The highly anticipated Cricket World Cup 2023 Final today evokes vivid memories of the iconic 2003 clash. But the most thrilling clash between India and Australia dates back to a 1986 World Series game, because during that gripping match, a murder mystery was solved.

The game was the penultimate group fixture at the 1985–86 Benson & Hedges World Series hosted in Australia.

Back in the 80s, in the quiet rural town of Woodberry, in New South Wales, Australia, Margaret and Peter Burton once lived a seemingly ordinary life, raising two kids and blending into the suburban landscape.

But, their tranquil life soon took a sharp turn when Margaret grew closer to Ronald Burke, a dear friend. As time passed, Margaret and Peter found themselves drifting apart. Little did they know, a shocking fate awaited them.

Bitterness seeped into their lives. A resentful Peter made no bones about leaving Margaret with nothing. “I don’t want the b**ch to get anything. I have even got $17K in a bank account in another name, which she knows nothing about.”

The mundane turned mysterious when, on May 29, 1983, Peter Burton vanished without a trace. His disappearance was bizarre — no bank transactions, no sightings in the neighbourhood, and even his cherished car was abandoned.

The police began an exhaustive man-hunt, but Peter remained elusive, leaving only a trail of ambiguity. His body was never found but Margaret’s world collapsed when, during a police interview, she revealed a chilling detail.

On May 28, 1983, Ron told her that he knew someone who could “fix Peter up.” Incidentally, her husband vanished the next day, and when he failed to return, she turned to Ron for answers. Ron responded in a cold voice: “Don’t worry. It’s all over. It’s been fixed.”

Based on circumstantial evidence, the court pronounced them guilty of conspiring to murder Peter Burton. The grim tale landed Margaret and Ronald behind bars, both sentenced to life imprisonment on November 8, 1984.

A year elapsed, and Australia was hosting the iconic Benson & Hedges World Series in January, 1986. Australia secured their spot in the final by winning six games, while India and NZ vied for the remaining spot in the last two games.

On January 31, 1986, at the iconic MCC ground, the stage was set for a crucial showdown between India, captained by Kapil Dev, and the home team, led by Allan Border, in the penultimate group league fixture. India was in dire need of a victory.

Australia, opting to bat first, saw a formidable opening partnership between Geoff Marsh and David Boon, both reaching their 70s comfortably. However, the momentum shifted when Ravi Shastri, in a pivotal moment, claimed both wickets. Australia stood at 161/2.

Kapil Dev, seizing the opportunity, then took charge, orchestrating a collapse with impressive figures of 4 for 30. Australia was restricted to 235/7. The damage was done and India saw a fighting chance.

Amidst all the intense cricketing action, a mysterious man in the MCC gallery, seemingly supporting the home team, was caught on camera. And, someone far away from Melbourne, spotted the familiar face.

It was a bewildering revelation. Judy Edmonds, a key witness, testified that she saw Peter Burton at the televised cricket match in January. Viewing a videotape, she identified a man in sunglasses as Peter. Another friend, Jan Dyson and 7 others, confirmed the remarkable resemblance.

The sighting of Peter Burton, presumed dead for over two years, marked a sensational twist in the love triangle – one that rivalled any suspense thriller. Margaret and Ron found a sliver of hope as Margaret’s lawyers submitted a fresh appeal, contending that the prosecution failed to prove Peter’s demise.

The New South Wales Court of Appeal, acknowledging the weight of this new evidence, overturned Margaret’s life sentence. While they are still convicted for plotting a crime, they are no longer guilty of the murder.

A story that started with a disappearance and a conviction suddenly ended with the enigmatic reappearance of the supposed victim — all thanks to the gripping cricket clash between Australia and India. And the game was poised to deliver its own dose of excitement.

The stage was set: India, chasing a target of 236, made a solid start spearheaded by a fiery partnership between Gavaskar and Srikkanth. However, it was Dilip Vengsarkar who emerged as the hero.

Carrying the weight of the innings on his shoulders, he scored a blistering 77* and propelled India to a stunning victory with handy help from the skipper. Tonight, we all yearn for a taste of such exhilaration on the field once more – minus any murder mystery, please!


The Durant Daily Democrat Sep 25, 1986

The Bryan Times Sep 25, 1986

The Sydney Morning Herald Sep 25, 1986

New Straits Times Feb 1, 1986