'99 Problems: Pakistan piles on pain for Aussies

The 25th anniversary of an ill-tempered but entertaining affair in Leeds where a clash between Steve Waugh and Shoaib Akhtar lit the fire for the Aussie skipper

Australia entered their third group stage match of the 1999 World Cup with one win and one loss, but the stumbling sum of their parts had some within the squad privately exploring holiday options in the south of France in the expectation they would exit early.

It was a feeling only heightened as their third match, against Pakistan in Leeds, saw the Aussies slip to a second loss and the brink of an embarrassing early elimination.

The team's brains trust of captain Steve Waugh and coach Geoff Marsh had intended to deploy specialist swing bowlers Damien Fleming and Adam Dale with the new ball,  believing damp conditions would create opportunities for early wickets, with pace spearhead Glenn McGrath to then target the opposition's middle-order.

However, Dale managed a solitary scalp across the first two games and was jettisoned in favour of fellow seamer Paul Reiffel for the crucial third match against Pakistan in Leeds.

Dale did not figure in the remainder of the campaign, nor did the switch yield an immediate change in fortunes as Australia succumbed by 10 runs in the highest-scoring match of the tournament to that stage.

A lot of people have written us off already, which is good because that can motivate players

— Steve Waugh

It was an entertaining match, not least due to the idiosyncratic running of Inzamam-ul-Haq. Three times he and his batting partner ended up at the same end, twice resulting in a run out.

Inzamam and Abdul Razzaq both ended up at the striker's end, but Inzi was able to somehow lumber back to safety when a direct hit at the striker's end ricochetted out of the reach of Adam Gilchrist.

Shane Warne struggled for impact early in the 1999 World Cup // Getty

The pair survived and put on 188 for the fourth wicket before Razzaq became Shane Warne's sole victim of the match, and another 52 runs was plundered in 31 balls before Inzamam ran out the rampaging Mohammad Yousuf.

Inzamam had blasted 81 before Fleming landed a toe-crushing yorker that, after initially shaping to take a single that enticed his captain to run, had the Pakistani toppling to the ground in comically slow fashion. Self-preservation instincts kicked in as he tried to crawl to safety, but Wasim Akram had made his ground.

Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Akram end up at the same end with the former run out // Getty

Moin Khan's 31 off 12 took Pakistan to 8-275 and Australia's response started poorly, with Gilchrist's lean run continuing with a duck.

Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting put on 91 for the second wicket but both fell quickly, along with Darren Lehmann, leaving Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan to pick up the pieces.

It was during this partnership a flashpoint occurred that sparked an immediate response from the captain, which proved pivotal over the ensuing month.

As Waugh tells it, he had completed a run and was turning at the bowler's end to contemplate stealing a second when Pakistan speed demon Shoaib Akhtar caught him with a "sly kick".

The pair had earlier exchanged words when Shoaib was introduced to the attack, and Waugh was fortunate to survive an LBW appeal when rapped on the pads by Shoaib's inswinger.

There was plenty of animosity between Shoaib Akhtar and Steve Waugh at Headingley // Getty

But Waugh claimed the kick caught him by surprise and awakened "the raw fighting spirit within me".

"As discreetly as I could, I walked with him (Shoaib) for a few steps before saying, 'Every dog has its day'," he revealed in his memoir, 'Out of My Comfort Zone'.

"He just puffed out his chest and kept walking."

Shoaib received an official reprimand for the incident, but Waugh declined to comment when asked about it post-game.

Years later, Shoaib finally shared his account, saying: "(Waugh) was out plumb lbw (but was given not out). I was so angry that I went and kicked his leg.

"He was running, and I dashed into him on purpose. I was very rude with him – he is a great player, but in the heat of the moment I said, 'You should be ashamed. You are out plumb'."

Steve Waugh is bowled by Shoaib Akhtar at Leeds // Getty

Given the teams' next meeting was in the Cup final at Lord's where Australia romped home and Shoaib returned unflattering figures of 0-37 from four overs, Waugh's warning proved even more prescient than his mythical 'you just dropped the World Cup' retort that was never uttered to Herschelle Gibbs.

Shoaib eventually got his man at Headingley, bowling Waugh with the high-pace inswinger for 49 in the 45th over that effectively was the game. Australia's 10-run defeat left them in a position as bleak as Yorkshire's weather.

After South Africa went undefeated through the preliminary rounds in 1996 but were then eliminated in their first playoff fixture, the ICC tweaked the structure for the 1999 tournament and introduced a Super Sixes component to try and deliver fairer outcomes.

It meant after the initial round-robin games for the two groups of seven teams, the top three from each group would progress to Super Sixes where they took on the other half of the draw.

The top four teams after that phase would progress to semi-finals but, to ensure results from earlier in the tournament were recognised, teams would also carry points they had earned against fellow Super Sixes competitors.

With Australia locked in a battle with New Zealand, Pakistan and West Indies to reach the second stage, some creative thinking was now needed if they weren't to suffer an embarrassingly early exit.

With one win from their first three World Cup matches, Australia looked likely to join fellow Group B members Scotland and Bangladesh in failing to make the cut.

But Waugh remained defiant, pointing out his outfit – whose only victory had been a stuttering success against the Scots – simply needed to win seven games on the trot to become world champions.

"A lot of people have written us off already, which is good because that can motivate players," he told reporters in the gloom that followed the loss in Leeds.

Ponting's World Cup Memories: The '99 turnaround

A players' meeting was held in the Headingley dressing room immediately after the Pakistan loss amid rumblings of discontent within the group, with the skipper advising nobody was to leave until all simmering grievances were aired.

The meeting went for a couple of hours, with Ponting recalling "there was a lot of stuff talked about, a lot of personal stuff was talked about around the room".

"That was probably the turning point where the whole World Cup turned around."

There was another meeting as players moved from the dressing room to a pub in Leeds where Waugh convened with a few of his struggling quicks and a 'bowlers group' was formed.

Ponting's World Cup memories: The '99 turning point

Waugh tasked them to come up with plans for the different phases of a rival's batting innings, and particularly to quell scoring rates in the final 10 overs, after Pakistan had added 108 in that phase, and New Zealand had gone at a similar clip.

The more obvious shift was McGrath's reinstatement with the new ball for the next match against Cup rookies Bangladesh at Chester-le-Street, an encounter that can be seen in retrospect as transformational.

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: Beat Pakistan by eight wickets at Lord's (Final)