Last men standing

Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts’ 64-run partnership against Pakistan at Birmingham, 1975

Such are the vagaries of cricket that despite boasting of a fearsome batting line-up comprising Gordon Greenidge, Alvin Kallicharran, Clive Lloyd, Rohan Kanhai and Vivian Richards, the West Indies were staring down the barrel in their group match against Pakistan. Another 64 runs were needed when the last batsman, Andy Roberts, joined wicketkeeper Deryck Murray in the middle.

No mug with the bat, Roberts hung on, and the match reached fever pitch. In the final over, with no wickets in hand, West Indies required five runs. Roberts stole a couple of leg-byes; the next delivery also fetched a couple to midwicket, and West Indies, confounding everyone, cantered home with two balls to spare.

David vs Goliath

Zimbabwe beating Australia at Nottingham, 1983

In 1983, the Indians had Kapil Dev to save them the blushes against newbies Zimbabwe. No such luck for the Australians, though. In their very first World Cup match, nay, their first-ever One Day International (ODI), Zimbabwe faced the might of the Australian pacers: Rodney Hogg, Geoff Lawson, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. The Africans mustered 239, thanks to strong late-order resistance.

When the Australians began their reply, the Zimbabwean bowlers kept it tight. The Australians lost wickets at regular intervals, and despite Rod Marsh’s heroics, lost by 13 runs. The unlikely hero of the match? Duncan Fletcher, now coach of the Indian team, who scored an unbeaten 69 and snagged four wickets.

A rush of blood

Mike Gatting’s reverse sweep at Kolkata, 1987

Mike Gatting. Photo: Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar Collection/Getty images
Mike Gatting. Photo: Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar Collection/Getty images

Trying to reverse-sweep his counterpart, Allan Border, Gatting only managed to give some catching practice to the incredulous Australian keeper, Greg Dyer. England were perhaps destined to forever remain the bridesmaid, losing the match by a paltry seven runs.

It’s not cricket

South Africa against England at Sydney, 1992

Readmitted to the International Cricket Council (ICC), South Africa played with vigour and brushed past Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe, finding themselves in the semi-finals in their first attempt at the world cup. Chasing England’s 252, South Africa were in the reasonable position of needing 22 runs off the last 13 deliveries when the Sydney skies opened up—for a mere 12 minutes.

When the match resumed, the scoreboard showed a farcical 22 runs required off a single delivery, a result of the prevailing rules for rain-interrupted matches. A visibly incensed Brian McMillan only patted Chris Lewis’ final ball for a single and shuffled off to the pavilion. Unless you were a Pakistani, that scoreboard is the most enduring image of the 1992 Cup. In hindsight, it also proved to be the most meaningful event from that tournament—in 1999, the intricate and confusing Duckworth-Lewis method had come into use to tackle rain delays.

Sultan of swing

Wasim Akram’s bowling in the final at Melbourne, 1992

Photo: Adrian Murrell/Getty Images
Photo: Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

In the final, when the teams met again, Pakistan scored 249, a far cry from the 74. Wasim Akram made a quickfire 33, but he would inflict a crueller blow when he came in to bowl. Early in England’s innings, he dismissed Ian Botham for a duck. At 141/4, England had an even chance to lift the Cup. Steaming in from round the wicket, Akram let it rip, swinging the ball at a fearsome pace. It was too good for poor Allan Lamb, who was castled. The next ball felled Chris Lewis, and the game was as good as over. Yet again, England’s dreams receded.

One-man show

Neil Johnson against South Africa at Chelmsford, 1999

Neil Johnson. Photo: Phil Cole/Allsport/Getty Images
Neil Johnson. Photo: Phil Cole/Allsport/Getty Images

Slipping through

Steve Waugh’s 120 not out against South Africa at Leeds, 1999

Australia’s hopes were hanging by a thread; they had to win their Super Six match against South Africa. Chasing South Africa’s 271, Australia were stuttering at 48/3 when captain Steve Waugh strode in. When the score read 152, Waugh almost carelessly flicked a Lance Klusener delivery to Herschelle Gibbs at midwicket. He took the catch, but while celebrating in his customary manner, let the ball slip from his hands. Out came Waugh’s famous retort to Gibbs: “I hope you realize that you’ve just lost the game for your team." It was premature, but, Waugh powered on to score an unbeaten 120 and see his side through.

All square

Australia and South Africa’s tied match at Birmingham, 1999

Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Allsport/Getty Images
Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Allsport/Getty Images

However, Klusener, South Africa’s man of the tournament, was still around. Eight balls remained. Klusener smote Glenn McGrath down the ground, only for Paul Reiffel to drop the ball and parry it over the ropes for a six. Klusener wisely took a single off the final ball of the over to keep the strike.

Klusener hit the next delivery to Mark Waugh at mid-off and immediately called Donald for a run. Hesitating initially, Donald dropped his bat and started scampering down the pitch. Like a relay team, Waugh threw the ball to Damien Fleming at the bowler’s end; Fleming passed it to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist. Half-way down the pitch, a crestfallen Donald could see Gilchrist removing the bails.

Match tied! But there would be only one winner, and that was Australia, because they had finished higher in the Super Six stage, thanks to Steve Waugh’s 120 in the previous match against South Africa.

These boots are made for walking

Adam Gilchrist’s dismissal against Sri Lanka at Port Elizabeth, 2003

Adam Gilchrist. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Adam Gilchrist. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Sri Lanka stood in Australia’s path to yet another final. Gilchrist had been in superb touch, giving explosive starts to the Australian innings on most occasions. Australia had again started well and had rattled off 34 runs without losing a wicket in the first five overs.

Singh is king

Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina’s 74-run partnership against Australia at Ahmedabad, 2011

In the quarter-finals, India found themselves up against Australia, winners of the previous three world cups. Chasing Australia’s 260, India were in serious trouble when M.S. Dhoni fell to Brett Lee’s bowling. A further 74 runs were required in a little under 13 overs.

Yuvraj Singh, the man of the tournament, and Suresh Raina were the last recognized batsmen remaining. Both Indian batsmen were suspect against fast short-pitched bowling, but this time they held their nerve, watchfully playing the first few balls. In the next Lee over, the pair plundered three boundaries to ease the tension. Singh and Raina then shifted gear, milking ones and twos to keep the score ticking.

The first inkling of India’s victory came off the first ball of the Power Play in the 45th over, when Raina smashed Lee over long-on for a six. A couple of fours followed, and India ultimately sailed to the semis with 14 balls to spare.