CricInfo at World Cup 1999
[The ICC Cricket World Cup - England 1999]


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Wednesday 19th - May

Desperately seeking ShoaibÖ

Tail-Ender departs for the North of England braving the privations of British Rail today and so misses out on viewing most of the live cricketing action. But before he leaves thereís just time to enjoy a real Schadenfreude moment as hot favourites South Africa collapse to 69-5 against the mighty seam attack of Öer Sri Lanka. Okay, we know the SAF boys are top quality and eventually went on win at a canter, but according to every SAF fan Iíve met we might as well save ourselves the bother and hand the trophy over to Hansie and co. right now, while the rest of us can go home and put our feet up.

And so Tail-Ender arrived in beautiful, sunny Durham and after discharging his cricketing duties for the day, decided to hit the town and investigate some of the local hostelries. Taking a stroll through the back streets towards the marvellously lofty cathedral, who should he bump into, but several members of the Pakistani squad who were just about to explore the delights off a local Chinese. Tail-Enderís eyes lit up when he spotted Shoaib Akhtar amongst the posse, the fastest bowler in the world and one of the hottest properties on view at the tournament. There were so many questions and TE sniffed an exclusive. Here was a young fast bowler with immense talent, with three county offers on the table if you believe the reports and the potential to be even scarier than Tommo, Lilley and a combined West Indiesí pace quartet. But most of all Tail-Ender wanted to know: could you see the fear in a batsmanís eyes when you propelled a ball down at him at 96mph?

Not wanting to disturb their repast (fearful bad form to interrupt another manís fodder, donít you know and bad for the digestion too I believe) Tail-Ender placed himself on temporary stake-out duties and did exactly what any sane man would do and repaired to an adjacent inn to await developments. One short hour later and no doubt brimming with the delights of a Chicken Wung Tung, the Pakistanis emerged but Tail-Ender was doing a little brimming of his own, having seriously underestimated the potency of the local ale. Nevertheless emboldened and with a slightly unsteady gait, Tail-Ender managed to track the team through the winding streets, desperately seeking that all important interview and eventually managed to make contact outside their hotel.

Introducing himself to the Pakistani entourage, Tail-Ender managed to make polite conversation as they strolled into the lobby. Undeterred by assurances that the players would not be doing any interviews, Tail-Ender hung around doing his best to look inconspicuous and his persistence paid off as he was eventually introduced to several members of the team. He even managed to nip in and meet Shoaib for a brief moment and shake his hand, before polite but extremely firm minders ushered the paceman away into the security of a (hastily and possibly conveniently convened) team meeting

The sharply dressed Shoaib struck Tail-Ender as a modest, polite and very self-effacing young fellow, hardly the fire breathing demon that you somehow expect really quick men to be. Yet it was strange to think that the hand which Tail-Ender had shaken would on the morrow be hurling down thunderbolts at unfortunate Scottish batsmen at close to 100mph. Tail-Ender for one, did not envy them.

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