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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 16:34 GMT

England's double delight

The scoreboard reflects the farce in the closing moments of the semi-final England's 1992 World Cup campaign featured two memorable wins over South Africa.

When it comes to the World Cup England have suffered more than most, stumbling three times at the final hurdle.

The last time they finished as bridesmaids in cricket's premier one-day competition came in 1992 when the wheels came off their challenge as they reached the business end of the tournament.

Their progress after an impressive round-robin qualifying campaign was helped in farcical fashion in the semi-finals.

A flawed rain ruling had cost many teams throughout the tournament.

On this occasion it was South Africa who were floored, cheated of a chance of victory when rain came in the closing stages.

A mere 12 minutes of showers wreaked havoc and their target of 22 from 13 balls was quickly revised to 22 from one.

A fine match was reduced to nothing by the ridicule of the rule which had also cost India earlier in the tournament.

By coincidence the only team to beat it was England, in their round-robin match against South Africa.

On that occasion 10 days earlier, England's target had been reduced from 237 off 50 overs to 226 from 41.

The change in the game came after an interruption 12 overs into England's reply.

England had come into the match fatigued with injuries and niggles taking their toll.

Captain Graham Gooch was the highest-profile absentee. Chris Lewis was unable to bowl, Phil DeFreitas played with a severe limp and Dermot Reeve left the pitch early in his bowling spell with a bruised back.

Alec Stewart, the stand-in captain and opener in Gooch's absence, and Ian Botham had scored 62 before the rain, but on resuming found themselves in a completely different scenario.

The required run rate had jumped from 4.6 runs an over to 5.7 and Stewart was soon aware that when it rains, it pours.

Botham, Robin Smith and Graeme Hick all came and went with the addition of only two runs - three wickets falling in the space of seven balls.

But Neil Fairbrother followed his captain's example and played with an attacking verve.

He put on 68 in 13 overs with Stewart and enjoyed productive partnerships with both Reeve and Lewis.

The Lancastrian put on 50 in six overs with Lewis before the latter was run out.

That left England requiring 10 off two overs.

Eight from the penultimate over saw England close in on an astonishing victory and it was left to DeFreitas to hit the winning run off the penultimate ball of the match.

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