Match 1: Afghanistan v Sri Lanka
That Sri Lanka managed beat Afghanistan by four wickets at the University Oval in Dunedin on February 22 was largely because of Mahela Jayawardene’s typically classy 100 and his fifth-wicket partnership of 126 with Angelo Mathews in a chase of 233. Mathews joined Jayawardene at 51 for 4 in 12 overs, and rebuilt steadily.
Afghanistan, however did not give up. Mathews was run-out for 44 in the 41st over and Hamid Hassan had Jayawardene caught at third-man in the very next over for his third wicket. However, Sri Lanka’s experience won through, with Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera, who made an unbeaten 26-ball 47, taking the side through in a tense chase with ten balls to spare.
Match 2: Ireland v UAE
In a thrilling game that swung like a pendulum, Ireland held its nerve to eke out a two-wicket win over United Arab Emirates at the Brisbane Cricket Ground on February 25.
The first half of the match was lit up by Shaiman Anwar, who became his country’s first batsman to hit a World Cup ton. Coming in at No.6, Anwar took calculated risks in his 83-ball 106, and set a base from which the side finished on a strong 278 for 9, Anwar putting on 107 for the seventh wicket in just 11.5 overs with Amjad Javed.
Ireland started its chase cautiously, but two wickets in two overs by Mohammed Tauqir reduced it to 97 for 4 in 25.2 overs. However, Gary Wilson rescued his side with an attractive 69-ball 80. His partnerships of 74 and 72 for the fifth and sixth wickets with Andy Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brien respectively brought back Ireland into the game.
O’Brien went on to make a 25-ball 50 as victory arrived with just four balls to spare, Ireland’s second win in as many matches.
Match 3: Afghanistan v Scotland
One team was playing its first World Cup, and the other was making a comeback to the premier tournament after a break. And, true to expectations, the match lived up to its billing at the University Oval in Dunedin on February 26.
In the end, a defiant tenth-wicket pair of Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran added 19 runs in nail-biting tension to hand Afghanistan its first win in a World Cup match. Chasing 211, Afghanistan had been reduced to 97 for 7, with Richie Berrington, who finished with figures of 4 for 40, doing most of the damage. Samiullah Shenwari then rose to the occasion and rallied Dawlat Zadran and Hassan around him to get close to the target.
Shenwari fell for 96, just short of a hundred, having batted out 147 balls. But Hassan and Shapoor ensured that history was created with just three balls remaining.
Earlier, Shapoor (4 for 38) and Dawlat (3 for 29) had bowled Scotland out for 210 in 50 overs, and the game got so close because very player was willing to fight it out till the end.
Match 4: New Zealand v Australia
New Zealand was coasting in its chase of 152 through a fifth-wicket partnership of 52 between Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson at the Eden Park in Auckland on February 28, when Glenn Maxwell removed Anderson. The game turned on its head after that and went on to become a classic.
Mitchell Starc proved to be the protagonist with his full swinging deliveries. He had Luke Ronchi caught behind off a well-directed short delivery and bowled Adam Milne and Tim Southee to finish with figures of 6 for 28, as New Zealand was left needing six runs with one wicket in hand.
Trent Boult played out two deliveries from Starc and that brought Williamson back on strike against Pat Cummins, who had contributed to the drama by accounting for Daniel Vettori. Williamson hit a straight six off the first ball of the 24th over to calmly finish among the tensest matches in history.
Earlier, Boult’s five-wicket haul had reduced Australia to 106 for 9 before Brad Haddin’s counter-attacking 43 extended the total to 151.
New Zealand’s chase got off to a flying start with Brendon McCullum making a 24-ball 50. He was especially severe on Mitchell Johnson, but when he fell to Cummins little would he have known that the game would go through so many twists and turns before reaching a conclusion.
Match 5: Pakistan v Zimbabwe
Pakistan and Zimbabwe met in a must-win game at the Brisbane Cricket Ground on March 1 and produced a good contest before Pakistan, driven by the heroics of Misbah-ul-Haq, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Irfan, prevailed by 20 runs.
Reduced to 4 for 2 in 3.5 overs after electing to bat first, Pakistan ground it out through Misbah’s 121-ball 73 that prevented further inroads. Misbah displayed immense patience in his partnerships with Haris Sohail and Umar Akmal, but it was Riaz, who made an unbeaten 54 in 46 balls – his maiden ODI fifty – from No.8, who provided the impetus to the innings, as Pakistan finished on 235 for 7.
After that, Irfan struck twice to reduce Zimbabwe to 22 for 2 in the chase. Though it fought back through Brendan Taylor’s 50 and Sean Williams’s brisk 33, Riaz sent back Taylor and that altered equations. Regular strikes meant Zimbabwe found itself 168 for 8 in quick time.
With 68 needed in 62 balls, Zimbabwe’s hopes were raised through a ninth-wicket stand of 47 runs between Elton Chigumbura and Tinashe Panyangara. It could have gotten closer but Irfan, who finished with figures of 4 for 30, bowled a tight over and Riaz ended things with his fourth wicket and was named Man of the Match.
Match 6: Ireland v Zimbabwe
Brendan Taylor’s epic 91-ball 121 fell just short of getting Zimbabwe a victory over Ireland at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart on March 7, but it made for supreme viewing.
Chasing 332, Zimbabwe rode on Taylor’s knock and his 149-run stand with Sean Williams set a solid foundation before Williams took over. He kept producing innovative strokes on his way to an attractive 83-ball 96, but was caught on the boundary line just when it looked like he would snatch a win.
Though Tawanda Mupariwa made a 7-ball 18, Zimbabwe was bowled out for 326 in 49.3 overs to fall short by five runs.
Zimbabwe needed 26 off the last two overs, but it went into the final over requiring only seven runs. But Alex Cusack needed just three balls to pick up two wickets and finish with figures of 4 for 32 as Ireland continued its memorable journey in the tournament.
In the first half of the game, Ed Joyce’s 112 and Andy Balbirnie’s 97 had given Ireland a strong foundation, but three wickets each for Tendai Chatara and Williams meant that it had to be content with 331 for 8.
Match 7: Pakistan v South Africa
A sensational display of seam bowling by Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz – all of whom picked up three wickets each – gave Pakistan a 29-run win over South Africa at the Eden Park in Auckland on March 7, and a place in the quarter-finals.
Along with the pacers, Sarfraz Ahmed, playing his first game of the tournament, made 49 while opening the innings and collected six catches behind the stump as Pakistan overshadowed AB de Villiers’s sparkling 77 in a rain-affected game.
Sarfraz’s run-a-ball knock provided Pakistan stability at the top, and Misbah-ul-Haq’s fourth fifty in the tournament held the innings together. Pakistan would have aimed for a bigger total, but Dale Steyn’s three wickets and two each for Kyle Abbott and Morne Morkel meant it was bowled out for 222 in 46.4 overs.
Chasing a revised target of 232 in 47 overs, South Africa looked in control during the second-wicket stand of 67 runs between Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis. But, four wickets for 10 runs brought Pakistan right back into the contest.
Even though wickets kept falling, de Villiers hit seven fours and five sixes in his blistering knock and looked set to run away with the game. However, he edged a short delivery off Sohail Khan to be caught behind. He was the ninth wicket to fall, and two runs later South Africa was bowled out for 202.
Match 8: Bangladesh v England
Mahmudullah became the first batsman from Bangladesh to score a World Cup century, while Rubel Hossain returned figures of 4 for 53 as Bangladesh beat England by 15 runs at the Adelaide Oval on March 9, and qualified for the knockout phase of a World Cup for the first time.
After Bangladesh won the toss, Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah laid the batting foundation through a partnership of 86 for the third wicket to rescue the side from 8 for 2. Sarkar fell to Chris Jordan for 40 and Shakib Al Hasan followed soon after, but Mahmudullah found another able ally in Mushfiqur Rahim.
The duo added 141 runs at a healthy pace, with Rahim taking the lead in upping the scoring rate. Though England fought back well in the death overs, Bangladesh finished on a competitive 275 for 7.
England started steadily and Ian Bell led the way with a measured 63. But Bell became Hossain’s first victim, and three balls later Eoin Morgan was caught smartly by Shakib on the boundary line.
Jos Buttler injected momentum in the chase with a 53-ball 65 and a 75-run stand with Chris Woakes.
With the game slipping away, Mashrafe Mortaza, leading from the front despite an injured knee, brought Taskin Ahmed into the attack, and he sent Buttler back. Jordan was run out, and Hossain returned to pick up the last two wickets and bowl England out for 260 in 48.3 overs.
Match 9: India v Zimbabwe
In his last international match, Brendan Taylor became the first Zimbabwean batsman to score back-to-back centuries in World Cups, but that was not enough for his team to beat India at the Eden Park in Auckland on March 15.
Taylor’s innings was filled with audacious strokes. But once he was dismissed for 138, the Indian bowlers struck back to bowl Zimbabwe out for 287 in 48.5 overs.
India’s chase got off to a shaky start and at 92 for 4 it was anybody’s game. That is when Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni got together to take charge of the situation. Having batted together for many years, the pair displayed clear understanding and attacked in a calculated manner.
By the time Raina (110 not out) reached his century and Dhoni (85 not out) recorded his fifty, India had made a tricky chase look easy. The duo remained unconquered and added 196 runs in 26 overs to take India home with six wickets in hand and eight balls to spare.
Match 10: New Zealand v South Africa
In what turned out to be the match of the tournament, Grant Elliott played the biggest knock of his life to help New Zealand beat South Africa by four wickets in the semi-final at the Eden Park in Auckland on March 24.
After South Africa had lost two early wickets, Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw and AB de Villiers laid a solid foundation for a big score. However, a rain interruption meant the match was reduced to a 43-over affair. When play resumed, du Plessis fell for 82, but David Miller teed off with an 18-ball 49 to take South Africa to 281 for 5, with de Villiers making 65.
Set a revised target of 298 runs in 43 overs, New Zealand got off to a flying start through Brendon McCullum’s whirlwind 26-ball 59.
South Africa fought back through Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel, and with the score reading 149 for 4, South Africa was a step ahead. But Elliott and Corey Anderson stitched a 103-run stand and brought the game back in balance. Morkel again provided the breakthrough as Anderson fell for 58, and it boiled down to New Zealand needing 12 runs off the final over bowled by Dale Steyn.
First, Daniel Vettori guided one to the third-man boundary and then Elliott kept calm to dispatch a length ball over the long-on fence as New Zealand created history, moving to its first World Cup final, with a ball to spare.
The immediate aftermath of the match also provided the image of the tournament, with Elliott extending a hand to Steyn to lift his fallen rival up after a match that had sapped both sides.