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Saturday, June 12, 1999 Published at 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK


Allott of wickets for surprise star

Off you go: Allott claims the wicket of Australia's Mark Waugh

Three weeks ago he was barely a household name in his own household - but now Geoff Allott is a record-breaker.

The New Zealand left-armer was largely unheralded going into the 1999 Cricket World Cup, a journeyman bowler with one of the least glamorous sides in the competition.

Glenn McGrath, Shoaib Akhtar, Alan Donald, Curtly Ambrose - these were the fast bowlers who were expected to take the tournament by storm.

Four weeks on, though, and Allott had taken more wickets in a World Cup than any other player in the history of the event.

Not a bad achievement for a bowler who had almost been written off by his national selectors - for being too fat.

Gibbs is No.19

Allott earned his place in cricket's record books in the Super Six clash with South Africa at Edgbaston.

His dismissal of opener Herschelle Gibbs gave him his 19th victim of the tournament.


[ image: Fitter, happier: Allott lost weight and gained some control]
Fitter, happier: Allott lost weight and gained some control
It took him past a trio of bowlers who have taken 18 World Cup wickets: Roger Binny of India in 1983, Craig McDermott of Australia in 1987 and Pakistan's Wasim Akram in 1992.

The manner of the dismissal - an unplayable yorker that beat Gibbs for pace - spoke volumes about the impact Allott has had in England this summer.

No other player has exploited the early summer conditions as superbly as the 27-year-old from Canterbury.

Allott has managed to combine prodigous swing with deceptive pace, to leave some of the world's finest one-day batsmen struggling.

Big name scalps

His World Cup wicket haul includes some illustrious names like Mark Waugh, Michael Bevan, Jimmy Adams, Saeed Anwar and Saurav Ganguly.

There are few more astute observers of the modern game than South African captain Hansie Cronje.

And he has been greatly impressed by the performance of Allott, who also took 14 wickets in the recent one-day series against the South Africans.

"In the one day game he can swing the ball well up front with some pace and at the end he reverses the ball," Cronje said.

"He is definitely the find over the last six months for New Zealand."

Rapid rise

Cronje's assessment is testimony to how far Allott has come in such a short time.


[ image: Biding his time: Allott has been on the sidelines for a long stretch]
Biding his time: Allott has been on the sidelines for a long stretch
Before 1999 he had played just five one-day internationals.

While he was fast, his bowling had always been criticised for lacking control.

And worse, he was overweight - a fact that the Kiwi selectors made clear to the fringe Test player.

Allott turned to his Canterbury coach Dayle Hadlee - elder brother of arguably New Zealand's greatest player, Sir Richard Hadlee - and a strict fitness regime saw him reinvent himself as a leaner, sharper player.

Lean, mean bowling machine

He was also a far better bowler - although he was yet to impose himself on the international stage.


[ image: Record-breaker: As a batsman, Allott makes a great bowler]
Record-breaker: As a batsman, Allott makes a great bowler
Indeed, before the World Cup Allott's main claim to fame was another world record - although this was a less illustrious achievement, and it was one he held with the bat.

Against South Africa he batted for 102 minutes without scoring a run.

In doing so he broke a 50-year-old record for the longest-lasting duck in a first-class game.

It may have been a performance that put his name in Wisden, but Allott did not want to earn his immortality for dour tail-end batting.

But figures of four for 37 and the man of the match award in New Zealand's shock first-round victory over Australia made the cricket world sit up and take notice.

And now he can legitimately claim to be the leading bowler of the 1999 World Cup.



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