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And so, there were two.

Cricket’s T20 World Cup, which started nearly a month ago, is all set for its grand finale: England versus Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia on Sunday.

But wait, have we seen this one before? For those who are old enough to remember, yes, at the same venue, 30 years ago.

When Pakistan lost its first two games of the Super 12 stage, it was all but out of the tournament. Apart from winning its remaining matches, Pakistan would need divine help as well as one of the lower-ranked teams to beat powerhouses India or South Africa.

The Netherlands duly obliged.

Pakistan then beat Bangladesh and are now one win away from the trophy.

Here is why the tournament invokes déjà vu:

It started with Australia’s loss

Australia, co-hosts of the 1992 tournament, started as defending champions. They won the 1987 edition and started the 1992 tournament as one of the favourites but lost the opening match to New Zealand and failed to qualify for the semi-finals.

Fast-forward 30 years, Australia launched the defence of their T20 crown with a loss against New Zealand.

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Down but not out. Pakistan are in the World Cup final despite losing both opening matches [AFP]

England’s win over South Asian opponents

England started its 1992 campaign with a win over the Asian side India in Perth. This time, England faced Afghanistan in the same city and the same result.

Pakistan’s poor start and loss against India

On the other hand were Pakistan, perennial slow starters. They began the 1992 campaign with a 10-wicket loss to the West Indies, faced India a few days later and lost by 43 runs.

This time around, Pakistan lost again to India, a final-ball defeat in their opening game.

Saved by rain

In 1992, Pakistan were playing their third match of the tournament, against England, and seemed to be facing defeat when rain came to their rescue and the match ended, handing both teams a point each. That one point edged Pakistan past Australia in the table and sent them to the semi-finals.

While rain did not affect any of Pakistan’s matches, it did play a role in Pakistan’s final position on the table. South Africa faced Zimbabwe in a rain-affected match and were marching towards a big win when the skies opened and the match was called off. A win would have brought South Africa two points and brought them level with Pakistan.

Three on the trot

After three losses, a win and a point from a rain-affected game, Pakistan’s run in the round-robin stage of the 1992 tournament ended with three straight wins.

In 2022, after losing the first two games, Pakistan hit reset and won their last three games to bag six points.

Last day miracle

Pakistan went into the final day of the Super 12 knowing that even a win would not be enough to book them a semifinal spot. They duly beat New Zealand to do their part of the job and then waited for Australia to do the rest against the West Indies, who had a chance of progressing with a win. But the West Indies lost and Pakistan clinched the last semi-final spot.

This year, Pakistan had to beat Bangladesh but, to qualify, needed either Netherlands to beat South Africa (not possible, right?) or Zimbabwe to stun India (again, whaaat?). The Netherlands duly obliged and produced one of the most stunning upsets in World Cup history by defeating South Africa.

Semi-final win over New Zealand

It was the first time this happened but every instance has brought the same result: Pakistan always defeats New Zealand in a Cricket World Cup semi-final. The trend started in 1992 in Auckland, New Zealand when Pakistan won by four wickets to enter its first World Cup final.

The latest semi-final meeting between the two sides has produced the same result: A win for Pakistan by seven wickets.

In the other three instances, Pakistan defeated New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup, the 2007 World T20 and the 2009 World T20.

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Routine win: Pakistan beating New Zealand in a World Cup semi-final [Reuters]

Familiar finalists

Finally, as was the case in 1992, Pakistan and England will face off in a World Cup final at the MCG, but this time around, both teams have already won the title once and will look to add a second one.

Bonus (and you will love this)

Pakistan’s late surge was aided by a young attacking batsman born in March (1992: Inzamam-ul-Haq, 2022: Mohammad Haris).

Pakistan’s leading wicket-takers up until the final were a left-arm pacer and leg-spinner (1992: Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed, 2022: Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan).

England’s leading wicket-taker was an all-rounder (1992: Ian Botham, 2022: Sam Curran).




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