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The Indians arrived in Nagpur, the 'orange' city, for their last league match of the 1987 World Cup against New Zealand and the last league match of the tournament itself. They had already qualified for the semis, as had Australia, while the Kiwis had only their pride to play for. But the New Zealanders were up against an opposition that was taking the game dead seriously.

India needed to win, and win handsomely, to better Australia's run-rate of 5.19. If they would succeed in doing so, they would play England, the no. 2 from the other group, in the second semi-final on home turf at Bombay. If they would fail to do so, or worse, lose the game, they would have to take the plane to Lahore to play Pakistan. One did not have to be a connoisseur of the game to figure out what option the Indians would prefer.

Sunil Gavaskar in an unfamiliar role.

Jeff Crowe won the toss and elected to bat, hoping to set a good enough score and then put pressure on the Indians, who would have to score the runs in less than 50 overs to be on the plane to Bombay and leave the airport premises instead of waiting in the transit lounge for a connecting flight to Lahore. The Kiwi openers Wright and the newcomer Phil Horne put on 46 before the latter had no answer to an inswinger by Prabhakar. Martin Crowe looked good, but was dismissed by India's 'fifth' bowler Mohammed Azharuddin for 21. Wright was run out, and although Jeff Crowe played some bright shots and Patel scored 40, none of the batsmen looked comfortable at the crease. Ken Rutherford and Martin Snedden then added 59, before Chetan Sharma pierced Rutherford's defence to knock back his middle stump. It was the 42nd over of the innings and New Zealand were 181-5. The new batsman was Ian Smith. Sharma ran in for his fifth ball, Smith missed and the off stump took a walk. His teammate nudged the bowler, reminding him to send down his next delivery quick and straight. The new man in was Ewen Chatfield, not known for his batting abilities, but someone who had yet to be dismissed in a World Cup game. But Sharma wasn't aware of this, probably he still isn't.

The next ball, the last of Sharma's sixth over, swung into the batsman, and knocked out the leg stump. The stadium erupted, a delighted Sharma mobbed by his teammates. It was the first 'hattrick' in 30 World Cup matches, only the third in one-day internationals.

Snedden and Watson then staged a recovery of sorts, adding 39 and taking the score to 221. The calculators were put into operation, and the equation revealed - India, to top the group, needed to score 222 from 42.3 overs, at 5.29 per over. The first 30 minutes of the Indian innings revealed the intentions of the Indian openers K. Srikkanth and Sunil Gavaskar. 42.3 could wait, 25 was more likely the number of overs that would be bowled when the target would be reached. The first two overs yielded 18 runs and the 50 was achieved off the first ball of the eighth. 30 of those belonged to Gavaskar, who hadn't let a mild temperature get in the way of hitting Chatfield for two sixes and two fours. In his very first international series, way back in 1971, he had scored a hundred and a double hundred despite a painful tooth.

16 years later, in his final international series, he was once again battling physical discomfort, and winning.

As had happened a phenomenal number of times in the previous two years, ever since Gavaskar had forged an opening partnership with Srikkanth, the senior partner overshadowed his junior. But Srikkanth caught up pretty soon, and when the 100 was reaced in the 14th over, Gavaskar was 51 and Srikkanth 49.

Gavaskar had initiated a curious chain of events that looked like a practical joke on the New Zealanders. After every booming shot or run. The little master would squat, giving the impression that he was exhausted, rise and play another scintillating stroke, meet up with his partner in the middle of the pitch for a giggle, look at the keeper Ian Smith and shrug his shoulders, only to squat all over again. The sequence was repeated, again and again and again.

Srikkanth, in prime form, slashed and lashed at the hapless bowlers, by now clearly going through the motions. His best stroke was an audacious 'southpaw sweep' off the off-spinner Patel. He made as if to reverse-sweep but went one step ahead, changing to a left-hander's grip and then plonking his right foot forward to essay a conventional left-handed sweep shot. It seemed that it would take a very good piece of cricket to get him out, and that is exactly what happened when Rutherford took a splendid catch off the seamer Willie Watson. Srikkanth had made 75 from 58 balls, with ten fours and three sixes. India were 136-1, and though the target was still 86 runs away, only the formalities remained - an Indian victory, the top spot in their group and Sunil Manohar Gavaskar's maiden one-day century.

Mohammed Azharuddin, promoted to no. 3, kept it going, and the champagne moment came when Gavaskar turned Morrison to the leg-side, hesitated and then ran two, to move from 99 to 101. The Indians overhauled the target in the 33rd over, nine overs ahead of 'schedule'. Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Sharma were given the 'Men of the Match' Award, the first, and to date only such occurrence in World Cup history.

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1 AustraliaAustralia 118
2 IndiaIndia 112
3 cricketPakistan 111
4 EnglandEngland 108
5 AustraliaNew Zealand 98
6 SouthSouth Africa 92
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1 AustraliaAustralia 123
2 new ZealandNew Zealand 113
3 ZimbabweIndia 110
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5 EnglandEngland 106
6 sri LankaSri Lanka 102
7 BangladeshBangladesh 98
8 countryWest Indies 94
9 cricket Pakistan 87
10 AfghanistanAfghanistan 49
1 New ZealandNew Zealand 132
2 IndiaIndia 128
3 west IndiesWest Indies 122
4 AfricaSouth Africa 119
5 EnglandEngland 116
6 AustraliaAustralia 110
7 Pakistan Pakistan 104
8 sri LankaSri Lanka 96
9 AfghanistanAfghanistan 78
10 BangladeshBangladesh 74

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