During the late 90’s and early 2000’s Shoaib Akhtar was one of the fastest and most marquee players of that time. He went to 1999 cricket World Cup in England with lots of reputation and did not do any harm. In one of the group league matches, he recorded a delivery of more than 100 KM/Hour speed and generally was one of the key reasons for Pakistan’s entry to semi-final. However, his best performance was saved for the semi-final battle.
In the semi-final, Pakistan faced New Zealand. The New Zealand team, led by Stephen Fleming was a handy unit who beat Australia during a group league match and also had one of the most successful bowlers of the tournament, Geoff Allott.
On 16th June, 1999 at Old Trafford, Fleming won the toss and elected to bat first. Matthew Horn and Nathan Astle came out to open for them. For Pakistan, skipper Wasim Akram and Akhtar started the proceedings. Akhtar was on the money from the beginning and got his first wicket in the sixth over when one of his yorkers went through Astle’s defence and hit the leg stump.
By 16th over, New Zealand were 58/3 and were struggling. Fleming and Roger Twose drove some recovery with a partnership of 94 but before it went out of hand, Akram brought back Akhtar who broke the partnership by sending back Fleming with another yorker. It was a 92 KM/Hour delivery and Fleming had no answer to it.
Shoaib’s third spell was from 46th to 50th over. He started with another wicket in the first over of his new spell as his slower delivery was misread by Chris Harris. Shoaib ended with 3/55 with arguably his best spell of the tournament. He did concede the runs but the manner of his three wickets was a huge confidence booster for Pakistan and gave them a mental edge. The Kiwis finally ended with 241/7.
The chase was relatively easy as Saeed Anwar scored an unbeaten century and Wajahatullah Wasti scored 84. A nine-wicket victory took Pakistan to their second World Cup final after 1992. Despite the century from Anwar, it was Shoaib who provided the killer blow for Pakistan and was correctly given the ‘Man-of-the-Match’ award.