19 days to World Cup: When rain wrecked South Africa's dreams in 1992

Rain, new rules and the organisers turned South Africa's World Cup dreams into a nightmare.

Published: 11th May 2019 07:23 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th May 2019 08:02 PM   |  A+A-

All it took was 12 minutes of rain to change the complexion of what would've been a classic contest | Twitter

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Not every innovation is going to succeed. The whole point of it might be to improve upon what came before but that doesn't always work out. 

And so it was during the 1992 World Cup that an innovation that was meant to help ended up hindering what could have been a classic encounter.

Innovation was but the unofficial theme of the 1992 edition which saw many firsts. While the coloured clothing, white balls and floodlights stuck around long after that, one new introduction didn't.

It was the one that prompted South African captain Kepler Wessels to say "it's just the rules" after their farcical defeat to England in the semi-final at Sydney.

The new rain rule was introduced for the tournament because the old one was heavily in favour of the side batting second. As a result, it was devised that if there was a rain interruption in the second innings, the lowest scoring overs of the first innings was used to reduce the target. That was to negate the advantage of chasing.

Early warning signs

However, the warning signs were there early that the system wasn't perfect. 

ALSO READ | 74 days to World Cup: When rain changed everything in 1992

After Pakistan were bowled out for 74 at Adelaide, three hours of rain meant that Pakistan's most successful 16 overs taken into account while setting the target.

The problem was that Pakistan's most successful 15 overs accounted for 62 of their 74 runs and eventually England had to chase a stiff target of 64 from 16 overs despite a stellar bowling effort. Although more rain meant the game was abandoned and the points were shared, the warning signs were there.

And in the semi-final at Sydney, all it took was 12 minutes of rain to make a classic contest into a case of "what could have been".

After asking England to bat, Proteas restricted them for 252/6 in their 45 overs. South Africa didn't get off to a great start but Jonty Rhodes got them back on track.

That was until the rain made another appearance. With five overs to go, the Proteas needed 47 to win. It was not going to be a cakewalk but it was still possible.

When the rain got heavier, that became 22 from 13 balls. Again, this was far from impossible. And then came the killer blow from the rain gods.

The umpires deemed the conditions unfit and went off the field even though the South African pair of Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson wanted to continue batting.

12 minutes of rain, a lifetime of agony

Although only 12 minutes were lost, under the new rain rules that meant two of England's least productive overs would be reduced from the target. And that is when they were left to rue Meyrick Pringle's excellent figures of 9-2-36-2 as his two maiden overs were taken into account.

As a result, only one ball was remaining to get the remaining runs. Even in all of this, there was confusion as it was initially incorrectly announced as 22 needed off seven.

More chaos ensued when it eventually declared that two overs were reduced and a leg-bye in one of the maiden overs were overlooked and the target was in fact 21 off 1 ball (and not 22 off 1 as shown on the scoreboard).

After all that, McMillan took a single and England ended up winning by 19 runs.

Dreams turned into a nightmare

And just like that, South Africa, who were the darlings of the tournament, had been dumped out. And it was not just the rain and the rules that were to blame for the farce in Sydney but the organisers as well.

While there was a reserve day set aside for the semis, hosts broadcasters Channel Nine were adamant that the game had to be completed on that day.

That meant that the Proteas' dreams turned into a nightmare at Sydney courtesy of rain, rules and the organisers, who were rightly panned after the whole fiasco.

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