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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK

World Cup journey at an end

Pakistan fans at Lord's: One of the most enduring images of the World Cup

After five weeks and 42 matches, the Cricket World Cup is at an end and BBC News Online bids farewell with one final report.

Hopes were high for a number of leading teams in the build-up to the 1999 Cricket World Cup.

England were expected to make a mark on home soil.

South Africa were installed as pre-tournament favourites, following a run of form that had seen them win 75% of their one day internationals in the preceding three years.

Pakistan, under the stewardship of the inspirational Wasim Akram, were tipped to repeat their success of 1992.

And the West Indies, with a rejuvenated Brian Lara at the helm, were back to something like their best.

But all four were to suffer heartbreaking moments as Australia took the World Cup by storm.

[ image: Shane Warne snares another Pakistan wicket in the final]
Shane Warne snares another Pakistan wicket in the final
Steve Waugh's side proved the slow-burners of the tournament.

Defeated by New Zealand and Pakistan in the first group stage of the competition, they struggled to find top form even against lowly Scotland.

A first-round exit looked on the cards until, with supreme Aussie resilience, they saw off the West Indies - condemning Lara and his colleagues to an early flight home.

Having discovered winning ways, there was no looking back.

Australia, inspired by the world-class quintet of Mark and Steve Waugh, Michael Bevan, Glenn McGrath and - sensationally - Shane Warne, developed into an unstoppable cricketing juggernaut.

The semi-final tie with South Africa has already entered cricketing folklore. Rarely has a one-day international - criticised by purists as inferior to the Test format - proved to be so captivating.

Once the favourites had been ousted, there was still the small matter of Pakistan standing in the way.

But, in the most lacklustre of all finals since the inception of the World Cup in 1975, Australia - with leg-spinner Warne again claiming man of the match glory - stomped all over the opposition.

Surprise stars

The Australians were deserved winners, a formidable side whose team spirit and never-say-die approach saw them through the tightest of encounters.

But there were other stars in a tournament that, despite the final, was full of gripping drama and entertaining spectacle.

[ image: Shoaib Akhtar: The World Cup's unrivalled pace-setter]
Shoaib Akhtar: The World Cup's unrivalled pace-setter
New Zealand seamer Geoff Allott emerged from nowhere to share bowling honours with Warne.

Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar - until the final, at least - careered through opposition batting line-ups with his blistering pace.

Lance Klusener led South Africa agonisingly close to glory with his late-order fireworks with the bat.

Saqlain Mushtaq snatched a hat-trick, Roger Twose stoically held the Kiwi batting together and Zimbabwe went further than more illustrious teams like England, the Windies and Sri Lanka,

But perhaps the most memorable image of the tournament is of the fans, from Scotland's Tartan Army to the West Indies calypso faithful.

England, with its cosmopolitan population, was the perfect venue for the World Cup, as every team had its own captive audience to call on.

No sets of fans captured the imagination as much as the Indians and Pakistanis, however. Even when their teams were struggling, these supporters - flags waving, horns blaring - refused to surrender to the staid atmosphere of a number of county grounds.

And for English cricket that might prove the lasting legacy of the 1999 World Cup: the establishment must come to terms with a new breed of supporter.

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