'99 Rewind: Lord's, the Queen and resurrecting Shane

The 25th anniversary celebration of the 1999 World Cup continues with a look at Australia's match against Zimbabwe and the off-field turmoil engulfing Shane Warne

After their opening three matches of the 1999 World Cup yielded two losses and an unconvincing win over Scotland, Australia captain Steve Waugh defiantly proclaimed that his team could still secure the trophy. They just had to win their next seven matches.

With increasingly emphatic victories over Bangladesh, the West Indies and India achieved, it was the least likely team to have reached the final six of the competition that now stood between Waugh's men and a possible semi-final berth.

For those who had not been following the 1999 World Cup assiduously, Zimbabwe would have appeared to have been the glaring anomaly in cricket's showpiece tournament that had introduced the new 'Super Sixes' element to its format.

But not only had the African nation managed to win through to the second stage alongside cricket heavyweights Pakistan, India, South Africa and Australia, they had managed to bring with them a full complement of four carry-over points.

Those came courtesy of victories during the group stage against Cup favourite South Africa and the star-studded Indian line-up, and meant Alistair Campbell's men realistically needed to bag just one win from their three 'Super Sixes' matches to roll through to the semi-finals.

Allrounder Neil Johnson won a third player-of-the-match award for his 132no // AFP/Getty

Their unlikely success, which came at the expense of host nation England and reigning champions Sri Lanka who both failed to qualify from Zimbabwe's group, was built on solid top-order batting led by the Flower brothers Andy and Grant, steady seam bowling from Heath Streak and Henry Olonga and the explosive all-round skills of Neil Johnson.

Born in Harare but having spent much of his career pursuing an unfulfilled dream of representing South Africa, Johnson had returned to his homeland and led their early charge in the tournament by collecting two player-of-the-match awards in the preliminary rounds.

That included his decisive double against the highly-fancied team he once aspired to play for when he scored 75 and took 3-27 as Zimbabwe recorded their historic first ODI triumph over their southern African neighbour.

Another sobering fact not lost on the Australians heading into their first outing at Lord's for the campaign was that Zimbabwe had humiliated Kim Hughes' team, which included the likes of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Rod Marsh and Allan Border, at the previous World Cup staged in England in 1983, coincidentally, coincidentally 16 years to the very day of their meeting with Australia.

Murray Goodwin took to the Aussies and smashed a quick 47 before falling to Michael Bevan // Getty

That famous win was achieved almost a decade before Zimbabwe were deemed worthy of gaining Test status.

Having fashioned victories from their previous two outings on the strength of their bowling effort – or, more pointedly, Glenn McGrath's bowling efforts – the onus was placed on the Australians' batting when Campbell chose to chase by sending them in.

The move backfired when his bowlers seemed over-awed by their nation's first appearance at cricket's home, and Mark Waugh finally fulfilled the promising form he had built in recent innings to post a typically deft 104.

Mark Waugh scored Australia's first century of the tournament with 104 // Getty

Australia's total of 303 would have required a record ODI run chase on English soil and the muttering among the MCC members beneath their broad summer hats during the lunch break was that the plucky Africans were no chance.

But that message clearly didn't filter through to the Zimbabwe dressing rooms, as Johnson and Murray Goodwin – whose formative first-class years had been spent with Western Australia, where he now resides and with son Jayden forging his own career in their Sheffield Shield ranks – took to the Australian bowlers with little regard for reputation.

At 1-153 in the 29th over and with Johnson playing the innings of his life, a genuine belief began to build that not only was a mighty upset in the offing but it would be a record-breaking one at that.

However, the Australians kept their heads and managed vital breakthroughs at key times, though not the wicket of Johnson who deservedly took out his third player-of-the-match honour for the tournament by carrying his bat for 132 not out.

The Australians' 44-run win brought to an end their 10-day stint in London with their final – and decisive – Super Sixes assignment looming against the tournament's powerhouse South Africa at Headingley.

Steve Waugh hit two sixes and five fours in his 61-ball 62 // AFP/Getty

While the fixture against Zimbabwe had been an improved batting effort, Shane Warne had looked far from his usual self as he returned 1-55 from nine overs. 

While the runs against Zimbabwe had somewhat eased some growing media pressure on the skipper's batting, Waugh was far more concerned about his vice-captain, noting he was distracted and distant and with rumours swirling that he was on the verge of retirement. 

There had been discord between the pair brewing for some time. Team dinners at Pizza Hutt in a nod to Warne's culinary choices had only done so much, and Warne had been sowing seeds of doubt among the playing group about Waugh's captaincy amidst the sluggish start to the tournament. Worse still, Waugh was concerned that Warne's bowling in their two Super Six matches thus far had been "ineffective". It was time to confront the elephant in the room head on. 

The morning after the win against Zimbabwe, during a recovery session walk through Hyde Park near to the team's hotel, Waugh sidled up to Warne for a chat and soon found himself in a deep and meaningful with a man whose mind was in a muddle.

"I sensed a man in desperate need of support and cheering up. He was lonely, hurt, annoyed and frustrated, and quite frankly sick of the media attention," Waugh recounted in his memoir, Out of My Comfort Zone.

"It had been a tough 12 months for him, with his shoulder surgery, the 'bribery' allegations, the captaincy debate after Tubby's (Mark Taylor) retirement, his axing from the Test side in the Caribbean, the cigarette photo in Barbados, the Arjuna (Runatunga) article that cause a stir (before Australia's World Cup opener), the birth of a child while he was away, the intrusive media and the sometimes abusive crowds. Through it all he'd been playing with a shoulder that was sore and not fully recovered."

Waugh's man-management went into overdrive. Word was passed around the squad that everyone needed to help keep Warne's spirits up, while the skipper made more of an effort to play to his star leg-spinner's strengths and involved him more in discussions on team tactics. 

"Knowing Shane well, I believed he would lift in the definitive games because of who he was: a champion competitor who loves everything being on the line and the result dependent on him," Waugh recounted.

Shane Warne was 'distracted and distant' as Australia moved through the Super Six stage // Getty

"Shane needs constant support, encouragement and reassurance that he is the man, and at the 1999 World Cup that played a big part in getting him going. 

"He loves to be loved. For the rest of us, it was in a way comforting to know that even a legend needs to battle the dark forces occasionally, that no one is exempt from self-doubt."

During their stay in the capital, Waugh's men had been guests at the official World Cup teams' function hosted for all competitors by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, which took place.

It was while introducing his players to Her Majesty the usually unflappable Waugh had a total brain fade. "Over and over, I kept on telling myself, 'Don't forget anyone's name'. For some peculiar reason I kept focusing on Damien Martyn and Damien Fleming, and suddenly I realised we had Damiens in the team. I'd never taken much notice before," Waugh recalled. 

"All was going nicely until Flem's goatee and unusually serious look threw me and I couldn't for the life of me remember his first name."

Having had a good laugh, The Australians players emerged from Her Majesty's, not so much bowled over by the spread she laid on, but intrigued by the overt air of tension exuded by the South African entourage.

Australia's cricket leadership chit chat with the Queen at a Buckinham Palace reception // AFP/Getty

Expectation clearly sat as comfortably with the tournament's outright favourites as egg and cress sandwiches.

It also allowed a revealing glimpse into a fragile mindset, the sort of detail the Australian captain was known to exploit ruthlessly.

And in the days leading into his team's return to Leeds, to tackle Hansie Cronje's team on the same patch where Australia's low ebb had been reached against Pakistan three weeks earlier, he didn't decline the gift.

The above includes extracts from The Wrong Line, a book written by senior writer Andrew Ramsey, who was at the 1999 World Cup.

Australia's 1999 World Cup

May 16: Beat Scotland by six wickets in Worcester

May 20: Lost to New Zealand by five wickets in Cardiff

May 23: Lost to Pakistan by 10 runs at Headingley

May 27: Beat Bangladesh by seven wickets at Chester-le-Street

May 30: Beat West Indies by six wickets at Old Trafford 

June 4: Beat India by 77 runs at The Oval (Super Six)

June 9: Beat Zimbabwe by 44 runs at Lord's (Super Six)

June 13: Beat South Africa by five wickets at Headingley (Super Six)

June 17: Tied with South Africa at Edgbaston (Semi-final)

June 20: Final v Pakistan at Lord's