The ICC Champions Trophy has been competed for since 1998, although it hasn’t always gone by that name. In its inaugural 1998 tournament it was officially known as the Wills International Cup.
Initially set up to raise funds for the ICC’s global development programme, the destination for the first tournament was the city of Dhaka. While Bangladesh won the right to host the tournament, it was said to be third on the list of preferred destinations behind, of all places, Florida’s Disney World and Sharjah.
Weeks before the tournament was due to take place, Bangladesh was hit by some of the worst floods the country had seen, yet play still went ahead and everything went off without further complications.
Played in a knockout format, the inaugural tournament featured all nine Test playing nations of the time – although only eight would feature in the main draw. While the tournament was held in Bangladesh, their own national side would not compete as they were still two years from gaining Test status. The schedule was tight, with eight matches compacted into nine days, but through the knock out format it created a tension that was absent from many international competitions. The fact that all the teams stayed in the same hotel also created something of an “Olympic village” atmosphere.
With nine teams involved, the first game was actually a preliminary match between New Zealand and Zimbabwe which would see the winner move through to the main draw. The other seven teams who had qualified automatically were: Australia, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and England. Although all nine countries were represented, not every nation chose to send their strongest team. England, for example, were about to begin their 1998-99 Ashes tour of Australia. Because of that, they received a dispensation to send a “Second XI”.
The preliminary match between New Zealand and Zimbabwe took place on October 24th 1998. After Zimbabwe won the toss and decided to bat they went on to make 258 for 7 off their 50 overs. Alistair Campbell, their opener, would anchor the innings, making 100 off 143 balls. For New Zealand, Geoff Allott was the best of the bowlers with 3-54. In New Zealand’s reply, both openers fell very early and very cheaply: Matthew Bell for just 2 and Nathan Astle for 9. Captain, Stephen Fleming would be the man to stand up, hitting 96 off 130 balls. However, when he was dismissed, New Zealand still needed 54 from 5.1 overs and when Adam Parore went two overs later they needed 43 from 3.2 overs. The equation came down to 13 needed off the last over and it would eventually come down to the last ball: with 3 runs needed Chris Harris sent the ball to the boundary, securing a five wicket win.
New Zealand’s next game would be against Sri Lanka two days later – a quick turnaround for most international tournaments. After winning the toss, Sri Lanka put New Zealand into bat. Although Parore backed up his 52 from the last game to make 54, the innings did not set the platform they would have liked as New Zealand made just 188 all out.
With a low score to defend, New Zealand’s bowling attack got off to a great start, with Sri Lanka three down for just five runs. However Sri Lanka fought back with a 127-run partnership between Romesh Kaluwitharana and Arjuna Ranatunga, which would see them win by five wickets with 8.3 overs to spare. The loss saw New Zealand knocked out of the tournament.
Among the other teams, there would be some stand out performances as the tournament progressed. For India, Sachin Tendulkar’s knock against Australia will always be remembered – scoring 141 to set up a 44-run win against a dominant Australian team. In South Africa’s semi-final against Sri Lanka, Jacques Kallis would gain the Man of the Match award after scoring 113 not out in a game the Proteas won by 92 runs under the D/L method. The West Indies would win the other semi-final, comfortably beating India by 6 wickets.
The final between South Africa and the West Indies would take place on November 1st. South Africa won the toss and decided to bowl with the West Indies making 245 off their 50 overs, their opener, Philo Wallace, leading the way with 103. Kallis was again the standout for South Africa, this time with the ball as he took five wickets in figures of 5-30. Although there were no stand out performances in South Africa’s reply, six of their top eight made double figures and South Africa won by 4 wickets.
This would be South Africa’s first and only ICC tournament victory. Jacques Kallis’ performance gained him Man of the Match honours again as he added a handy 37 with the bat to his bowling effort. He would also be named Man of the Tournament after being the highest wicket taker (8) and second highest run-scorer behind the West Indies’ Phillo Wallace who scored 221 runs.
This tournament, recognised as the first ICC Champions Trophy, was seen to be very successful, on and off the field, and South Africa were installed as favourites to win the following year’s World Cup. Bangladesh’s population reacted to the tournament with huge enthusiasm, many turning out to Bangabandhu Stadium in force. Those that didn’t watch from the stands could be seen on the streets huddled round radios and TVs enjoying the game of cricket.
Who said Bangladesh was not “playing”? Bangladesh was the “player of the tournament”, in the form of the drum-beating, bugle-blowing, flag-waving multitude in the galleries, in the streets and at home.
– Bangladesh Daily Star, November 3rd 1998