The biggest showpiece event in the cricketing fold — the World Cup — in its illustrious 44-year history, has thrown at us almost everything that we can aspire for our entertainment. There have been matches filled with great drama, intrigue, and emotions, blended in exact measured amounts, to leave a lasting imprint on our often-amnesic memories.
Here, we have assembled a list of top 10 encounters in World Cup history. The list, here, is in a chronological sequence and leaves it up for the readers to rank the below-mentioned games on their perceived metric of greatness.
1. Nothing like India-Pakistan rivalry, 2003
No sporting event in the world probably comes close to the intensity and emotions generated by an India-Pakistan cricket clash and if that clash is on the World Cup stage, the stakes simply skyrocket. Such a charged clash between the two arch-rivals became immortal in the history books when the two teams met in a group clash in Centurion in 2003.
A look at the scorecard will simply reflect an emphatic Indian victory by six wickets to chase down the 274-run target with 26 balls to go. What it won’t reflect are the engaging, and equally enthralling, battles within the big battle. The rubbery wrists of Saeed Anwar dominating the Indian bowling once again to post a brilliant hundred. The rip-snorting pace of Shoaib Akhtar being slashed over third-man for a six by Sachin Tendulkar, whose 75-ball 98 grounded Pakistanis into submission. Finally, Rahul Dravid (46) and Yuvraj Singh (50) coming together to thwart off all the Pakistani bids to make further inroads. The memories of these immortal battles will live on forever.
2. Vivian Richards puts up a fielding spectacle in World Cup final, 1975
The final of the first World Cup demanded some exciting drama and Australia vs West Indies final game of World Cup 1975 lived up to the expectations. Clive Lloyd, at his flamboyant best, struck a hundred off just 85 balls to power his team to a very steep 291/8 in their 60 overs. Useful contributions from Ian Chappell (60), Doug Walters (35) and Alan Turner (40) put the Australian chase on course until they took on the deadly arm of a young Vivian Richards. The West Indian ran out the Chappell brothers, Ian and Greig, along with Turner to break the backbone of the Australian chase. Ross Edwards (28), with help from Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee, tried to breathe some life into the chase but couldn’t push the Australian total beyond 274, handing a 17-run victory and the first World Cup title to West Indies.
3. Kapil Dev rules Tunbridge Wells, 1983
The 20th match of the third Prudential World Cup in Tunbridge Wells provided the watershed moment in the Indian cricket history. This was the game that defined India’s World Cup campaign in 1983. A fledgling start before the eventual glory. Zimbabwe weren’t down on talent and their victory against Australia in a group game stood testament to their abilities. India were reduced to a shambolic 17/5 as Kevin Curran and Peter Rawson wreaked havoc to send India’s top-five packing.
Enter Roger Binny to support his skipper Kapil Dev. The duo stitched together a 50-run stand before Zimbabwe dealt a double blow to help India slide further to 78/7. Another 52-run stand ensued between Kapil and Madan Lal to help India rise up to 140/8. Hopelessness was all-round the Indian team as Syed Kirmani (24*) entered the scene. Gauging that there was not much batting left, Kapil belted hit boundaries and his trademark ‘golf-swing’ sixes to produce arguably the greatest rescue act in the World Cup history. His unbeaten 126-run stand with Kirmani took India to a match-winning 266-run total. Kapil finished on 175 off 138 balls. Zimbabwe were left dazzled with the unprecedented assault as they, despite Kevin Curran’s 73, succumbed to 235 all-out. The 31-run win holds great importance because had India lost this game, it would have been really tough for them to even make it to the semi-finals, let alone a title triumph.
4. India and Australia invent the phrase ‘going down the wire’ in a World Cup first, 1987
A new 50-over format in a home World Cup and the confidence of two big wins in the past i.e. World Cup 1983 and World Championship of Cricket 1985, made India the clear favourites to win the 1987 cricketing spectacle. But they got an eye-opening jolt as early as the third game of the tournament. Geoff Marsh (110) scored a hundred as Australia notched up 268 runs. A heated response by the Australian team management during the innings break over the controversy of a six being given as a boundary, resulted in Kapil Dev showing the magnanimity of awarding the two deficit runs to the Australian total; making it 270/6. The Indian response was solid up front as Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Navjot Singh Sidhu belted 70s to put India into a commanding position until a Craig McDermott brilliance shattered the middle-order like a house of cards. India’s lower order withered away too, leaving the No 11 Maninder Singh to get the required 2 runs for victory from the last 2 balls remaining from Steve Waugh. On the next ball, Waugh aimed for the stumps while Maninder aimed for the glory shot over long-on. Maninder missed, Waugh hit the stumps to rattle the Indian hopes of a victory; by just a solitary run.
5. Gatting’s infamous reverse-sweep results in heartbreak for England, 1987
Off-the-book cricketing shots are like a double-edged sword. They can make you a hero one day but can also transform you into a villain when they don’t come off right. English captain Mike Gatting would know this adage too well as his pyrotechnics in the final cost England the World Cup trophy. Australia rode on David Boon’s patient 75, helped by a late flourish from Mike Veletta (45 off 31), to post a competitive 253/5 in the first innings. In response, England were cruising at 135/2 when Australian Captain Allan Border came on to bowl. Gatting’s instinct took over as he tried to reverse-sweep Border for a boundary behind the wickets but the ball took an edge of his willow, crashed into his shoulder and lobbed up towards the wicket-keeper Greig Dyer who, though taken aback, hung on to the catch. The English batting crumbled near the finishing line to concede a seven-run victory and first of their five World Cups to the Australians.
6. The greatest ODI game ever played? Australia vs South Africa, 1999
Seems like there is something in the soil of Birmingham which is so very used to churning out thrillers. It was here in 1975 when World Cup got its first nail-biter and 24 years after that miraculous West Indian victory, Australian brilliance and South African shabbiness scripted the greatest ODI story ever.
Australia batted first and posted 213 runs on board with half-centuries from Steve Waugh (56) and Michael Bevan (65). Shaun Pollock took five wickets while Allan Donald scalped four. It was the very same Donald who turned villain during the fag end of the South African chase. It all came down to the last over where South Africa needed just 9 runs with a well-set Lance Klusener in the company of Allan Donald in the middle. Two boundaries off the first two balls reduced the equation to just one required off four deliveries. The third ball was a dot while Klusener ran on the fourth one but Donald was late in responding, resulting in a run-out at the striker’s end. The match was tied but Australia had previously won the Super Six fixture between the two, which paved their way into the final while South Africans were left ruing their luck.
7. Murray and Roberts help West Indies prevail, 1975
It was in Birmingham where West Indies battled with Pakistan to produce the first thrilling contest at the big World Cup stage. Batting first, Mushtaq Mohammad (55), Wasim Raja (58) and skipper Majid Khan (60) scored half-centuries for Pakistan to put up a par-looking 266 on the board. After a good show by the batsmen, Sarfaraz Nawaz jolted the West Indian chase with his triple strike to leave them reeling at 36/3. Captain Clive Lloyd stood his ground and scored a valiant half-century as his teammates walked back one after the another.
Lloyd, too, departed soon after reaching his half-century, leaving wicket-keeper Deryck Murray in the company of tail-enders as the score read 151/7. Murray and Vanburn Holder stretched it up to 203 when Holder departed off Sarfaraz’s bowling to bring the last man, Andy Roberts, in. Roberts played out of his skin and hung in there with Murray for almost 14 overs to pull off a stupendous one-wicket heist in the last over. Murray top-scored with 61* while Roberts’ heroic inning produced 24* as West Indies scampered home in the humdinger.
8. Andy Bichel’s all-round show stuns England, 2003
A brilliant bowling performance. A satisfying batting effort. Both in a single match coming from a lone ranger to see his team to victory in a see-saw of a contest. Even in his rosiest dreams, Andy Bichel couldn’t have dreamt of a more complete performance for his nation and that too on the World Cup stage.
He first put on a brilliant display of pace and swing to capture seven English wickets for just 20 runs to reduce England to 205 runs in the first innings. England weren’t going down without putting up a fight and had their opponents on the floor at 48/4 which further deteriorated to 114/7. The situation got even worse at 134 when the eighth wicket fell, paving way for Bichel to showcase his batting abilities. He didn’t disappoint as he accumulated 34 golden runs during his unbeaten partnership with Michael Bevan which got the better of the English attack and snatched a two-wicket victory for Australia with two balls left in the match.
9. MS Dhoni's date with immortality, 2011
The 2011 World Cup saga was a very emotionally charged affair for the whole of India. Sachin Tendulkar had one last chance of calling it quits with the possession of the trophy which had eluded him in his illustrious career. India were face-to-face with Sri Lanka for the final showdown and Mahela Jayawardene struck an 88-ball 103 to take his team to a daunting 274/6. India had a shambolic start to their chase as Lasith Malinga nipped out Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar early to leave the hosts at 31/2. Virat Kohli, with Gautam Gambhir, took it to 114 when the Indian captain MS Dhoni walked out to bat.
There were half-singles taken, doubles were run with ferocious intent and regular boundaries dotted the Indian chase-graph. Dhoni’s 91 off 79 balls made it all too easy for India in the end with him hitting Nuwan Kulasekara for that immortal six over long-on to finish it up in style with 10 balls to spare. The victory ended a 28-year wait of the whole nation and served as the most revered feather in the already illustrious hat of Sachin Tendulkar.
10. Another South African heartbreak, 2015
The picture of South African cricketers down on their hunches, heads in hands, trying to wipe off the uncontrollable tears was the most emotional moment of the last World Cup. Those tears were a result of a heart-breaking loss on the penultimate ball of the match which had kicked them out of an ICC event yet again. Faf du Plessis (82), AB de Villiers (65*) and David Miller (49 from 18 balls) catapulted their team to 281/5 from 43 overs as the rain played hide and seek on that fateful day.
New Zealand were given a readjusted target of 298 runs with the help of DLS method. The Kiwi chase was in tatters at 149/4 when a determined Grant Elliot decided to take charge of the proceedings. Elliot made 84* from 73 balls and was very well supported by Corey Anderson’s 58 as the duo helped their team near the finishing line. But a double-strike of Anderson and Luke Ronchi meant Elliot was left to deal with Dale Steyn to win the match for his team. He stood up to the task and took New Zealand to their first-ever World Cup final.