February 7, 2011

How did that happen?

World Cup games that produced unexpected results

India beat West Indies, 1983
The win that changed the face of Indian cricket. Few gave Kapil Dev's team much chance against the two-time former winners in the 1983 Lord's final, even though they had inflicted on West Indies their first World Cup defeat, earlier in the tournament. And when India were bundled out for 183 by the dream (or nightmare) fast-bowling unit of Roberts, Garner, Marshall and Holding, almost everyone believed a West Indies hat-trick was a formality. Crucially, some of the West Indian batsmen may have believed it too, and gradually the wheels fell off, helped by Kapil Dev's fine running catch to remove Viv Richards. India's unthreatening-looking medium-pacers dismantled West Indies for 140, sparking an explosion of joy back home - and an explosion of interest in one-day cricket.

Kenya beat West Indies, 1996
Strange things happen on Leap Year Day (February 29) - and in cricket there has been nothing stranger than Kenya's remarkable upset victory in Pune in 1996. West Indies were not quite the force of old, but with bowlers like Ambrose and Walsh to back up the batting of Lara, Richardson and Chanderpaul, they were expected to roll over the minnows of Kenya, who were playing their first World Cup and had already summarily been dispatched by India, Australia and Zimbabwe. Kenya's 166 hardly looked enough to worry the Windies, but, possibly taking things too lightly, they collapsed to an ignominious 93, still their lowest in the World Cup. There were two run-outs, and Lara was caught when the ball stuck between the wicketkeeper's thighs. It was that sort of day.

Sri Lanka beat Australia, 1996
The 1996 World Cup was probably the most evenly contested, with no clear early favourite emerging. West Indies beat the fancied South Africans in the quarter-final, and looked all set to make the final until a spectacular late collapse against Australia. That set up the climax, against surprise packets Sri Lanka, whose electrifying opening pair of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana had added a new dimension to 50-over cricket. It was two older Sri Lankan hands, though, who controlled the final in Lahore: Arjuna Ranatunga ignored local advice to bat first, then Aravinda de Silva took three wickets with his flattish offspin to restrict the Aussies to 241. Ranatunga fielded first because he had noticed that evening dew made gripping the ball a problem for the bowlers under the floodlights, and he and de Silva guided their side home as Shane Warne and friends found the slippery ball hard to control.

Ireland beat Pakistan, 2007
On a suitably green Sabina Park pitch Ireland celebrated St Patrick's Day in 2007 with a stunning victory over Pakistan. As the ball zipped around, Pakistan succumbed for 132: Ireland also had problems, slipping to 113 for 7, but their hard-nosed Australian-born captain, Trent Johnston, stopped the rot and finally blasted the winning six off Azhar Mahmood. Pakistan had already lost the opening match, to West Indies, and this put them out of the Cup. That night they suffered an even more grievous loss, when their coach, Bob Woolmer, had a fatal heart attack.

Bangladesh beat India, 2007
The same day that Pakistan went out after losing to Ireland, India effectively departed the 2007 World Cup too: it was a bad time for them to lose to Bangladesh for only the second time in 15 meetings. Sourav Ganguly held India's innings together with 66, but only Yuvraj Singh of the rest passed 15. Bangladesh needed only 192, and got them without much bother. Later defeat to Sri Lanka confirmed India's elimination.

Zimbabwe beat Australia, 1983
It looked like a mismatch: the mighty Australians - including Lillee, Thomson, Border and Marsh - against a team in their first official one-day international, still almost a decade away from Test status. But at Trent Bridge in 1983, Zimbabwe were led from the front by their captain, who in 2005 was to mastermind an even more famous Australian defeat. Duncan Fletcher top-scored with 69 not out as Zimbabwe reached 239, then took four wickets, including his opposite number Kim Hughes for a duck, as Australia fell 13 short.

Kenya beat Sri Lanka, 2003
Nairobi had never seen cricket scenes like it: "Kenya chased like lion cubs, backed up in gangs and jigged after every wicket," reported Wisden. "Sri Lanka, by contrast, simply moped: 'The worst game of my career,' admitted Sanath Jayasuriya." Victories over Bangladesh and Zimbabwe then propelled Kenya into the World Cup semi-finals for the only time.

Zimbabwe beat South Africa, 1999
The match that shook up the expected order of things in the 1999 World Cup: Zimbabwe had never beaten South Africa in a one-day international before, and have done so only once in 24 attempts since, but in Chelmsford (where Andy and Grant Flower were later to play with distinction) they reduced their neighbours to 40 for 6, chasing 234, and even 52 not out from Lance Klusener - who ended that World Cup with a batting average of 140.50 - couldn't turn things around. Zimbabwe's unexpected victory put them into the later stages, at the expense of hosts England, who lost next day to India.

Bangladesh beat Pakistan, 1999
Another unexpected result in 1999, this time in Northampton, saw Bangladesh overwhelm Pakistan, who had already qualified for the later stages. Wasim Akram, for one, didn't seem too upset to have lost to his near-neighbours: "I'm happy we lost to our brothers. I think we should praise their win - they'll be ready for Test status in another year or so." They duly got that Test status, although they have rarely looked ready for it since.

Zimbabwe beat England, 1992
England arguably peaked too soon in the 1992 World Cup: they started in fine style but ran out of steam towards the end of a long qualifying campaign, finally losing their unbeaten record in Albury, a small Australian country town on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. Zimbabwe limped to 134, but England struggled even more: Graham Gooch fell first ball, and later the Zimbabweans were energised when they dismissed their former countryman, Graeme Hick, for another duck. England crawled on, but were all out for 125 in the 50th over. They had already done enough to reach the semi-final, where they needed the help of the controversial rain-rules to edge past South Africa, and finally ran out of puff against Pakistan in the final in Melbourne.

Sri Lanka beat India, 1979
If Bangladesh's victory over Pakistan in 1999 helped them gain Test status, this one at Old Trafford 20 years earlier did the same for Sri Lanka. India had already lost heavily to West Indies and New Zealand, and now went down by 47 runs, never really threatening Sri Lanka's workmanlike total of 238. After this, India's only World Cup victory remained one over lowly East Africa in 1975: they were to put things right with a vengeance in 1983. By then, Sri Lanka were a Test-playing nation too.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2011. And Ask Steven is now on Facebook

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