Kapil Dev’s 175* against Zimbabwe in 1983 will topline any such list in India, but that’s a standalone story in itself. That said and homage paid to that great knock, there have been many other mouthwatering contests in the World Cup. Here’s a pick of 10.
South Africa vs Australia
1999 semifinal, Edgbaston, England
South Africa had to chase down 213 to book a place in the final. First, Shane Warne happened, then the stutter, and, finally, nerves.
Before that, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan had battled a rampaging Shaun Pollock (5/36) and Allan Donald (4/32) to take Australia past 200, from a precarious 68 for 4.
South Africa began on a positive note, reaching 48 for no loss. Then Warne made his play, bowling Gibbs and pumping up his team with a primal and lingering “Come On”.
He dismissed the other opener, Gary Kirsten, with the South African score at 53. Proteas skipper Hansie Cronje fell for 0 at the same team total, to the same bowler.
Bevan ran out Daryll Cullinan and South Africa were at a slippery 61 for 4.
Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes rebuilt the innings. South Africa needed 70 off the last 10 overs with 6 wickets in hand.
Glenn McGrath, Damien Fleming and Paul Reiffel started putting the squeeze. Warne prised out Kallis and Reiffel dismissed Rhodes. Pollock blasted 20 off 14 balls before being cleaned up by Fleming. McGrath rattled the dangerous Boucher’s stumps.
South Africa stood at 205/9 at the end of the 49th over, needing 9 runs with Lance Klusener and Allan Donald at the crease.
‘Zulu’ Klusener, who had set the World Cup alight with fearsome hitting, smacked boundaries off the first 2 balls off Fleming. The scores were level.
Aussie skipper Waugh brought up the field. Klusener went for a big one on the third ball but the shot found Darren Lehmann. Donald set off for a single but Klusener sent him back. A direct hit would have seen the end of Donald, but Lehmann missed.
Klusener dug out the next one, a yorker, a bit wide outside off stump, and the ball trickled past the bowler. As mid-off Mark Waugh swooped in, Klusener set off for a winning single. This time it was Donald who seemed unaware of the existent run. As soon as he realised his folly, he ran.
By the time Donald took off, Klusener was next to him. The bat fell from Donald’s grip as he turned (he was trying to get back into the crease) and ran. Waugh flicked the ball acrobatically to Fleming, who rolled it to Gilchrist. The Aussie keeper took off the bails. Klusener kept running to the dressing room, glancing back once briefly.
Tied! Australia advanced to the finals due to a higher finish in the Super Six stage.
Australia vs Zimbabwe
1983 group match, Trent Bridge, England
Zimbabwe won by 13 runs
Zimbabwe had won an ICC Trophy in 1982 to book a berth in the World Cup, where they were clubbed in a group featuring West Indies, India and Australia.
Zimbabwe played their 1st group match against Australia.
This was the first World Cup upset. After the match, Australian captain Kim Hughes said his side had been completely outplayed.
Put in to bat, Zimbabwe found themselves reeling at 94 for five. Dunchan Fletcher, the Zimbabwe skipper (India’s coach now) took the attack to the Aussies and hammered a 84-ball 69*. Zimbabwe managed to set a target of 240 in 60 overs.
Fletcher then rolled his arm over to return figures of 4 for 42 from 11 overs. Zimbabwe fielded as if their lives depended on it.
The big guns were not bowled out, but they could not break the shackles and ended 226/7. That day, the world-beaters that they would eventually become, fell short by 13 runs, with wickets in the bank.
England vs Australia
2003 Group Match, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Australia won by two wickets
Australia’s perennial 12th man Andy Bichel saved his team the blushes with his all-round performance.
This encounter between England and Australia produced only 412 runs, but still went down to the wire. Bichel picked up 7 for 20 to restrict England to 204. Cameos from Alec Stewart and Andrew Flintoff took England to 204.
Australia made a mess of the chase and collapsed to 135 for 8. Australia’s finisher Michael Bevan was running out of partners. Out came Bichel and smashed a 36-ball 34.
The B&B show took Australia past the finish line with 2 balls to spare.
Australia vs West Indies
1975 Final, Lord’s, England
West Indies won by 17 runs
Australia and West Indies took part in a fierce and enthralling contest to lay claim to the first World Cup. Not only did this game witness a fine display of cricketing skills, it even had moments which had the audience in splits.
Riding on captain Clive Lloyd’s 102*, West Indies reached 291 in the stipulated 60 overs. The Australian pace trio of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Gary Gilmour came out all guns blazing, but Lloyd and Rohan Kanhai stood tall and strong.
Australia’s chase got done in by run outs, with five of their batsman being dismissed that way. A young and irrepressible Vivian Richards effected three of them.
Lillee and Thomson added 41 brisk runs for the last wicket but fell 18 runs short of the target. Not only did Lillee and Thompson make the ball fly around the park, they also did not hold back while dishing out cusses.
ODI cricket had made a mark and Kerry Packer was lurking around the corner.
India vs Pakistan
2003 group match, Centurion, South Africa
India won by 6 wickets
India versus Pakistan is one of the most ferocious rivalries in the sports arena. If technology could tap into the energy of the players, the crowd at the ground and the millions watching it on TV, it could light up all the houses and power reactors in both countries, at least that day.
When the World Cup is the stage, the encounter acquires an edge more fierce than what even the most advanced razors can produce.
Pakistan rode on the brilliant Saeed Anwar’s century to set India a target of 274. India had never successfully chased more than 222 in a World Cup match.
Sachin Tendulkar took on the Pakistani pace battery. He played drives off Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis while saving the pulls and hoicks for Shoaib Akhtar.
‘Rawalpindi Express’ Akhtar was marked out for special treatment. Tendulkar narrowly missed out on a century and was dismissed for 98 for 75 balls. Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid took India to victory with 26 balls to spare.
Sri Lanka vs South Africa
2003 group match, Durban, South Africa
Match tied (D/L method)
Being eliminated in the previous World Cup after their tied semifinal against Australia was hurting. It happened again.
South Africa needed a win to advance to the Super Sixes. Sri Lanka won the toss and batted. A century from Marvan Attapatu and 73 from ‘Mad Max’ Aravinda de Silva helped their team reach 268.
As storm clouds hovered over Durban, the hosts knew that they had to keep abreast with Duckworth-Lewis (D/L) targets in case the match ended prematurely.
When rain halted play after the 45th over, South Africa had reached 229 with Mark Boucher and Lance Klusener (Zulu again!) on the crease.
The batsmen and home crowd started celebrating as they thought they had met the D/L target. The total, however, required was 230. The Proteas were one run short. No further play was possible and the match ended in a tie, ending South Africa’s World Cup dreams for a second successive tournament.
Australia v England
1987 final, Calcutta, India
Australia won by 7 runs
This was the closest finish in a World Cup final. Australia were coming together as a unit after the Kim Hughes era under the fiercely competitive and beard-scratching Allan Border. England had taken down India in the semifinal. Inevitably, Australia were the home side.
David Boon scored 75 to ensure that Australia posted a competitive 253. England seemed to be on the right track at 135 for two after 31 overs.
This was when Mike Gatting, the England captain, suffered a brain freeze. He played a reverse sweep off Border, only to be caught behind.
Australia capitalised and restricted England to 246/ 8.
India v England
2011 group match, Bangalore, India
A total of 676 were scored, 18 wickets taken, but no result.
India smashed England bowlers to score an imposing 338. Sachin Tendulkar scored 120, while Gambhir and Yuvraj racked up fifties.
The total would have been enough had it not been for Andrew Strauss. He made a mockery of the total and England seemed to be cruising at 280 for 2 after 43 overs.
An in-swinging Zaheer Khan delivery brought the Chinnaswamy crowd back to life as it struck Strauss plumb in front. England then suffered a mini-collapse, and needed 29 off the last two overs. Cameos from Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann ensured that England equalled India’s total.
England vs Zimbabwe
1992 Group Match, Albury, Australia
Zimbabwe won by nine runs
England, one of the favourites for the Cup, had to score a paltry 135 to win. Their batting line-up was: Gooch. Botham. Lamb. Smith. Hick. Fairbrother. Stewart.
Graham Gooch was dismissed off the first ball of the innings and what followed was harakiri. Zimbabwean bowlers stuck to a disciplined line, while the Englishmen kept throwing their wickets at regular intervals. At 43 for 5, Stewart joined Fairbrother for the biggest stand of the match, a painfully slow 52 in 24 overs.
Fairbrother, still suffering from a stomach infection, batted for more than two hours without reaching the boundary. England narrowly ran out of wickets in the last over.
Zimbabwe earned their first points of the competition and their first win after 18 defeats since beating Australia on their World Cup debut in 1983.
Ireland v Zimbabwe
2007 Group match, Sabina Park, West Indies
Ireland were playing their first World Cup match and the battle of minnows turned out to be a fiercely contested one.
Ireland scored 221 riding on Australia-born left-hander Jeremy Bray’s century. The second highest score in the innings was 28 from Andrew White.
Vusi Sibanda got Zimbabwe off to a flying start and they reached 2 for 92. The scenario turned upside down in less than an hour and Zimbabwe found themselves teetering at 133 for 5.
Stuart Matsikenyeri staged a fightback and Zimbabwe seemed set to win, needing 19 runs off 39 balls with five wickets in hand.
Ireland’s tight efforts on the field paid off and they effected 3 run outs in the final two overs. Nerves did Zimbabwe in, as Matsikenyeri scored a heroic 73*.
Luck of the Irish or beginner’s luck, call it what you may, this was Ireland’s day.