Australia v South Africa
Cricket World Cup

Beyond Birmingham, the greatest matches in World Cup history


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On the 19th anniversary of the Australia v South Africa World Cup game in Birmingham, we list some of the greatest matches over 11 editions of the tournament.

On 17 June, 1999 was played arguably the most memorable match in the history of the ICC Cricket World Cup. It was at Edgbaston in Birmingham, the semi-final of the competition, with Australia and South Africa pitted against each other.

Batting first, Australia scored 213, with Steve Waugh (56) and Michael Bevan (65) leading the way, while Shaun Pollock returned 5/36 and Allan Donald 4/32. The South African chase went down to the last over, Lance Klusener at the crease, Donald for company, and nine runs to get off Damien Fleming.

First ball clubbed through the covers for four. Second ball, similarly smashed through the off-side cordon, four more. One to get from four. A dot ball on the third, Donald looking like he was going to run no matter what and almost running himself out. There was no run there. Fourth ball, there is a run as Klusener hits to mid-off and dashes. But this time Donald is watchful and starts running only after Klusener has run past him. Run out. Scores tied. But Australia had won their Super Sixes clash and enter the final, where they win their second title, and first of a run of three straight trophies.

Here’s a look at five other great ICC Cricket World Cup matches over the years.

Viv Richards' fielding in the 1975 final was of the sort rarely seen before
Viv Richards' fielding in the 1975 final was of the sort rarely seen before

Australia v Windies, 1975
It was the final of the first edition of the tournament, and contesting the final were Australia, led by Ian Chappell, and the great team of the era, Clive Lloyd’s Windies. And it was Lloyd who led the way with an 85-ball 102, with Rohan Kanhai contributing 55, as the Windies reached 291/8 in their 60 overs – as was the norm then – with Gary Gilmour returning 5/48.

The Australians were in the game all along, chasing a pretty steep target for the time. Chappell (62), Alan Turner (40) and Doug Walters (35) did most of the scoring, but both of them as well as Greg Chappell were run out to some brilliant fielding from a young Viv Richards. Keith Boyce got in on the act after that, picking up four wickets as the chase ended on 274 despite quick late runs from Ross Edwards, Gilmour, Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee.

It was the first World Cup, in a format people were still getting used to – if not waking up to – and the final was an excellent example of the kind of aggressive and exciting cricket one-day internationals could provide.

Kapil Dev played perhaps the greatest World Cup innings against Zimbabwe in 1983
Kapil Dev played perhaps the greatest World Cup innings against Zimbabwe in 1983

India v Zimbabwe, 1983
India had won just one match in two previous editions of the World Cup, both of which the Windies had won. India surprised – or shocked – pretty much everyone by winning the 1983 chapter, beating Lloyd’s champions in the final. But they might not have reached that far had it not been for one of the great individual performances, which made the game at Tunbridge Wells such a memorable one.

Batting first, India slid to 17/5, with all their five specialist batsmen back in the pavilion as Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran ran amok. Out strode captain Kapil Dev and smashed perhaps the best ODI innings ever – at the time for sure – to hit 175* in just 138 balls. India’s next best contribution was Syed Kirmani’s 24* as they put up 266/8.

Zimbabwe started well, but with Madan Lal and Roger Binny on song, they were reduced to 113/6. Curran starred with the bat too, scoring a 93-ball 73, but Zimbabwe ran out of batsmen by 57 overs, bowled out for 235 for a 31-run Indian win.

Australia, led by Allan Border, pulled off a one-run win over India in 1987 with Steve Waugh picking up the last wicket
Australia, led by Allan Border, pulled off a one-run win over India in 1987 with Steve Waugh picking up the last wicket

Australia v India, 1987
One-day international cricket, now a 50-over game, had taken root by the time the 1987 World Cup had come around, and we had seen Javed Miandad’s famous last-ball six to beat India in Sharjah, but close finishes were still rare. In just the third game of the fourth World Cup, we had one of them.

On a roll since the 1983 World Cup, India were favourites to win the tournament, and get past the rebuilding Australians without much fuss. But with Geoff Marsh’s 110 shoring them up, Australia hit 270/6. A solid 50-over score. India’s reply was equally good, with Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Navjot Singh Sidhu scoring 70s, but it got tight as wickets fell. Craig McDermott picked up four wickets, there were run outs, and it came down to Steve Waugh bowling Maninder Singh to seal a one-run win with one ball left in the game.

‘Down to the wire’ has become too frequent to be noted with much excitement now, but it was a cause for celebration then.

Video cwc19 20 Feb 19
Kevin O'Brien fastest World Cup century
Kevin O’Brien hits a 50-ball century – the fastest in World Cup history – as Ireland shock England.

England v Ireland, 2011
There have been some great upsets at the World Cup, but none were perhaps as fascinating as the time Ireland trumped England by three wickets in Bengaluru – if nothing else, because England lost despite putting up as good as they could, and Ireland didn’t win on a bad day for the higher-rated side.

Three half-centuries – Kevin Pietersen’s 59, Jonathan Trott’s 92 and Ian Bell’s 81 – took England to a solid 327/8. If they didn’t get more, it was because John Mooney turned in an excellent show, picking up 4/63 and preventing a late flourish. England were on 278 after 43 overs, but could add only 49 more.

That gave Ireland the momentum at the break, but it was grim for them when they were reduced to 111/5. It was Ireland’s, and Kevin O’Brien’s, day, though. He smoked a 63-ball 113 – still the fastest century in World Cups history, coming off 50 balls – and had good support from Alex Cusack (47) and Mooney (33*) as Ireland got past the target in the last over with three wickets in hand.

Video cwc19 24 Mar 15
South Africa v New Zealand Match Highlights 24th March 2015
New Zealand overcame a stiff challenge from South Africa in a thrilling and emotional Semi-Final in Auckland to reach its first World Cup final.

New Zealand v South Africa, 2015
This was exhilarating stuff, not least because of the scenes at the end of it, with the teary-eyed South Africans slumped on the ground after letting go another opportunity of winning a world title.

Faf du Plessis (82) held the South African innings together, while AB de Villiers (65* in 45 balls) and David Miller (49 in 18) provided the innings impetus as they closed on 281/5. The target was revised to 298 in 43 overs, and it got tricky for New Zealand, who had never reached a World Cup final before, when they were 149/4.

But Grant Elliott played out of his skin, as did Corey Anderson to take their team closer and closer to the target before Anderson fell for a 57-ball 58. Still some distance to go, and Luke Ronchi fell too, leaving Elliott with all to do. And he did. His 84* in 73 balls took New Zealand home with one ball left from Dale Steyn.

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