|| Feature Writing ||
Low-scoring thrillers, tenterhook ties and compelling comebacks – the 11 editions of the Cricket World Cup have had them all.
Whether it’s a Kevin O’Brien-inspired Ireland chasing down 328 or India recovering from 17 for five to claim victory, cricket fans have been on the edge of their seats from the start.
And as the world’s top 10 teams prepare to do battle for cricket’s greatest prize across 11 venues, a slew of new classic matches are sure to follow.
Here’s a walk down memory lane through the Cricket World Cup’s top 10 matches.
Australia v West Indies, 1975
The first Cricket World Cup final was always going to go down in the annals – but West Indies and Australia produced a game that stands the test of time as one of the tournament’s greatest.
Lord’s was the stage and scorching midsummer weather meant the crowds were spilling out of the bleachers, young fans romping onto the outfield with every boundary struck.
And Clive Lloyd played a canonical captain’s innings, hauling his side from 50 for three into the ascendancy thanks to a brutal century in a 149 fourth-wicket stand with Rohan Kanhai.
Despite a rousing run-chase, solidified by Ian Chappell’s 62, Australia fell 17 runs short of a target of 291 – ousted by Viv Richards’s excellence in the field, memorable executing three straight runouts.
Australia v South Africa, 1999
Nine runs with one over remaining.
It seemed a simple equation separating South Africa and the Cricket World Cup final – yet what followed was an art form of indecision and drama that saw them miss out on a first-ever final.
Australia hauled themselves to 213, reigned in by Shaun Pollock’s five for 36, and Jonty Rhodes and Jacques Kallis combined to leave their country needing one run to win with one wicket left.
But when Lance Klusener bunted to mid-off, Allan Donald didn’t hear his call for a quick single, Adam Gilchrist whipped off the bails and the Aussies wheeled away.
England v Ireland, 2011
In the storied history of the Cricket World Cup, no single name has ever been so deeply intertwined with one fixture as Kevin O’Brien is with this particular thriller.
The first half of the game saw Goliath flex their muscles, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott firing England to 327 for eight from their 50 overs, a total no side had ever previously chased down.
Up stepped O’Brien, without a half-century in nine World Cup knocks, to bludgeon 13 fours and six sixes to upset the steepest odds.
It was the fastest century in Cricket World Cup history and an innings that may never be bettered for its sheer significance to the Irish cricketing story.
New Zealand v South Africa, 2015
Where else but Eden Park for New Zealand’s red-letter World Cup day, the best part of 100 overs of a pulsating semi-final that ended with the hosts victorious.
South Africa – again in search of a first showpiece appearance – had their foot in the home side’s throat for the most part, Faf du Plessis and AB De Villiers dragging their side to 281 from 43 overs.
The Proteas were met with the full force of a nation in the run-chase, however, and Brendon McCullum’s bat to boot as the skipper slapped 56 at a cool strike-rate of 226.
It needed Grant Elliott to play the innings of his life, however, matching the pressure of needing five runs from two balls by lifting Dale Steyn for six over mid-on and sparking wild celebrations.
England v India 2011
There doesn’t need to be a winner for a game to be a stone-cold classic and 2011’s clash between host nation India and England proves that in abundance.
Cricket can’t produce a sharper pressure than the expectation on India ahead of a World Cup campaign on home soil and an opening-night win over Bangladesh assuaged nerves.
And Bangalore was treated to the Little Master at his magical best, Sachin Tendulkar caressing his way to 120 and setting a towering 339.
Andrew Strauss, not a batsman whose technique recalls short-form pyrotechnics, led by example in compiling 158 – Graham Swann and Ajmal Shahzad shepherding their side to a thrilling tie.
India v Zimbabwe, 1983
There’s something sublime about a team romping unfettered to victory but there’s nothing that woos cricketing hearts more than a rousing recovery from batting oblivion.
India sunk to 17 for five in a top-order totter to match all others and it seemed their signal victory over reigning champions West Indies in the opening game would go to waste.
But skipper Kapil Dev smote 175 from 138 balls, somehow sending his side up to 266 and setting a stern run-chase for Zimbabwe.
Madan Lal and Dev turned the screw with the ball, earning a remarkable victory and setting the tone for a campaign that would end in India lifting the World Cup trophy at Lord’s a fortnight later.
Australia v India, 1987
With the Cricket World Cup venturing away from familiar English climes for the first time since its inception, a thrilling opening game was needed to prove India could be equally fine hosts.
But none of the thousands who packed into the ground in Madras could have envisaged just how closely matched the two nations would be.
Australia silenced the home crowd with a commanding effort with the bat, Geoff Marsh carving out 110 and asking India to chase down 270 from their 50 overs.
For every Indian wicket that fell, a commanding partnership followed in a compelling push-pull encounter but the heroics of Navjot Sidhu and Krishnamachari Srikkanth would prove in vain and a one-run loss.
Australia vs West Indies 1996
This game marked the passing of one cricketing dynasty and the birth of another as West Indies were stopped at the semi-final stage for the first time ever by Australia.
Richie Richardson, bowing out of one-day cricket at the end of the tournament, would have been rubbing his hands when Australia slumped to 15 for four.
But even as Stuart Law and Michael Bevan led a recovery to 207, West Indies looked like they had more than enough as Shivnarine Chanderpaul careered them to 165 for two.
Then came a batting collapse of epic proportions, seven wickets falling for 29 runs and the Aussies reaching their first final in nine years.
India vs Pakistan 2003
Great rivals India and Pakistan produced a superb encounter and those present in Centurion saw three phenomenon’s of the one-day game at the peak of their powers.
The first was Saeed Anwar, who flicked and forced his way to a century to keep his team in the contest by posting 273 for seven from 50 overs.
Tendulkar was, once again, at his nuggety best and produced one of his best one-day innings to guide his side to victory.
But many will remember the game for the sheer venom of Shoaib Akhtar’s bowling, dismissing Tendulkar with an absolute snorter that struck a blow for the whole of Pakistan.
India v Windies 1983
You can’t beat a low-scoring thriller and one of the classics of the genre came on the biggest stage – the Cricket World Cup final 36 years ago.
The vaunted West Indies bowling attack suffocated India with swing, seam and pace with Andy Roberts taking three for 32 from 10 overs and Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding two scalps each.
Knocking off 184 seemed an elementary task but Viv Richards’s side faltered, failing to live up to the favourites tag that saw them victorious in the first two editions of the tournament.
Madan Lal and Mohinder Amarnath were chief tormentors as the great cricketing power of the era was brought to its knees in front of 30,000 at Lord’s.
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