable win. After a period of quiet reconnaissance on the somnolent surface, the pair began to play more freely with Cairns despatching a ball from Warne – whose wife had given birth back home in Melbourne in the early hours – high over the enclosures at the River End and into the Taff.
However, it was Twose who won the Man-of-the-Match Award for his forthright and unbeaten 80 as New Zealand won by five wickets, much to the delight of a small band of Kiwi’s in the crowd of 6,500. This was though only a minor blip in the Australians record as they duly qualified for the super sixes, before reaching the final after a cliff-hanger of a semi-final against South Africa which ended in a nerve-tingling tie, with Australia progressing to the final by virtue of their superior run-rate. After the thrills at Edgbaston, the final against Pakistan proved to be something of an anti-climax, as Warne routed the Pakistani’s with a spell of 4/33, as Australia won the World Cup by eight wickets.