Don Topley: Happy memories of the time I helped Zimbabwe beat England in the World Cup
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Don Topley reflects on a happy World Cup memory as the current World Cup gets underway this week
I really wished I was at The Oval on Thursday.
Instead, like billions of people around the world, I was at home glued to the TV watching England v South Africa in the first game of the ICC World Cup.
The hour's build-up on Sky Sports was tremendous, identifying great and pressurised moments from cricket and all other sports, both in a positive and negative way.
The pre-match viewing was extremely emotional for me, with both sides passionately singing their national anthems - England's was particularly fervent. The fact that my own son, Reece, has played in a World Cup and played 16 times for England in white ball made this even more poignant.
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More impactful - interviews with Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and others brought back so many great memories for me when I was a young World Cup international coach, from 1989 to 1992.
It was an absolute honour to be Zimbabwe's coach, culminating in taking them to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 1992. It was the first World Cup with the white ball, the introduction of the zany and very popular coloured clothing, new fielding restrictions and that dreaded 'rain rule', which did not just affect South Africa!
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My great memory was our final match in that 1992 World Cup which was against Graham Gooch's highly-rated England at Albury Wadonga, (NSW).
England had been in great form, while the minnows of Zimbabwe had fought hard, setting a World Cup batting record against Sri Lanka, but then lost: Zim was badly affected with the rain against India when in a good position and seriously disadvantaged against New Zealand. Zimbabwe were well beaten by West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and South Africa.
Against Graham Gooch's England, we won the toss and thought the wicket would simply deteriorate so we sensibly opted to bat. Having been bowled out for an underwhelming 134, the England boys (who I all knew particularly well), took the mickey, throwing the odd bread roll at me during the late luncheon in-between innings.
I, and the Zim team, held a team talk on the outfield at 3rd Man before looking out and tinkering with our fielding positions. The umpires came down the steps, followed by Gooch and Botham for England and I, strangely, held the picket gate open for them to walk through. I even wished my boss and captain back home, Gooch, "Good Luck".
Why did I do that?
It was impulsive as I would do that at every Essex cricket match during my career - it was habit.
The second innings began and our opening bowler - chicken farmer, Eddo Brandes - claimed Gooch LBW immediately for nought. I hadn't moved so as the forlorn Gooch was returning to the pavilion, I invited the official steward to disappear as I would happily open the gate and welcome Gooch back! As I opened the gate, Gooch approached and I said "Bad Luck Gra!" Nothing else was said.
History books will tell you Zimbabwe defeated favourites, England, by a small margin of nine runs - it was the most remarkable upset of that splendid tournament.
At the after-match press conference - which all captains and coaches were contracted to attend - England captain, Gooch, came out with the usual disappointed sayings as did coach, Mickey Stewart.
Captain of Zimbabwe, Dave Houghton, was allegedly on the phone to Robert Mugabe, so I was asked by the late great Richie Benaud to comment on this remarkable result. Yes, the toss was significant, the wicket deteriorated but ultimately, we kept fighting by taking England wickets and winning was just sensational.
Benaud surprised me by asking "Will you be reminding your captain and boss back home at Essex about this incredible result in the coming season?" I quickly replied with a cheeky smile, "Well Richie, if there are 200 days in the summer, I will, no doubt, mention it to 'Goochie' I98 times".
Gooch then interrupted live on MNet, SuperSport, Channel Nine, BBC and Cable&Wireless, in his higher-pitched Essex accent, and said "No, you won't Donald, I'm not going to watch any Essex 2nd Team cricket!"
He was a man of his word - I didn't play much first team cricket that season!