The countdown to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 has begun, with the mega event just a month away. And as always, the cricket pundits dig into history to eulogize the great knocks and spells. This is not just a time to test your memory, but also try your luck at winning contests. The prize for which is often a ticket to the World Cup.
Well, the free ticket is beyond my reach, but thankfully, the memory has stayed in tact. Thus today, I present you my favourite knocks in World Cup history. Unfortunately, my tryst with cricket began in the 1992 World Cup, thus, all previous editions miss out here. Not for any lack of quality or greatness, but this is purely about the best knocks that ‘I HAVE SEEN’.
Let’s roll back the years.
1. Adam Gilchrist 149 v Sri Lanka- Final, WC 2007
He played 3 World Cups, and Australia won all of them. Adam Gilchrist is often regarded as big match player, and after slamming cracking 50s in the previous two World Cup finals, Adam Gilchrist finally crossed the century mark in grand style in a rain curtailed final at Barbados, 2007.
Australia strode to 281 in 38 overs with Gilchrist slamming 149 of those, off just 104 balls. What makes this knock special is that contrary to the score, this pitch wasn’t a belter. It was just Gilchrist’s sublime stroke play that left Sri Lanka stunned. His smashed his hundred off 72 balls, (a record in a final), studded with 13 fours and 8 towering sixes. No one was spared with the great Muralitharan, going wicket less conceding 44 runs in seven overs.
Gilchrist, who’d been struggling until the final, revealed that he used a squash ball in his glove to help him grip the bat batter. And didn’t he squash the Sri Lankans. Just take out Gilchrist’s 149 and you’ll see how all other batsmen struggled in the match – a fact conceded by Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene. For purely the challenges on offer and the way he overcame them with such ease, Gilchrist”s 149 would purely rank as the finest ODI innings in a World Cup.
2. Andrew Symonds 143 * v Pakistan, Jo’burg, 2003
Now this was just the opening match for the two teams at the 2003 World Cup. But as they always say, it’s very important to start well and both teams would be happy to square off against each other at the beginning as opposed to a knock-out stage.
Barely 48 hours before arriving, the Aussies received a jolt as legendary spinner Shane Warne was sent home following a failed dope test. Unlike the previous World Cup, there was a genuine lack of experience in the Australian batting line-up with Waugh brothers losing their spots, while Michael Bevan, too, missing this game due to an injury.
Pakistan must have surely fancied their chances, after all they boasted of an attack comprising of Akram, Akhtar and Younis, supported by Afridi and Razzaq. And Pakistan had the Aussies rattled at 86 for 4, when the big, burly Andrew Symonds walked in. Critics had questioned skipper Ponting’s decision to take an inconsistent Symonds to the World Cup. So, the pressure was on from all quarters. Symonds had to make this innings count or his career would be over. He was lucky to get few reprieves early on but once he settled in, Symonds unleashed a vicious attack on the Pakistani bowlers, hammering a devastating 143 off 125 balls. From 86 for 4, Australia romped to 310, with Symonds scoring nearly half of the runs. Pakistan could never recover from the Symonds onslaught and went on to lose the match by 82 runs.
3. Sachin Tendulkar – 98 v Pak, Centurion, 2003
The only disappointing aspect of this knock was that Tendulkar fell two runs short of a century on a ground named Centurion. Tendulkar, who was the highest scorer at the 2003 World Cup, saved his best for arch rivals Pakistan, hammering a 75-ball 98, that sent their neighbours crashing out of the World Cup. Chasing a sizable target of 274, Tendulkar set the tone for the match, carting Shoaib Akhtar for a six over third man, off his very first delivery. India were mortaring along at the speed of knots, with Tendulkar taking all bowlers to task. Pulls, cuts, straight drives, drive on the up, Tendulkar displayed a wide array of strokes, shredding a strong pace attack to smithereens. He started cramping badly as he reached the 90s, Never before in his career had Tendulkar used a runner, and ironically, the moment he used one, he got out off the very next ball to an unplayable bouncer from Shoaib Akhtar. The missed century perhaps took the cherry of the cake, but Indian fans weren’t complaining for they’d witnessed vintage Tendulkar.
4. Marvan Atapattu 124 v South Africa, Durban, 03.
Having recorded wins against New Zealand and West Indies, Sri Lanka still needed to win or tie this game South Africa to progress to the next round, especially after suffering a shock defeat to minnows Kenya. The tiny African nation had already qualified for the super 6, courtesy of their win against Bangladesh, and a forfeiture by New Zealand, who had boosted its chances by scoring a thumping win over Canada.
Sri Lankan opening bat Marvan Atapattu chose this day to score a marvellous 124 off 129 balls, a classical yet imperious knock, one that was billed as the knock of the tournament. Having played steadily for the first half of his innings, Atapattu carted the likes of Pollock, Ntini & co. with a touch of elegance.
Rain reduced the South African target to 230 off 45 overs, South Africa managed 229, thinking that they’ve won the match only to later realize their folly that 229 was a par score, not a winning one. South Africa became the butt of all jokes, but take nothing away Atapattu. It would have been heart breaking for such a knock to end in a loss. In an era, where great knocks were often defined by power play, Atapattu’s touch of finesse and class came as a breath of fresh air
5. Ricky Ponting 140* v India , Final., 03 Jo’burg
Ricky Ponting had all along struggled in the 2003 World Cup, but boy, he chose the best occasion to roar back to form. India had won the toss and rightly inserted the Ozzies in on a damp wicket. Indian bowlers, led by Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, and Ashish Nehra had enjoyed great success in the tournament, but wilted under pressure, conceding 359 runs in the final. Ponting scrapped his way to 50 but soon opened his shoulders hitting 8 towering sixes and 4 fours in his 121-ball 140, In the process, he became only the second skipper after Clive Lloyd to score a ton in a World Cup final.
6.Inzamam-ul-Haq 60 v New Zealand, 1992, Auckland
Co-hosts New Zealand beat every other side convincingly in the 1992 World Cup save for Pakistan. The Asian giants, led by the talismanic Imran Khan, beat New Zealand to survive in the World Cup, and then found themselves facing the hosts in the semis. Chasing a stiff target of 265, Pakistan were struggling at 140 for 4 when, a 19-year-old Inzamam-ul-Haq walked in. He was hardly used in the tournament earlier, and failed in those matches. Thus his selection raised many brows, but the talented youngster rewarded skipper Imran Khan’s faith with a blistering 37-ball 60 that took the game away from New Zealand. What stood out in the innings was the consummate ease with which he played the New Zealand seam attack, moving to the off side and hoicking the bowlers on the . New Zealand didn’t know what had hit them, and may be Inzamam, too, didn’t realize what he had achieved. He scored a quick fire 42 in the final, which Pakistan went to win beating England.
7. Steve Waugh 120* v South Africa, Leeds, ’99
He wasn’t all that talented, but Steve Waugh was all about grit and determination. He brought all of it to the fore in a do-or-die battle against South Africa with a match-winning 120 off 110 balls in the Super Six game at Leeds, 1999. The Proteas attack comprised of Pollock, Donald, Klusener, and the effective Steve Elworthy. Chasing a daunting 272 for win, Steve Waugh walked in to the crease with Australia reeling at 48 for 3. He was dropped early on, which prompted the Ozzie skipper to tell the offender Herschelle Gibbs, ‘Son, you’ve just dropped the World Cup.”. The Australian skipper made the Proteas pay dearly for the miss, as he took his side to the semi-final with just two balls to spare.
8. Mark Waugh 110 v New Zealand, Q/F/ ’96 Chennai
For a man known to be susceptible against spin Mark Waugh exploded into the tournament with a blistering 130 against minnows Kenya. He followed that up with a ton against hosts India in Mumbai. Australia, suffered defeat at the hands of the West Indies in the last group stage game, and found themselves chasing a mammoth 290 in the quarter-finals against New Zealand, for whom Chris Harris played out of his skin to register a career-high score of 130
Those were days where any score above 250 was considered a challenging one, and a near 300-hundred score was too tall a mountain to climb. Waugh used his finesse and touch play in slamming a rapid fire 110, that helped Australia coast to the semi-finals. He failed to get going in the semis, and flopped in the final, where Australia lost to Sri Lanka. But Waugh’s heroics, both with the bat and the ball made him a star performer at the 1996 World Cup.
9. Sourav Ganguly 183 v Sri Lanka, Taunton, ’99
Often considered as a one-man team, India had found the able ally to Sachin Tendulkar with Sourav Ganguly opening the innings. Having lost to South Africa and Zimbabwe, India found themselves in a do-or-die game against defending champions Sri Lanka. India were rocked early with the dismissal of S.Ramesh in the first over. Together with Rahul Dravid, Ganguly stitched a record 317-run partnership for any wicket. The southpaw slammed 183, hitting 7 sixes and 17 fours. India had amassed their highest ODI total of 373 and the World Champions fell short by 157 runs. This was India’s first win against Sri Lanka in World Cup history, the victory tasted even sweet as India had literally knocked out the defending champions.
10. Kevin O’Brien 113 v England, Bangalore, 2011
Upsets in the World Cup are a common sight. Zimbabwe had stunned mighty Australia in their first international at the 1983 World Cup. India’s triumph over the defending champions West Indies in the final too was unexpected. Since then every World Cup has sprung a surprise.
Ireland, England’s tiny neighbour, had created a huge upset in the 2007 World Cup by knocking out Pakistan, Four years later, the Irish boys turned the tables on England, a defeat that threatened to knock the Poms out from the tournament.
Big burly Kevin O’Brien chose this moment to slam a record 50-ball century, against a strong English attach comprising of Broad, Anderson, Bresnan and offie Graeme Swann. Chasing a massive 328 to win, Ireland scraped home riding on the back of O’brien’s 63-ball 113.
The Irishmen looked down and out at 111 for 5, but Kevin O’Brien produced a vicious counter-attack flaying the English bowlers all around the park.