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World Cup 2011

Ten performances that lit up the World Cup

A look back at the most memorable individual performances from World Cup 2011

Nitin Sundar

April 3, 2011

Comments: 99 | Text size: A | A

Ireland's World Cup win over England made the front page of the <i>Irish Independent</i>, England v Ireland, Group B, World Cup, Bangalore, March 2, 2011
Kevin O'Brien's regal performance managed to put cricket on the front pages in Irish newspapers © Irish Independent

Shahid Afridi v Sri Lanka, 4 for 34

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.

Andrew Strauss v India, 158 off 145

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.

Kevin O'Brien v England, 113 off 63

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.

Ross Taylor v Pakistan, 131 off 124

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.

Brett Lee v Pakistan, 4 for 28

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.

Jacob Oram takes a catch right on the boundary to dismiss Jacques Kallis, New Zealand v South Africa, 3rd quarter-final, Mirpur, World Cup 2011, March 25, 2011
Jacob Oram, 1.98m and leaping further up, takes the catch of the tournament © Getty Images

Yuvraj Singh v Australia, 57 off 65

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.

Jacob Oram v South Africa, 4 for 39

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.

Wahab Riaz v India, 5 for 46

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.

MS Dhoni cracks one over the off side, India v Sri Lanka, final, World Cup 2011, Mumbai, April 2, 2011
MS Dhoni was out of form when he started, but finished off with his swagger restored © Getty Images

Mahela Jayawardene v India, 103 off 88

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.

MS Dhoni v Sri Lanka, 91 off 79

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.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 99 
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Posted by Harsh on (April 7, 2011, 17:39 GMT)

I would also include Dayle Steyn's 5-50 against India at Nagpur.It completely turned the tide of the game in favour of South Africa after India was cruising to get a 350 score..Steyn bowed an absolutely immmaculate length and generated both swing and cut.

Posted by sam on (April 7, 2011, 8:47 GMT)

If anyone thinks that Shahid Afridi's 4/34 and especially Taylor's 130-odd against lollypop full tosses was better than Ponting's 104 he does not understand cricket. The two most visually pleasing and flawless innings were Ponting's 104 off 118 and it was bettered by Jayawardena's 103 off 88.

Posted by Ahmed on (April 6, 2011, 19:00 GMT)

Sorry I had to write "SemiFinal" not final, for Tendulkar's knock against Pakistan. Here is my previous comment: Those asking for Tendulkar's knock in the final, I think this page is mentioning greatest performances from the WC and that day Tendulkar was just lucky! I mean he left no stone unturned to get back to pavilion but was given a life every time by our Pakistani players. As for MS, yes his batting was really wonderful in the final. He made no mistakes and led his team to victory. Had he got out earlier, India could not win it easily!

Posted by Srinivasan on (April 6, 2011, 17:56 GMT)

Performances by Shahid Afridi, Andrew Strauss, Ross Tyalor and Brett Lee came in group matches and not in the high-pressure knock-out rounds and may be ignored. All these players peaked too early.

Mahela Jayawardene batted too slowly given that Wankhede Stadium was a small ground...he should ideally have scored those 103 runs off some 30 fewer balls. Wahab Riaz took 5 wickets but conceded 46 runs off his ten overs. If he had taken something like 5 for 15, Pak would have won the match .Jacob Oram's 4 for 39 was not so great as South Africa played substandard cricket not worthy of quarterfinals.

The real top performances are Yuvraj Singh's 57 not out as it came against defending champs Australia in knockout round at a crunch situation and Dhoni's 91 not out in crunch situation in final. All other performances listed out pale into insignificance against these two performances.

Posted by Piyush on (April 6, 2011, 15:37 GMT)

What about Punter's 104 and Mitch's 4 for 15 against zim?And where in the world has Dale Steyn's 5/50 has been ignored?

Posted by ntokozo on (April 6, 2011, 15:17 GMT)

@Gladiator1975: I think you will find that your Tendulkar did not score runs of any significance during the whole of the world cup. His two tons against S.A and ENG which you say have been ignored have actually been rightfully omitted. None of the centuries were defining in both of the matches, in fact, they turned out to be just another meaningless stream of unimportant runs from a man who never wins anything for his country. Eng match was tied, S.A match was lost; proving again that your Sachin is no match-winner. This is why Ponting, despite his attitude, will always be greater. He always sees his side through at crucial moments. On the other hand, Sachin is always nowhere to be found in those moments (see WC final 2003, 2011 etc). His only significant score in the Pak match actually won by India was actually quiet embarrassingly attained. For such a rated man, he shouldn't have to rely on dropped catches. I refuse to give credit to mediocre players who rely on luck to score runs.

Posted by Dhaval on (April 6, 2011, 14:45 GMT)

@Spelele: I guess you're over biased towards SA. You've termed all performances by other team players as either luck, mediocre or meaningless. I hate to give such wake up calls but let me give this. SA has been mediocre always in knock out stages since 1992. Whatever be your bias towards others they have contributed towards victory of their nation. India, SL, Pak and NZ has fared better than SA is proven. And records always favor winners and champs not Chokers!!!

Posted by Manesh on (April 6, 2011, 13:53 GMT)

@KiwiRocker relax baby, relax...I can understand your feelings...;)

Posted by Bobby on (April 6, 2011, 12:16 GMT)

What about Tendulkar's fine inning in the final? Did not that won India WC? Look, Tendulkar has to be there- He is God in India!

Posted by Bobby on (April 6, 2011, 12:13 GMT)

Murtaza: Saeed Anwar's 194 which is arguably second best innings behind Sir Viv Richards 189 was surely great as it was chanceless- No DRS, No fielding gimmicks and above all he was playing in front of a hostile crowd against arch rivals...Mate! You just echoed my point. Thanks for that- By the way tendulkar's worthless 200 and 175 meant nothing- He flopped again in final. India won final because SA was out of tournament thanks to mighty Kiwis and they were lucky to win toss against Pakistan!...those were only two teams who could beat India.. !

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Nitin Sundar Social media manager Nitin spent his formative years perfecting the art of landing the googly, before blossoming into a book-cricket specialist. More excellence followed in the underarm version of the game before, like the majority of India's misguided youth, he started taking studies seriously. After four forgettable years of electrical engineering, followed by a rigorous MBA and 16 months in the strategy consulting industry, he began to ponder life's more profound issues. Such as the angle made by Brian Lara's bat with the horizontal at the peak of his back-lift. A move to ESPNcricinfo followed and Nitin is now a prolific nurdler in office cricket, with a questionable technique against the short ball.

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