The 1992 World Cup was the first to feature coloured player clothing, white cricket balls and black sightscreens with a number of matches being played under floodlights. The 1992 World Cup was also the first to be held in the Southern hemisphere. It was also the first World Cup to include the South Africa national cricket team, which had been allowed to re-join the International Cricket Council as a Test-playing nation after the end of apartheid.
The format was changed from previous tournaments in that a complete round-robin replaced the use of two qualifying groups. The initial draw was released with eight competing countries and 28 round-robin matches. In late 1991, South Africa were re-admitted to the International Cricket Council after long years of apartheid and the draw was amended to include them. The revised draw included 36 round-robin matches plus the two semi-finals and the final.
The rule for calculating the target score for the team batting second in rain-affected matches was also changed. The previous rule simply multiplied the run rate of the team batting first by the number of overs available to the team batting second. This rule was deemed to be too much in favour of the team batting second. In an attempt to rectify this, the target score would now be calculated by the "highest scoring overs" formula.
In this system, if the team batting second had 44 overs available, their target score would be one greater than the 44 highest scoring overs of the team batting first. While the reasoning behind the system was sound, the timing of rain interruptions remained problematic: as the semi-final between England and South Africa demonstrated, where a difficult but eminently reachable 22 runs off 13 balls was reduced to 22 off 7 (the least productive over, a maiden, being deducted) and finally 21 off 1 ball (the next least productive over having given 1 run). It was seen that, if the interruption came during the second innings, the side batting second was at a significant disadvantage – one which was only overcome once, in fact, in England's group-stage victory over South Africa.
The 1992 World Cup featured the seven Test teams of the day, and for the first time South Africa, who would play their first Test in 22 years in the West Indies a month after the World Cup, and Zimbabwe who for the third time qualified by winning the 1990 ICC Trophy and would play their first Test match later in 1992. Teams who entered were: Australia
Eleven umpires were selected to officiate at the World Cup: two from each of the host nations, Australia and New Zealand, and one from each of the other participating nations.
West Indies' Steve Bucknor and England's David Shepherd were chosen as the umpires for the first semi-final, while New Zealand's Brian Aldridge and Australia's Steve Randell were chosen for the second. Bucknor and Aldridge were chosen for the final.
Two referees were also selected to supervise the semi-finals and final. Australia's Peter Burge supervised the first semi-final and the final, while New Zealand's Frank Cameron supervised the second semi-final.
Co-hosts New Zealand proved the surprise packet of the tournament, winning their first seven games to finish on top of the table after the round-robin. The other hosts, Australia, one of the pre-tournament favourites lost their first two matches. They recovered somewhat to win four of the remaining six, but narrowly missed out on the semi-finals. The West Indies also finished with a 4–4 record, but were just behind Australia on run-rate. South Africa made a triumphant return to international cricket with a win over Australia at the SCG in their first match. They and England had solid campaigns and easily qualified for the semis, despite upset losses to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe respectively. India had a disappointing tournament and never looked likely to progress beyond the round-robin. Sri Lanka were still establishing themselves at the highest level and beat only Zimbabwe (who did not yet have Test status) and South Africa.
New Zealand were defeated only twice in the tournament, both times by Pakistan, in their final group match and in the semi-final. Pakistan had been lucky to be in the semi-finals at all: following only one victory in their first five matches, they were also fortunate to scrape a point from the washed-out match against England which appeared to be heading for a heavy English victory (Pak 74 all out, Eng 24/1): eventually they finished one point ahead of Australia with an inferior run-rate.
In the first semi final, Pakistan defeated tournament favourites New Zealand in a high scoring encounter to win their first semi final in 4 attempts and book a place in the World Cup Final for the first time. Inzamam-ul-Haq smashed a 37 ball 60 in the run chase to achieve the target with one over remaining and also won the Man of the Match award.
In the second semi final between South Africa and England, the match ended in controversial circumstances when, after a 10-minute rain delay, the most productive overs method revised South Africa's target from 22 runs from 13 balls to an impossible 21 runs from one ball. This rule was replaced for One-day International matches in Australia after the World Cup as a result of this incident, and it was eventually superseded by the Duckworth–Lewis method for the 1999 World Cup onwards. According to the late Bill Frindall, had the Duckworth–Lewis method been applied at that rain interruption, the revised target would have been four runs to tie or five to win from the final ball. As a point of clarity, ESPN points out that England's innings was cut short when the overs weren't completed by 6:10pm (the rescheduled close of innings time), Cricinfo say that had Duckworth–Lewis been applied to the entire game, South Africa's target from the original 45 overs would have been 273, which would then have been reduced to 257 from 43 overs, i.e. five runs more than they were set under the most productive overs rule.
In a thrilling final, Pakistan beat England by 22 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), allowing the "cornered tigers" captain Imran Khan to lift the trophy. Derek Pringle took two early wickets for England before Imran Khan and Javed Miandad added 139 for the third wicket to steady the Pakistan innings – although both were very slow to score early on, and Imran benefited from a dropped catch just as he was trying to increase the tempo, having up to that point scored only 9 in 16 overs. Late flourishes from Inzamam-ul-Haq (42 off 35 balls) and Wasim Akram (33 off 18 balls) took Pakistan to a total of 6 for 249. England also struggled early in their innings with Mushtaq Ahmed's googly accounting for Graeme Hick. Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb then took England to 4 for 141 when Wasim Akram re-entered the attack and bowled from around the wicket. He bowled Lamb and Chris Lewis with consecutive deliveries. England fell 22 runs short with captain Imran Khan, in his final One Day International, taking the final wicket of Richard Illingworth to give Pakistan its first World Cup title.
The final began with eerie resemblances to same fixture earlier in the tournament when England bowled out Pakistan for a paltry 74, as Derek Pringle dismissed both Pakistani openers at 24. However, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad settled down to see off the new ball. A crucial moment occurred when Imran Khan was dropped by Graham Gooch at 9 runs. He later went on to score a match-winning 72. At the 25 over mark, Pakistan had only scored 70, but accelerated the score to 139 by the 31st over as Javed Miandad summoned a runner and Imran and him built a steady partnership. During his innings, Imran Khan hit a huge six off Richard Illingworth that landed far back into the members section. Imran played a captain's innings getting a score of 72 and Miandad 58 to steady the innings, expectedly followed by an onslaught from Inzamam (42) and Wasim Akram (33) enabling Pakistan to give England a fighting target of 250.
England's start was shaky. Ian Botham was dismissed for a duck by Wasim Akram, followed by Stewart, Hick and Gooch, which left England tumbling at 69/4. A solid partnership of 71 between Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother caused Imran to give an early second spell to his main pacer Wasim Akram in the 35th over. The decision wrote the fate of the match. Two deliveries from the left arm fast bowler dismissed Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis. Soon Fairbrother was caught by Moin Khan off Aaqib Javed to seal England's last hope. When the cards were laid down, Captain Imran Khan had the last laugh when Richard Illingworth was caught by Ramiz Raja off his delivery to finish off the final and crown Pakistan World Champions of cricket.Martin Crowe, New Zealand
This was also the last time England had advanced to semi-finals or finals of a 50 over World Cup.
A notable feature of this World Cup was the innovative tactics employed by New Zealand captain Martin Crowe, who opened his team's bowling with spin bowler Dipak Patel, rather than with a fast bowler as is usual practice. Another innovation was the then unorthodox ploy of opening the batting with "pinch hitters", such as New Zealand's Mark Greatbatch. These innovations reversed the immediate prior form of New Zealand who, realising they lacked a team of world-beaters, turned instead to craft; England had a clean sweep of their tour of New Zealand in 1991–92. Public expectations increased but were dashed in the semi-final as young Inzamam-ul-Haq pulled off victory for Pakistan while injured Martin Crowe watched from the stand.