7 greatest twists in World Cup history

A game which has many twists and turns and ‘goes down to the wire’, as Ravi Shastri puts it, is the ideal game for a spectator. People just love to watch close encounters, and it doesn’t matter whether it is their own team and players facing the heat in the middle. The greatest clashes in the history of the game will have a large number of these closely fought encounters because they give the most amount of joy to the watchers. It is also because of this reason that Twenty20 (T20) cricket has come to be so popular because the game changes in a matter of minutes and it is closely fought more often than not.When there is a World Cup encounter that goes right till the very end, its significance and popularity increases all the more. The stakes are higher than everything else, and only teams which are able to keep their nerve better end up being victorious.On the back of New Zealand’s thrilling one-wicket win over co-hosts Australia in a Pool A clash of the World Cup last week which saw several twists and turns, here are 7 matches with the greatest twists in World Cup history:

#7 South Africa vs England, Sydney, 1992

One of the semi-finals of the 1992 World Cup was played between England and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). England batted first and put on 252 with the help of top-scorer Graeme Hick, who scored 83. Alec Stewart and Neil Fairbrother partnered him for the 3rd and the 4th wicket. He fell when the score was 187, after which the lower middle order added some runs to take the score past 250.

The chase was going haywire until Jonty Rhodes rescued it with a 38-ball 43. Play was stopped when South Africa needed 22 off 13 balls, with Brian McMillan and David Richardson at the crease. What the new rules regarding rain said was that any overs lost would reduce the target in proportion to the lowest run-yielding overs of the side batting first, as opposed to reducing the target according to the run-rate of the side batting first.

This rule, however, did not fit well in the circumstances. With 2.1 overs left in the game, rain interrupted play for 12 minutes, which meant 2 overs were lost. And since South Africa had bowled 2 maidens to England, those two were counted and the target was not slashed at all while the balls were reduced to just the one. McMillan took a single off it, as the crowd looked on in utter disbelief. The two batters walked off bringing an end to South Africa’s inaugural World Cup.

#6 England vs Australia, Port Elizabeth, 2003

This game had several changes of fortune, and there were many instances where both could have won it. It was Australia that managed to come out winners in a low-scoring game that was played at Port Elizabeth. A striking feature of the game was that both innings were unbelievably similar, and Australia just managed to steer ahead of the England total with 2 balls and 2 wickets to spare.

Andy Bichel proved to be the undoing of the English. He was there hitting the winning runs for Australia, and he was the one who started the downfall of the English innings after Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee were proving to be ineffective against the English openers, who got the innings off to a flier. He started with the wickets of Nick Knight, Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain, dismissing the latter two cheaply in just one over. He got Paul Collingwood caught behind some overs later, and the score now read 87/5, when at one stage they were cruising at 66/0.

Andrew Flintoff and Alec Stewart did add 90 runs in the middle, but Bichel once again came back to claim their wickets in the space of 3 runs before dismissing Ashley Giles too. He had taken 7 of the 8 wickets to fall in the English innings, and was tipped to be the hero of the game. What the fans did not see coming was his invaluable contribution that was required later in the day as well.

Australia lost wickets early before Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan pulled off something of a resurrection. Bevan remained not out, surviving scares at the non-striker’s end as he saw Lehmann falling, followed by Andrew Symonds, Brad Hogg and Brett Lee. It was 135/8 in the 38th over when Bichel walked in and played a sensible 34 off 36 balls to get Australia over the line.

The choice of the 49th over when 14 were needed was a big gamble, with James Anderson, who had gone for runs, being preferred to the experienced Andy Caddick. Bichel drove the 2nd and 3rd balls of the over for a six and four respectively to seal the match, and also hit the winning four off Flintoff in the final over to give Australia a famous win and shock the English.

#5 South Africa vs Sri Lanka, Durban, 2003

In a rain-affected game at Durban that ended in a tie, it was not easy to say which side deserved to win. Except a majority of Sri Lanka’s batsmen, everyone’s contribution was seen and had a say in the match. Nobody dominated the game as such, except Marvan Atapattu who scored a brilliant hundred before getting out in the 45th over.

Aravinda de Silva partnered him for a better part of his innings, and both of them took Sri Lanka from 90/3 to 242, before both of them were dismissed in a space of 3 deliveries and wickets started falling in a heap. De Silva also caused damage with the ball and got Graeme Smith and Gary Kirsten out during their revised run chase.

Sri Lanka looked good for at least 30 more than what they ended up scoring before Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock cleaned up the lower middle order. The Proteas started off their chase well and put up 65 runs for the opening stand before Smith fell prey to de Silva. They never looked in real trouble, and only after Herschelle Gibbs was clean bowled by Muttiah Muralitharan in the 29th over after scoring a masterful 77 that Sri Lanka started fancying their chances.

Boeta Dippenaar was wrapped on the pads by Sanath Jayasuriya, who picked up his second of the night, one delivery later. It looked like Sri Lanka had staged a comeback, with two new batsmen at the crease. But Pollock partnered wicketkeeper Mark Boucher well in a 63 run stand, scoring a handy 25 himself before getting run out in a game that once again became alive. Lance Klusener, who walked in next, scored just the lone run from the 8 balls that he faced.

The weather became worse, and it was told to the batsmen that they needed to get to 229 at the end of the 45th over to be on the safe side in case the match was called off. Boucher made sure they reached there and defended the last ball. It turned out that the message had been delivered erroneously, and 230 was needed for a win and for South Africa to progress in the tournament. It was no less than a nightmare for skipper Pollock, whose side had just been eliminated before the Super Sixes even began, all because a message was delivered incorrectly.

#4 India vs Zimbabwe, Leicester, 1999

This was a game that saw some bizarre things happening. India gave away 51 extras while bowling, were fined 4 overs in the chase for slow over rate, and were finally unable to chase 252 after being 155/3 at one stage with well-settled batsmen Sadagoppan Ramesh and Ajay Jadeja at the crease. Sachin Tendulkar had gone home to attend his father’s funeral, and he was dearly missed in this game.

The Flower brothers were the architects of the win. Andy stayed till the end, stringing partnerships with whoever walked in, the notable ones being the 5th-wicket stand of 60 with Alistair Campbell, and the 4th-wicket stand of 57 with his brother. He was the highest run-getter of the game with 68 against his name.

The only notable partnership that the Indians were able to string together was the one for the 4th wicket, where Ramesh and Jadeja added 99 after Heath Streak caused some damage to the top order to get the wickets of Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Azharuddin before they could score much. Things were going fine until Ramesh fell to Grant Flower, and Jadeja was done in 20 runs later by Streak who picked up his third. The score was now 174/5, and things looked bleak for the Indians.

Ajit Agarkar came and went shortly after, following which Robin Singh and Nayan Mongia took the score past 200. Mongia fell in the 41st, after which the Indians edged still closer with Javagal Srinath and Mongia adding 27 for the 8th wicket to bring India within 7 runs of victory with more than 5 overs left to play.

Henry Olonga, who hadn’t picked up a wicket yet, wreaked havoc in the 45th over of the innings. He got Robin caught at the hands of skipper Campbell off the 2nd ball, hit Srinath’s stumps 3 balls later, and had Venkatesh Prasad trapped leg before off the last delivery of the over and the game. The Zimbabweans had won their second game in a row, while the Indians had lost both of their games now. It was a dismal start to their tournament which later became a little better.

#3 South Africa vs Sri Lanka, Guyana, 2007

Chasing 209, any team would feel comfortable when they are 206/5 with more than 5 overs left to play. The South Africans would have felt that way too, except that Lasith Malinga had other plans. In an astounding display of fast bowling, he took 4 wickets in 4 balls, a feat no bowler had achieved before. This Super-Eights encounter played at Guyana kept the spectators on their toes till the last moment until an edge from Robin Peterson raced to the fence to give South Africa the match. This time also, Malinga was the bowler.

Sri Lanka were never really in the game to be fair, except for those tense moments at the end. It was South Africa all along, and one could say that they deserved the victory. Charl Langeveldt took five wickets for them, and was responsible for the early strikes and also cleaning the lower order. The Lankans never got any big partnerships going apart from the one for the 6th wicket where Tillakaratne Dilshan and Russel Arnold, each of whom got a fifty, added 97 in 21 overs. It looked too little too late. Until Malinga’s spell.

The wily customer first got the wickets of Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall in the 45th over, and then came back to get Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini off the first two balls of the 47th. It looked all but over for South Africa then, but a nervous Ntini, who had taken two wickets earlier with the ball, was able to survive the brutal fast bowling before South Africa sailed home two overs later.

The South Africans were propelled by Graeme Smith and Kallis. While Smith was there for the first hundred runs along with Kallis, the all-rounder carried on and almost took his team home before he was foxed by Malinga and ended up being caught behind 3 runs short of the total. He was top-scorer with 86 that included just 4 boundaries. But this game proved to be that of the bowlers, which was further emphasized when Langeveldt and Malinga jointly got the Man of the Match award.

#2 India vs England, Bangalore, 2011

This is another game which has gone down in history as one of the best ever. It ended in a tie, which was fair enough as those who saw the game would agree. Sachin helped India post a mammoth total of 338 with another of his ODI centuries while Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir also contributed by scoring fifties. England skipper Andrew Strauss, though, countered Sachin’s innings by producing an even better hundred – a total of 158 in 145 balls with 18 fours and a six.

When he got out, India had already started to claw their way back in for the first time in the innings. Ian Bell was the first to leave after a partnership of 170 for the 3rd wicket after scoring a handy 69. Strauss was caught leg before the very next ball as Zaheer Khan picked two in two to awaken hopes and also the Bangalore crowd. He bowled Paul Collingwood in his next over, and when Harbhajan Singh dismissed Matt Prior with the score now reading 289/6 in the 46th over, it looked as though the Indians had pulled off the unthinkable.

But the English did show some resistance from then on. With Michael Yardy giving a simple catch to Sehwag, and still 32 needed from 15 with just 3 wickets left, it looked all but over for them. When Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan hit sixes off the 49th over bowled by Piyush Chawla, the momentum shifted once again. Chawla bounced back, however, to shatter Bresnan’s stumps on the final delivery.

With 14 to win off the last over, No. 10 Ajmal Shahzad dispatched the third delivery of the Munaf Patel over out of the ground. Now 5 were needed from 3. But all they could manage was a bye, a double and a single off the last ball. Strauss was all smiles in the dressing room, applauding the efforts of his tailenders and the fact that his own effort did not go waste. MS Dhoni, who is not very expressive as it is, walked off with the team as if it was the innings break.

#1 Australia vs South Africa, Edgbaston, 1999

Known as the greatest ODI ever played, this game at Edgbaston had everything a cricket fan could have asked for – quality bowling and batting from both sides, drama, run-outs, swings of fortune – you name it.

South Africa were clearly the dominant side in the first half, with Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock running through the Australian line-up with 4 and 5 wickets, respectively. What South Africa could not have anticipated was that Australia would come up with an even better bowling performance in the upcoming half, and some tight fielding which would produce 3 run-outs to restrict them to as much as the Aussies scored (213) and shatter their hopes of making the final.

Shane Warne produced two magical deliveries which pitched outside the leg stump and clipped off – foxing Herschelle Gibbs and then Gary Kirsten. He got Hansie Cronje out soon after, and brought life back into the match which was heading South Africa’s way. Jonty Rhodes and Jacques Kallis took charge for a recovery, much like Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan did for the Aussies. They added 83 for the 5th wicket to take the score to 145, and things began looking up for them. Kallis and Shaun Pollock continued from there, but it was once again Australia’s game when Warne got rid of Kallis and Pollock was bowled by Damien Fleming in the 45th and 46th overs respectively.

The Proteas still had Lance Klusener and Mark Boucher to take them home. Boucher danced down the track to Glenn McGrath bowling the 49th over but could not shield his stumps. Now 18 were needed from 10 balls. Two deliveries later, Steve Elworthy fell short of his ground in completing a run that wasn’t there to start with – Paul Reiffel produced a brilliant throw from the boundary which first hit McGrath’s hand and then ricocheted onto the stumps, as TV replays confirmed.

With 16 needed from 8 and the last pair in the middle, Klusener struck a full toss to the long-on boundary where Reiffel got a hand to it, only to send it over for a six. It was game over had the ball stuck. The 3rd umpire was summoned once again to confirm. With a single off the last ball, Klusener retained strike for the final over from Fleming with 9 needed.

To douse all Australian hopes, Klusener clubbed the first two deliveries to the cover boundary and the scores were tied. The Proteas dressing room was still not celebrating, but the stands had erupted. The drama was still far from over, though. A missed throw from Darren Lehmann at mid-on which almost caught non-striker Donald way out of his crease did not help the South African cause. As it were to happen, Donald was over-cautious to run off the next delivery where there was actually a run and stayed rooted to his crease. Klusener, meanwhile, had come to Donald’s end as well, and all it took for the Aussies was a throw from Mark Waugh to Fleming who passed it to Gilchrist who finally dismantled the stumps as the men in yellow rushed in and erupted in celebration. Klusener remained not out, 31.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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