The XI most memorable Cricket World Cup moments of all time

agnilam

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  • Feb 14, 2011
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    1. John Davison. In 2003, most good judges still considered the West Indies a more formidable cricketing power than Canada, and so it proved when Carl Hooper’s side cruised to a seven-wicket victory with a stunning 177 balls to spare.

    It was a standard big-boys-beat-up-minnows World Cup encounter, with one difference: in Canada’s innings, John Davison – hitherto notable as a completely un-notable South Australian offie, grabbing a chance at international representation and ending up opening the batting for the Canucks – went completely berserk in one of the most unforeseen centuries ever scored. He swiped the Windies attack for 111 runs off 76 balls, reaching his hundred off 67.

    Surpassing his previous highest ODI score by 80 runs, Davison also picked up the record for highest score by a Canadian, and was part of new Canadian records for both the first and second wicket partnerships.

    The final result was predictable as predictable can be, but for 76 balls the man who would go on to become, for some reason, Australia’s spin bowling coach, brought glory and hope to outgunned underdogs everywhere, and showed that results aside, the tournament would be much poorer without the opportunity for flashes of minnow might like this.


    2. Sunil Gavaskar. It’s not uncommon for Sunny Gavaskar to be named in all-time XIs, but on this occasion he’s been named in honour of his part in making the first ever World Cup match one of the most ridiculous games of cricket ever.

    In 1975, when limited-over cricket was still a frisky colt of a format, the first World Cup kicked off with England racking up 334-4, off the back of a big hundred from John Jameson and some lust late hitting by Chris Old.

    Back then games were 60 overs a side, meaning India were chasing what, by today’s standards, was a positively sedate 5.56 runs an over. But at the time the idea of running down a 300-plus total was not only daunting, but in Sunny’s eyes, an absurd impossibility.

    Gavaskar must have believed England achieved their score through witchcraft, as he promptly decided that 335 in 60 overs wasn’t even worth attempting, and proceeded to have pleasant day’s batting practice. At the end of India’s 60 overs, the great man had 36 off 174 balls, his team had managed 132-3 at a rate of 2.20 an over, and the Lord’s crowd presumably went home wondering what the hell they’d just watched.


    3. Kevin O’Brien. Andrew Strauss probably wished Ireland had taken on a bit of Sunny’ spirit of ’75 when, in 2011, a powerful England side pummelled the lowly shamrocks to reach 327, Pietersen, Bell and Trott all chipping in for their share of the belting.

    Ireland, the valiant triers of the Associate world, then set out to try to make their inevitable defeat as honourable as possible. Even that seemed unlikely when William Porterfield dragged Jimmy Anderson’s first ball into his stumps.

    One down for none, and though the plucky lads in green kept on battling, wickets fell regularly. At 5-111, it was time for the last rites. And then the flame-haired Kevin O’Brien started hitting. And kept hitting. And kept hitting.

    England’s bowlers, suddenly bereft of ideas as to how to either take a wicket or stop the ball hurtling to the rope, became more and more frantic, as O’Brien and Alex Cusack larruped them for 162 off 103 balls. After Cusack was run out, O’Brien, playing an innings that schoolboys would reject from their daydreams for its lack of plausibility, kept on swinging, putting an attack containing Broad, Bresnan, Anderson and Swann to a gleaming green sword.

    He reached 100 off 50 balls, and though he was run out shortly before the end, he had already ensured one of the greatest upsets of all time, and left eleven Englishmen gazing blankly into space, unsure of their place in the universe.

    4. Allan Border. Border gains a place as a nod to the notion of destiny. There could be nothing more romantic than the notion of the great batsman, placed in charge of a fractured rabble of easybeats, forced to curb his own game to play the role of permanent rearguard, playing lone hand after lone hand in vain as his team subsided to humiliation after humiliation, rebuilding, gathering around him an eager pack of green whipper-snappers, starting out on the long hard road back to respectability, and suddenly, out of the blue, leading his unheralded youngsters to the top of the world.

    Well, almost nothing more romantic – on the cupcake of courage and redemption that was Australia’s 1987 World Cup triumph, the crowning cherry was Border’s own doddly left-arm finger-spinners, introduced just at that point when the final was sliding out of the Aussies’ grip.

    Somehow those seemingly innocuous tweakers managed to induce Eden Gardens madness in Mike Gatting, whose reverse sweep lobbed gently into the keeper’s gloves. AB followed up with Paul Downton’s wicket, England stuttered their way to a seven-run defeat, and Border hoisted the cup, smiling into the light at the end of the tunnel.


    5. Jonty Rhodes. The 1992 World Cup was notable for many things: Pakistan’s against-the-odds victory, the nimble captaincy of Martin Crowe, Botham’s last hurrah. And there was South Africa, who played in the Cup for the first time and surprised many with their performances up until they were denied entry to the final by an insane adjusted target formula.

    If any one play epitomised the heart, gusto and boundless enthusiasm with which the South Africans attacked their task, it was Jonty Rhodes, infielder extraordinaire, scooping up a ball that had trickled off Inzamam-ul-haq’s pad, aiming carefully, and as Inzy turned and lumbered back towards the crease, deciding that throwing the stumps down was for suckers.

    Jonty instead transformed himself into a human missile, his entire body hurtling headlong into, and through, the wicket, running out the big Pakistani in the most spectacular way possible.


    6. Duncan Fletcher. The youth of today probably think all Australians hate Duncan Fletcher only because of the 2005 Ashes.9

    They don’t realise that 22 years before he masterminded Australia’s downfall and broke Ricky Ponting’s spirit with his cunning sub-fielder strategy, we already had good reason to curse his name: it was Fletcher who brought about possibly the most embarrassing debacle of Kim Hughes’s debacle-heavy captaincy – Zimbabwe’s historic victory at Nottingham in 1983.

    Captaining the African minnows, Fletcher began with a rescue mission, hitting 69 not out against the fearsome likes of Lillee, Thomson, Lawson and Hogg to take Zimbabwe from a precarious 5-94 to a respectable 7-239. He then made sure the unhappiness of the once-mighty Aussies was complete, his medium swingers taking out Wood, Hughes, Hookes and Yallop to break the back of the Australian batting and send them crashing to a stunning 13-run loss.

    Not yet a Test nation, it was Zimbabwe’s greatest moment to that time.

    7. Adam Gilchrist. This is an incredibly obvious choice – if you’re picking a wicketkeeper in a World Cup team, it’s going to be either Gilchrist or Dhoni, the strikers of match-winning knocks in the last two finals.

    But Gilchrist deserves his spot not for his spectacular, squash ball-assisted century in 2007, but for his performance in the 2003 semi-final against Sri Lanka, which was far more remarkable than any mundane hundred. In fact it might have been the most extraordinary moment in the history of the World Cup – the moment when an Australian batsman, a place in the Cup final on the line, snicked a ball to the keeper, was given not out… and walked off anyway.

    Gilly will be remembered for his hurricane hitting in three World Cup victories, and was the man to complete that immortal run-out in 1999 – but nothing he did in a World Cup was ever as surprising as the sudden attack of sportsmanship in a high-pressure situation, that displeased his captain but gained him everlasting respect.


    8. Lance Klusener. The World Cup has no more fabled match than the 1999 semi-final, in which nobody won, but one team jumped for joy and the other slumped in despair.

    Australia, down and out early in the tournament, went on a brilliant winning streak, inspired by the heroism of skipper Steve Waugh, and in the semi-final, Warne’s typically Warne-like spell tore the heart of the Proteas’ top order, until, with scores level, Mark Waugh flicked the ball to Damien Fleming, who underarmed with meticulous care down to the striker’s end to Adam Gilchrist, who broke the stumps and secured the tie that was all the green and golds needed to progress. Australia went into raptures, and the deeds of Waugh and Warne rightly went down in history.

    But it’s worth remembering Klusener, one of cricket’s great batting tornadoes, who came in when all seemed lost, and by all rights should have won that game for his country. He entered at 6-175, and hammered 32 off 16 balls, out of 38 scored while he was at the crease, smearing Australia’s bowlers around the park even as his countrymen toppled. Entering the last over, nine runs were needed. He crunched the first ball for four. He belted the second ball for four. And if only Allan Donald had run on the fourth ball – or if Klusener had remembered there were still two balls to get one run and there was no need to risk it – he’d have been a national hero.

    His brutal dash for victory deserved a better end.


    9. Dwayne Leverock. Leverock’s nickname was Sluggo, and nobody ever needed to ask why. A left-arm spinner shaped like a space hopper and plying his trade for Bermuda, there never was a more unlikely World Cup hero.

    But in 2007, for one brief shining moment, Leverock bestrode the cricketing world like a colossus. At Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, the hopelessly outmatched Bermudans faced up to the powerful Indians. A massacre was expected – and in fact, happened.
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    But first… the seventh ball of the innings, from Malachi Jones, hit a length outside Robin Uthappa’s off stump. Uthappa poked indecisively. The ball caught the edge and flew away towards third man, well wide of the hefty Leverock at slip.

    And yet… as the ball flew, something quite outrageous happened. Defying expectation, appearances and the laws of physics, Dwayne Leverock – looking like Warwick Armstrong without the muscle definition – took off. His feet left the ground.

    He lunged, he dived, he swooped like an over-inflated pigeon, and at full stretch, he plucked the ball cleanly from the air, in one hand. Uthappa gaped, but the crowd roared fit to split the heavens as the Bermudans celebrated as if the World Cup was theirs, and Sluggo Leverock took off on a sprinting victory lap that was almost as unlikely as the catch itself.



    10. Lasith Malinga. There are noble defeats. There are gallant last stands. There are great bowling spells. And there is Lasith Malinga versus South Africa in 2007. Sri Lanka had made a mediocre 209, and defended it in fairly lacklustre fashion – Malinga in particular had failed to make any impression on South Africa’s chase.

    At 206-5, with 32 balls remaining, four runs to win, and five wickets in hand, it was the very definition of “cruising”. With the game utterly out of reach, Malinga ran in and slung down a slower ball that Shaun Pollock failed to pick. It knocked back leg stump.

    A consolation wicket right at the end, something to give the fans a bit of a thrill.

    Next ball was speared in at Andrew Hall’s toes. Hall dug it out, but dug it up, a gentle dolly for cover to take. 206-7, and something of a speed bump.

    End of over, and the next cost one, before Malinga steamed in for his hat-trick ball. It fizzed down, full and fast, outside Jacques Kallis’s off stump. Kallis, on 86, played the drive that would bring the winning runs, and nicked it to the keeper.

    Malinga had his hat-trick, and Sri Lanka had something to celebrate and a sneaking glimpse of hope.

    Next ball was a Malinga special, a scorching yorker, delivered to Makhaya Ntini, a man poorly-equipped to deal with first-ball thunderbolts. Middle stump. Malinga had four in four, and with three runs still to get, South Africa were suddenly underdogs.

    It seems both unjust to Malinga, and decidedly unromantic, that the last pair defied Malinga’s manifest destiny and somehow scrambled those last few. Not a match-winning performance, but World Cup history has never seen four more magical balls
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    11. Andy Bichel. The golden age of Australian cricket between 1993 and 2008 saw many unlucky players denied the recognition their talents deserved due to the legends ahead of them in the queue, but few were as unlucky s Andy Bichel, who was 12th man as often as he played, but never let frustration stop him from hurling himself into the fray with indefatigable energy when he got the chance.

    He was a bit player in a great era, but on one perfect day, he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and, with more storied teammates faltering, snatched a marvellous victory almost on his own. At Port Elizabeth in 2003, England’s openers cruised merrily to 0-66 inside ten overs, taking heavy toll of Lee and McGrath as they headed for a big total.

    Bichel then stepped in at first change, ripping out Knight, Vaughan, Hussain and Collingwood in a sensational burst that saw the Poms subside to 5-87. When Stewart and Flintoff staged a recovery, Bichel returned to knock down both of them and see the old enemy post a rather ordinary 8-204.

    Bichel had seven out of eight wickets, in all 7-20 off ten overs in an innings when McGrath went for four and a half, and Lee for six and a half an over.

    The target was eminently achievable, but disaster struck a superstar-infested Aussie batting lineup, the situation almost hopeless at 8-135 when Bichel joined the ever-reliable Michael Bevan. The England attack was on fire, but having sliced through their batsmen on his own, Bichel was quite determined that nobody would take away the victory that he had earned.

    He cracked 34 off 36, Bevan did what Bevan almost always did, and a ninth wicket partnership of 73 saw them home in the final over. In a career that had fewer highlights than the man deserved, this was at least one day when Andy Bichel was master of all he surveyed.
     
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