Bengaluru, April 23: It was Australia’s second game in the 1996 World Cup and they were yet to win a point after forfeiting their first match to Sri Lanka owing to security reasons. The venue was Indira Priyadarshini Stadium in Vishakhapatnam which hosted its last match in 2001.
The Kangaroos’ opponents were debutantes Kenya who were humbled by hosts India in their first game. Kenyan captain Maurice Odumbe won the toss and sent Australia to bat first.
Australia had a poor start, losing captain Mark Taylor (6) and Ricky Ponting (6) cheaply but it was then the Waugh brothers – Mark and Steve – who added 207 runs for the third wicket to take the total to 233 from 26 when centurion Mark (130) fell. Steve (82) returned four runs later and a late-inning acceleration saw the Australians finishing at 304 for seven in 50 overs.
Kenya were never in the hunt for a win and propelled by 85 from opener Kennedy Otieno and 50 from skipper Odumbe, the Africans managed 207 for seven in 50 overs to lose by 97 runs. Mark Waugh was adjudged the man of the match.
Though the match did not produce any unlikely result, one incident had made it memorable and it was about Australian opener Michael Slater. The then 25-year-old batsman was picked in the squad for the 1996 WC but he might have never predicted what was in store for him. Slater, along with pacer Damien Fleming and all-rounder Shane Lee, were left out of the playing XI in the game against Kenya.
When the Australian team reached Vizag for the match, the commentary team also arrived and it was without all its members. Out of desperation, the commentary team reached out to the Aussies to find a recruitment and eyed Slater, who had the experience of appearing on The Cricket Show for Channel 9 in 1994.
Slater agreed to do the job after getting the necessary approval. “I think I was recognised initially as someone who was interviewed fairly well and could string together a few words,” he later told Mid-Day. The batsman, despite being a member of a WC squad, even did the pitch report since Tony Greig was yet to be in place.
Slater had a gala time making commentary in the Australian innings as the Waugh brothers exhibited a concerted effort. Then, when the Australians were bowling, strike bowler Craig McDermott injured his calf muscle after bowling three overs and didn’t take part in the rest of the game (in fact it was the final international game for the bowler who had excelled in the 1987 WC played at the same subcontinent). It was then Slater who was called to do the job of substitution on the ground and he did it for at least 45 overs.
Slater, who made the unique record of doing substitution job in the commentary box and the cricket field, had never played in a WC match.