Speedy soccer strike & cricket controversy: Guardian headlines from 1993

This week’s headlines from sports history come from The Guardian and The Observer, as published the week of November 18-24.

Location: London.

The daily English newspaper The Guardian and its Sunday sister paper, The Observer, have roots dating back to 1821. Originally founded in Manchester, the paper moved to London in the 1960s and is still published today.

In 1993, Bill Clinton was sworn in as the US president was while John Major was the British prime minister. The Waco siege began in February while moviegoers watched Jurassic Park and Mrs. Doubtfire. In sports, the Buffalo Bills lost their fourth Super Bowl in a row, and the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins played their inaugural seasons in baseball.

Here’s a look at a few headlines The Guardian and The Observer published this week in 1993:

“England buried in a pauper’s grave”

Publication Date: November 18
This image from the game ran alongside the article.

Heading into its final World Cup qualification match against San Marino, England needed a miracle to make the 1994 finals in the United States. The game began with a nightmare.

Just 8.3 seconds after the opening kickoff, Davide Gualtieri, a clerk at a San Marino computer firm, jumped on a poor back pass from English defender Stuart Pearce and rifled the ball past keeper David Seaman. The 2,400 people that had turned up to Bologna’s Stadio Renato Dall’Ara were ecstatic; the tiny San Marino nation of 25,000 was leading the historical home of soccer 1-0. The goal was the fastest in World Cup qualifying history.

Prior to Gualtieri’s lighting goal, England required a winning margin of seven goals plus a Dutch defeat to Poland in order to finish second in Europe’s Group 2, safe within the qualification zone. While that was a daunting task, hope of qualifying seemed even dimmer now.

England would equalize 22 minutes later when Paul Ince of Manchester United scored. The rest of the match continued as expected, with the birthplace of football stomping all over the diminutive minnows. Arsenal striker Ian Wright led the onslaught with four goals, Ince added another, and Les Ferdinand rounded out the scorers list. However, England didn’t get the seven goal margin it needed thanks to Gualtieri and only won 7-1.

The scoreline ended up mattering little in the qualification picture as Netherlands won 3-1 over Poland. The final standings of Group 2 stood with Noway atop with 16 points, Netherlands second with 15, and England looking on the outside in third place with 13.

Six days after the San Marino match, England’s manager Graham Taylor resigned. Assigned to the England post in 1990, Taylor won 18, drew 13, and lost 7 in 38 matches at the helm. (San Marino’s manager of the match, Giorgi Leoni, would guide his nation until 1995; he compiled an 0-1-28 record while in charge.)

England later qualified for the 1998 World Cup and has made every edition since. The nation’s best World Cup result since the 1993 debacle was fourth at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

San Marino has continued its tale in futility. In 114 competitive matches since the 1994 qualifying rounds, the Italy-surrounded country has picked up no victories and just two draws (to Latvia and Estonia). San Marino’s only ever win came in 2004, a 1-0 triumph over Liechtenstein in a friendly.

Gualtieri’s 8.3-second goal stood as the fastest World Cup qualifying goal until Christian Benteke required seven seconds to score for Belgium against Gibraltar in 2016.

San Marino capped the quick striker nine times. His goal against England was his lone international score. Gualtieri last played for his country in 1999 and ran a computer shop along the Italian border as of 2012.


Publication Date: November 21
This image of Marc Ellis running with the ball graced the sport section’s front page.

The front page of The Observer sports section read the above words, signaling the 51-15 drubbing New Zealand had given Scotland during its rugby union tour of Great Britain.

The 36-point margin recorded at Scotland’s home grounds of Murrayfield in Edinburgh was the largest ever in the 88-year series between the two countries.

Leading the All Blacks—as New Zealand’s rugby team is nicknamed for their black uniforms—was 20-year-old right winger Jeff Wilson, who scored a hat trick of tries in his first full international. According to Eddie Butler, the reporter on the match for The Observer, Wilson put on quite the performance “from nimbleness and searing acceleration to genuine pace.” Wilson was a dual-sports star who also represented his country in cricket.

Following the victory over Scotland, New Zealand moved to face England at Twickenham in London a week later. The All Blacks saw stiffer competition there and lost 15-9.

Scotland and New Zealand had played each other 16 times before 1993, with the Scots only mustering a pair of draws alongside 14 losses.

Scotland had been coming off a relatively successful World Cup in 1991, though, having taken fourth place in the tournament, which was held on British soil. In those finals, New Zealand had beaten Scotland 13-6 in the third place match after England had nipped its northerly neighbor 9-6 in the semifinals.

Since the 1993 trampling, New Zealand has continued its domination of Scotland. All 14 matches have been won by the All Blacks, and the 1993 margin was topped by a 69-20 scoreline in 2000.

“‘Oslear retired, not sacked’ claims Board”

Publication Date: November 23

This article covered the removal of Don Oslear as a first-class cricket umpire, which was entangled in drama stemming from a ball-tampering accusation.

The drama began in the summer of 1992, when Pakistan visited England for a series of international matches.

Shortly after, English player Allan Lamb revealed to the Daily Mirror that umpires had removed a ball doctored by Pakistan during a match. According to Lamb, Pakistani bowlers Wasim Akram and Wagar Younis gouged the surface of balls with their finger nails. He additionally threw Safraz Nawaz, a former teammate, under the bus, saying that the “trick” the bowlers used was taught to him “a dozen years ago” by Nawaz. The Mirror reportedly paid Lamb £5,000 for the interview.

Nothing much came of these claims besides drama. Lamb was fined several thousand pounds, and neither accused bowler faced any consequences.

Public perception seemed to be that scuffed balls were just a part of cricket. Observer columnist Kevin Mitchell wrote that “the [cricket] Law is an ass” for its rules against doctored balls, while former Pakistan captain Imran Khan claimed that “ball-tampering, one way or another, has gone on since cricket has been played.”

Nawaz, however, was upset to be attached with cheating. In late 1993, he sued Lamb for libel.

During the court proceedings, Don Oslear, a reserve umpire for the match in question, backed up Lamb’s claims by stating a ball used by Pakistanis had been illegally gouged on one side.

“I felt it was the start of efforts to deeply scour the ball,” he said.

Nawaz would drop his suit a day later, after Lamb agreed to never actually seeing the bowler cheat in a match.

Shortly after his testimony, Oslear promised more “startling revelations” about the “Tampergate affair”, as The Guardian refereed to the scandal. Oslear was then struck from the list of first-class umpires for the 1994 season.

“I have no doubt in my mind that going into the High Court to bat for Allan Lamb has now cost me a final year’s umpiring in first-class cricket,” Oslear said. He added: “The Board must have thought I would be frightened to tell the truth, but I’m not going to be frightened by these people.”

The Test and County Cricket Board disputed Oslear’s claims, arguing that Oslear’s 65th birthday fell one month before the start of the season.

“We have always retired our umpires at 65 unless there were no suitable replacements,” TCCB chief administrator Tony Brown said. “To link his retirement and last week’s court case is extraordinary. The Board has a very strong list of 17 candidates […] for the 1994 season.”

Brown further stated that Oslear had actually been notified of the retirement age rule via letter the January prior.

Oslear had previously been voted out from his post atop the First Class Umpires’ Association in September 1992 after pressing the International Cricket Council for a statement on the ball-tampering allegations. That time too, the TCCB denied there was anything nefarious in Oslear’s removal, disputing the notion that they had pressured the umpires to vote out their top man.

Post-umpiring, Oslear penned Tampering With Cricket in 1996, telling of his involvement with several suspected cheating cases. He died in 2018 at the age of 89. Obituaries remembered him for being “fearless, forthright and often abrasive”.

“Jahangir runs out of dream”

Publication Date: November 24
Jahangir Khan, as he appeared in a December 1993 copy of The Guardian.

Throughout the 1980s, Jahangir Khan was regarded as the world’s best squash player. The Pakistani player had won six individual world championships and eight British Opens during the decade.

By 1993, however, he had fallen off his spectacular form and had already retired from the sport three times. Struggling with injury, the former superstar hadn’t played in nine months—save for one tune-up event the week prior—before the 1993 world championships, held in Karachi, Pakistan.

No matter the odds, he miraculously reached the final, beating the English No. 8 seed Chris Walker 15-7, 15-9, 9-15, 15-4 in the semifinals.

However, in the final—which this article covered—his run was done. Khan lost to countryman Jansher Khan 14-15, 15-9, 15-5, 15-6. Jahangir hadn’t beaten Jansher in over two years at the time of the match and showed signs of age in the match, but The Guardian’s Richard Jogo still called his effort “a remarkable triumph”.

A week later, Jahangir Khan would help Pakistan to the team world title by winning his match in the final against Brett Martin of Australia. He retired for the last time following the tournament. The Guardian called the final victory a “perfect exit by Jahangir”.

Headlines for this article were sourced from Newspapers.com.

Special thanks to the folks over at the British Library for help researching the cricket ball-tampering scandal.