ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
World Cup 2011
Ten performances that lit up the World Cup
A look back at the most memorable individual performances from World Cup 2011
April 3, 2011
Afridi's assortment of variations undid Sri Lanka's chase of 278, and set up a memorable heist in Colombo. Tillakaratne Dilshan had got off to a calm start and was threatening to break free when Afridi came on in the 18th over. Afridi tempted him with the illusion of a half-tracker, but fizzed it further up, and got the ball to dart in past the square cut and onto the stumps. If pace and drift did in Dilshan, flight and turn foxed Thilan Samaraweera. A tossed up leggie lured him out of the crease before slithering away with just enough guile to beat the batsman, but not Kamran Akmal who completed the stumping with rare alacrity. That wicket exposed Sri Lanka's lower middle order to a tight situation, and Afridi pegged away relentlessly to cut off the oxygen supply. He finished them off in his final spell, fooling Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews with dip as they rushed down the track, pushing Sri Lanka to a rare home defeat.
Strauss had detailed and coherent answers for every question India hurled at him in Bangalore. The enormity of his 158 silenced the crowd, which had been warming up to a big Indian win, while the utter simplicity of his methods unnerved the opposition. Anything marginally wide of off stump was carved, steered and cut, while everything slanted into the pads was tucked, tickled and nudged along with sharp and precise feet movement. His sweeps, whips and drives bullied the spinners into dropping just short of driving length, and he then proceeded to play them into corners of the field they did not know existed. It took one of the balls of the World Cup from Zaheer Khan - arguably the bowler of the tournament - to end his masterpiece. Strauss' exit pumped India up so much that they managed to tie a game that was fully within England's grasp when he was batting.
A small, mostly forgotten incident earlier in the day might have prompted O'Brien's blitzkrieg against the English attack. In the seventh over of England's innings, O'Brien's knee buckled grotesquely as he dived to field a powerful cover-drive from Strauss. Thankfully, he didn't tear a ligament in the process, and managed to stand up and move around gingerly. Not that he had much running to do for the rest of the day. With 63 balls of clinical hitting, O'Brien transformed the World Cup by producing its biggest upset and thereby ensuring the group stages did not turn into the sleepwalk they were otherwise destined to be. During the course of his ton - the fastest in World Cup history - he also single-handedly built a case for the retention of Associates in future World Cups. Not a bad return for a man with a dodgy knee.
The visceral violence with which Taylor crescendoed to the finish line makes one forget how hopelessly out of form he was at the start of his innings. On his 27th birthday, Taylor's feet were going nowhere; he was perennially crouching too far forward and falling over as he poked ungainly away from his body. With Kamran in a generous mood behind the stumps, Taylor somehow survived his first 108 balls for 69 runs, before lighting up Pallekele with 61 off the last 16. His closing carnage included seven sixes and four fours, and a series of trademark lashes over the leg side that savaged Shoaib Akhtar's final spell in international cricket. It was the quintessential birthday bash.
Defending a modest 176, Lee roared in with purpose to test Pakistan with a heady mix of pace, movement and bounce. He lulled Mohammad Hafeez into an early flick in his second over, and pouched a smart catch on the follow-through. At the other end, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson were off-key, forcing Lee to do it all by himself. In his fifth over, he nailed Kamran with an inducker that swerved in late and big. With Pakistan tottering at 45 for 2, Lee got a breather but the back-up bowlers let things drift before Ricky Ponting turned to him again. Lee responded by producing two delightful back-of-a-length feelers to snare Pakistan's old firm of obduracy - Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq - off successive balls. It wasn't enough to prolong Australia's 34-game unbeaten World Cup run, but Lee's eight overs were all about the attitude that had made that streak possible.
Yuvraj emphatically seized each game-breaking moment as it came by to end Australia's World Cup in Motera. When he came on, Ponting identified him as the weakest link in India's bowling attacked immediately, but Yuvraj persevered with his oddball mix of sliders and loopy deliveries, sent down with barely discernible variations in angle. Brad Haddin fell to a flighted tempter, and Michael Clarke to a deceptively fuller one. That turned the course of the innings, though Ponting held on to guide Australia to 260. After Sachin Tendulkar's half-century, India's chase went from sizzle to fizzle as Yuvraj watched from one end, and Australia were looking to snuff things out with predatory fast bowling. Sensing the gravity of the moment, Yuvraj kicked into overdrive and counterpunched. He produced a vicious pick-up shot that left Tait stunned, and then coolly redirected a Lee yorker to third man before carving another four over point. Suresh Raina joined in the fun, 27 runs came in two overs and just like that, India had found an emergency route into the semi-finals.
A chronic knee injury had slowed his movements, taken the sting out of his bowling and nearly ended his career before the World Cup. Having made it to the subcontinent, though, Big Jake was keen to prolong the joy for as long as possible. During the quarter-final he was everywhere South Africa turned. Like when Jacques Kallis pulled a long-hop, in the 25th over of what was turning into a boringly comfortable chase. Oram, all of 1.98m tall, scrambled back and to his left from deep midwicket, launched himself off the turf and plucked it on the go. That moment sparked his team into life and they hustled their timid opponents out of the World Cup. Oram did his bit with the ball, snaring Johan Botha with a legcutter and getting Robin Peterson to edge a length delivery. By the time Faf du Plessis holed out to point, the C-word was back in vogue, and Oram was bounding about the Shere Bangla with barely concealed glee.
Riaz's maiden five-for was Pakistan's best bowling spell of the World Cup, but it sadly came on a day when they did little else right. He came into the attack in the sixth over, after Virender Sehwag had mauled Umar Gul out of sight. Riaz struck immediately, skidding one off a length into Sehwag's pads to stall India's momentum. Aided by sloppy catching, Tendulkar kept India chugging along at a healthy rate when Riaz came back to derail them. He foxed Virat Kohli with stealth of seam and detonated Yuvraj Singh's stumps with a yorker at extreme pace. However, chances continued to go down, allowing MS Dhoni and Tendulkar to haul India out of trouble, before Riaz returned for a final fling. Dhoni exited promptly, clueless against another skidder that was destined for the stumps, forcing India to recalibrate their ambitions. Riaz got his fifth in the final over, and his efforts kept India at least 30 short of the score Sehwag and the catching had set them up for. It, however, wasn't enough to break Pakistan's World Cup jinx against them.
On the biggest day of the tournament, Jayawardene walked on water and produced his best one-day innings. His side may have been wobbling against an inspired attack, but he proceeded to dismantle them elegantly and without a fuss. He checked in with a host of cuts, guided precisely into gaps in the arc between third man and cover, and kept his end ticking over at a good rate. India, however, retained control by striking regularly at the other, until Jayawardene stunned them in the batting Powerplay. His means remained the same - he stayed on leg stump, opening up the off side and using the pace on the ball to charm it to the boundaries. Zaheer's impeccable figures were ruined as Sri Lanka looted 63 in the Powerplay, setting India a daunting 275 to win the Cup.
No Jayawardene century had ended in defeat. No century in the World Cup final had ended in defeat. No host country had ever won the World Cup. It's fair to say the odds were stacked against India at the halfway stage. And then, things got worse: Tendulkar and Sehwag failed, and despite Gautam Gambhir's defiance, Sri Lanka were taking charge. His selection punt having backfired yet again, and with his personal form in the doldrums, Dhoni promoted himself to No. 5 to have a tilt at the windmills. He began like a man out of touch, feeling and prodding for runs, but pounced on bad deliveries ruthlessly. He ran like a man possessed, and twitched his side in the process, but that did not slow him down. Gradually he managed to revive the ugly efficiency of his batting: the jumping upper cut, the shovel-whips through square leg, the hard-bunted drives down the ground - all were put on show. By the time he was done, the Dhoni swagger was back and his bat-twirl after hitting the winning six will be the enduring image of the World Cup.
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