'99 Rewind: McGrath quells India to kickstart Aussie charge

Australia's first match in the Super Six stage of the 1999 World Cup was a litmus test against the might of India, whose batting order had set the tournament alight

McGrath's new-ball mastery sends India packing

Having snuck through to the second stage of the 1999 World Cup accompanied by patchy performances and no carry-over points, Steve Waugh’s Australians had no discernible reason to enter their first Super Six match with much approaching confidence.

Even though they had at last managed consecutive victories, the reality of overpowering a sub-standard Bangladesh and a West Indies already bearing a faded resemblance to glories past meant little given their next opponent boasted the tournament's most feared batting line-up.

While India had – rather like Australia – struggled to get going in England's biting spring chill that pervaded the tournament's early weeks and had suffered defeats to South Africa and Zimbabwe in their first two outings, they had struck ominously good form come the Super Six phase.

Their top three batsmen – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid (twice) – had struck centuries, a feat managed by no other team's batsmen at that stage of the tournament.

Which only served to underscore the dominance of ball over bat in the group matches played mostly under low, grey skies on pitches that offered swing and seam movement, especially when the rock-hard Duke balls were in pristine shape.

Sachin Tendulkar watches on as rain interrupts India's practice at The Oval // Getty

But following their spluttering start that had taken them from the English Midlands, to Wales and then the north, the Australians welcomed a 10-day stint in familiar London surrounds knowing their impending Super Six encounters with India and Zimbabwe could set them up for an unlikely shot at the title.

Unlikely, due to the fact the ICC's newly introduced Super Six concept enabled the top three teams from both qualifying groups to progress, but in doing so they took with them the points they had scored over other 'Sixers'.

Australia's earlier losses to fellow qualifiers Pakistan and New Zealand meant they arrived at The Oval for the tournament's first Super Six hit-out knowing they held no points and consequently their only hope to remain alive was to simply keep winning.

Seven matches from seven, as Steve Waugh had bluntly outlined after the loss to Pakistan at Headingley.

We're not here to win friends, just the World Cup

— Steve Waugh, to reporters ahead of the Super Six clash with India

The fact that India were in the same position, with South Africa and Zimbabwe qualifying from their group, meant the loser at The Oval could virtually abandon any hope of reaching the semi-finals or beyond.

"A match against India on the bounciest track in the UK, The Oval, filled me with hope as the flat-track maestros don't enjoy extra pace and bounce," Waugh later wrote in his book, Out of My Comfort Zone.

So when they were sent into bat, the Australians knew that much less than 300 would leave them vulnerable unless their bowlers could suddenly find the form that only Glenn McGrath had hinted at in the previous win against the West Indies.

Mark Waugh, whose 67 in the opening match against Scotland remained the highest score by an Australian in the qualifying stages, survived a testing opening spell from Javagal Srinath who touched 150kph (93mph) set about posting a new benchmark and his 83 provided a springboard from which his team occasionally wobbled but eventually launched.

Mark Waugh hit eight fours and a six in his 99-ball 83 against India // Getty

India's victory target of 283 might never have been previously achieved in a 50-over international played on English soil, but given the start the Australians had mustered they went into the innings break worried it was 20-odd runs short of what they should have mustered. And with the calibre of the India batting it was going to take a special bowling effort to keep that record intact.

Enter McGrath, who in the space of 20 legitimate deliveries announced his match-turning effort against the West Indies was but a warm-up, and effectively decided India's fate before many of their enthusiastic fans had resumed their seats following the lunch break.

His immaculate length and subtle seam movement accounted for Tendulkar in the opening over, thereby removing for a duck the master who had peeled off sublime centuries in each of his previous three matches against Australia.

Glenn McGrath dismissed Sachin Tendulkar with the fourth ball of the innings // Allsport/Getty

McGrath then took care of Dravid in similar fashion, smartly caught behind by Adam Gilchrist, and after Damien Fleming dislodged Ganguly's leg bail via an inside edge, McGrath fixed up Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin to leave the Bob Simpson-coached batting giants 4-17 and all-but-dead in the water.

India number four Ajay Jadeja made an unbeaten 100 from from 138 balls, and Robin Singh - who had earlier dismissed Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting in the same over - delighted the Indian supporters with three sixes off Warne's sixth over on his way to 75. But the innings lacked urgency and the defeat all-but ended the tournament for India.

While it was but number three of the seven consecutive wins skipper Steve Waugh had targetted for Australia's ultimate triumph, the 77-run margin at The Oval was by far the most convincing and meritorious of their month in England and suddenly there was a buoyancy about a team that barely a week earlier had been riven by self-interest and self-doubt.

The above includes an extract 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