How did that happen?

World Cup games that produced unexpected results

Steven Lynch

February 7, 2011

Comments: 50 | Text size: A | A

A buoyant Ireland do a  victory lap around Sabina Park, Ireland v Pakistan, Group D, Jamaica, March 17, 2007
An unforgettable St Patrick's Day for Ireland in 2007 © AFP
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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.

Sri Lanka win the World Cup, Final, Australia v Sri Lanka, Wills World Cup, Lahore, March 17, 1996
Ranatunga took a risk in chasing in a World Cup final and it worked © Getty Images

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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Posted by RoshanF on (February 9, 2011, 16:47 GMT)

Sorry swamistyle you too are wrong. There was no way ANY team on planet earth was going to beat the Sri Lankans in 1996. Had the Windies and Aussies played their first round matches against SL, which they both forfeited,they too would have been left with psychological scars a la India and Azhar (remember the Azhar blunder in the semis over the toss after the first round SL hammering). Had the Windies got to the final they would have struggled even more than did the Aussies against the Lankan spinners Murali, Jayasuriya, Aravinda and Dharmasena. That SL side was a side in top form who played with magnificent team spirit. Of course the fact that it was played in conditions more to their liking also helped. But then again conditions favoured Australia too in 1999 and 2003. Some talk of SL failure after WC 96 but they forget that SL beat Australia again in a triangular held a little later in Sri Lanka.

Posted by   on (February 9, 2011, 15:47 GMT)

SL were a trailblazer in the 1996 WC, revolutionizing the world of cricket with their batting. I definitely can't consider the final against Oz as an upset. And it's shocking how can Bangladesh beating SA in WC 2007 and Zimbabwe beating India in WC 1999 be left out.

Posted by swamistyle on (February 9, 2011, 5:00 GMT)

I would replace SL beating Aus in 96 final with NZ beating Aus in opening game of 92 WC. The whole Aussie campaign was in tatters after that. They then got thumped twice in Sydney by debutants SA & a Botham inspired Eng. That farcical rain rule that ruined the whole tournament got them out of jail agst India b4 the Pakistani pace attack finished them off in Perth. All those matches were huge upsets at the time. With regards to Ken beating WI in 96, everyone forgets the aftermath of that match - WI won their next 2 games v Aus & SA which were also 2 massive upsets. In fact they should have caused their 3rd str8 upset but capitulated in the last 10 overs in the semis v Aus. Had they got thru, their pace attack would have ripped thru SL in the final. Honourable mentions should also go to Ind beating WI in 1st game of 83; the 87 semis when Aus & Eng ruined the hosts Ind V Pak dream final, Oz beating Eng in 87 final & WI beating host nation & favourites SA in 1st game of 2003.

Posted by Balumekka on (February 9, 2011, 1:50 GMT)

@ RoshanF: Very true! !00% agree.

Posted by vajira12 on (February 8, 2011, 18:27 GMT)

This is again to reiterate as many have done, that 1996 SL win was not a surprise.

Posted by RoshanF on (February 8, 2011, 17:12 GMT)

Aha, Mad-Hamish I see you too have been taken in by the Anglo-Aussie media talk that has been prevalent in every highlight show of the 2007 WC final. Get this. That match should never have been played that day. What, a world cup final of only 38 overs each - simply a travesty. Now for what happened that day. Remember that match got under way at around 12 noon and there was no swing for Chaminda Vaas - who had swung it big throughout the tournament. And Gilchrist played a once-in-the-tournament blinder. Yet after 20 overs of the Sri Lankan run chase Jayasuriya and Sanga had whacked a retiring McGrath out of the attack and were well on the way with the score 120 odd for 1 when SL were ROBBED a second time with the rain falling. Then the duo had to go for quick runs to keep up with D/L method. And with the ball keeping low wickets inevitably fell and the match finished farcically in pitch black darkness. By the way you will not hear of this factual account from any Anglo/Aussie scribe.

Posted by zn264 on (February 8, 2011, 15:32 GMT)

MarkM33 totally agree! NZ vs Aus in 1992 is one of the best World Cup matches ever (of course I'm a kiwi haha)...lets hope we can pull off something just as epic in a FINAL this time round!

Posted by   on (February 8, 2011, 11:07 GMT)

More than 1996 SL beating Australia, the unexpected one in that tournament was Australia beating WI in the semis. SL were pretty much unstoppable and one wonders if anyone thought they could be stopped by any team.. let alone Australia

Posted by   on (February 8, 2011, 9:41 GMT)

Well Sri Lanka winning WC 1996 was not a big surprise but they were never consistent afterwards. Immediately after the WC, there was a triangular series bw SL, Pak and S. Africa and SL were hammered in that series; usuallu losing by 6+ wickets or 100+ runs. But in contrast to that, team in WC 2007 was more consistent and if they had won the WC, that was not a surprise because they were deserving team to win. Ireland vs Pakistan will never be forgotten by Pakistanis which put Pakistan out of WC. Though Pakistan did not make the next round in WC 2003 as well, but Pakistan did have close games which they they should have won like Aus vs Pak, Ind vs Pak. So 2007 was a more disappointing WC for Pak than 2003.

Posted by boseaniket1 on (February 8, 2011, 8:24 GMT)

Bob Woolmer had a heart attack?? I thought he was killed!

Posted by   on (February 8, 2011, 3:46 GMT)

Sree is good bowler but he bowls lots of no balls.. think in final if opp need just 2 runs of last ball and if he bowls no ball

Posted by divya_siva on (February 8, 2011, 3:15 GMT)

common what about the Zimbabwe wins against India and south Africa in 1999 world cup and they lead the group in super 6

Posted by munir-ahmed1986 on (February 8, 2011, 2:53 GMT)

Where's Zimbabwe beating India???

Posted by MarkM33 on (February 8, 2011, 2:30 GMT)

I'm incredibly biased but one of the best upsets was the NZ vs Aus match at the 1992 WC. The NZ team were a bunch of Joe Average's and had to rely on thinking outside the box. They opened the bowling with Dipak Patel, had pinch hitters in Rod Latham & Mark Greatbatch to score in the order of 75 runs in the first 15 overs (thank goodness John Wright was injured in the first match!!) and revolved the batting around the classy Martin Crowe. The bowling primarily consisted of incredibly slow bowlers such as The Postman (Gavin Larsen), the inswinging CZ Harris (who could bowl at 4 slip and still swing it in to hit the off stump) and Ro(tun)d Latham.

They didn't win the WC but showed what you can do with very limited resources and weren't expected to win anything.

Posted by wildbill85 on (February 8, 2011, 1:26 GMT)

I tend to agree that SL vs AUS in 96 is definitely out of place in this list, SL had test status and was a strong side going into the contest, given their performances prior to the WC as well, they were more like Tuna amongst sharks. Even Bangladesh beating India in the last world cup wasn't ridiculous, SL had so many one day series against Bangladesh and from watching them I thought they were very capable of upsetting at least one big team in the 2007 WC, they just needed to fire as a team.

Posted by Mad_Hamish on (February 8, 2011, 0:23 GMT)

Sri Lanka winning the 96 final wasn't exactly a big surprise. The Sri Lankan spinners had been very effective all through the tournament and they did a superb job of keeping the runs down and taking wickets. However I take some issue with the claim that Sri Lanka almost won the World Series in Aus, Australia bowled them out for 183 in the first final and won by over 100 runs in the second, Sri Lanka won 2 out of 6 matches against Aus in that series. The Sri Lankan finger spinners weren't effective in Australian conditions and their seamers weren't really good enough so they struggled in Aus but were very good where there was more help for spinners. Sri Lanka wasn't hard done by in 2007 either. They were 7/206 after 33 overs when they went off for bad light and they had needed 269 from 36 overs after Australia had posted 281 from 38 overs. 3 wickets in hand 63 runs in 3 overs needed. They lost it when their middle order failed (largely due to needing almost 7.5 rpo)

Posted by evenflow_1990 on (February 8, 2011, 0:12 GMT)

i think sri lanka beating australia in 1996 is worth being on the list. sri lanka did win sharjah, but then again bangladesh have beaten australia before. sri lanka was inconsistent. they were 66-1 outsiders to win the world cup. that pretty much proves the result was unexpected.

Posted by smudgeon on (February 7, 2011, 22:31 GMT)

This list is what makes ODIs and the World Cup an event worth watching. Sad that this will be the last World Cup to feature minnows. Less upsets, less excitement, and less chance of associates developing into truly competitive teams. How are Ireland, Kenya, etc going to gauge their ability to perform at the next level? Being a big fish in a small pond (by which I mean the ICC divisions the associates compete in) isn't going to do much for their future development once they've hit Division 1 and can't go any further. By the way, check out those daggy uniforms in the photo!

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 22:03 GMT)

Well the ICC are going to ensure future World Cups aren't allowed to have any upsets, by getting rid of all the underdogs. Such a callous decision and will rob World Cups of some of their most exciting moments. Ireland vs Pakistan was my highlight of the 2007 World Cup - an amazing game.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (February 7, 2011, 21:59 GMT)

ssm2407, yes indeed. I found out when researching for a book that in the 1979 tournament, despite being collared in the Final, Geoff Boycott took as many wickets at Sir Richard Hadlee or Imran Khan, but at both a better average and strike rate than either!! I think that it is also true that Bob Willis, who bowled like a demon in the tournament, had not managed a single wicket for Warwickshire before the World Cup started.

Posted by Sabwani on (February 7, 2011, 21:37 GMT)

Well this is ur opinion and is match in the list in my opinion is Pak vs Ireland and in my opinion Pak vs England 1992 final is also one of the most unexpected win of all the time.

Posted by CricketPissek on (February 7, 2011, 20:23 GMT)

well, i think SL beating Aus being in the list is fair enough... it was almost a given to a lot of self proclaimed pundits that Aus will win. Bangladesh's performances in the 2007 WC wouldnt have surprised the Bengali population the same way i imagine? Anyway, u guys shud just chill a bit :) it's an interesting list

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 19:13 GMT)

My question to any Indian fan-->Tell us which World Cup lost do you consider as the most saddest of all??? I would hope it is the lost against BAN in 2007 WC, and that's probably because I am a BAN fan, but what about yours as an IND fan??

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 19:12 GMT)

Even the match were Zimbabwe defeated India in 1999 world cup can also be included in the upset lists.Because India was relatively stronger at that point of time.

I had two choices to make that day in 2007 world cup, one was to watch the BAN-IND match and the other was to attend the rock show.And I chose the later one which ended up to be the right choice.I hope that won't be the case this time.

Posted by spas on (February 7, 2011, 17:29 GMT)

Can someone tell me how SL vs Aus match in 1996 worldcup fit into thils list? May be Steven is referring to the pundits who believed myth of "chasing" in world cup finals". mind you, SL won the Champions throphy in Sharjah in 1995 quite comprehensively and almost won the world series in Australia months before the worldcup. I can't really understand why he consider the result of 1996 match was unexpected....

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 17:04 GMT)

@Tarun Khanna , wel wel wel, Eden garden belongs to India i think, y r u blaming the Pitch mate? your groundsmen made the Pitch, not Sri lanken Curator,

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 16:44 GMT)

The biggest upset in real terms for the cricketing world is Sri Lanka not getting a fair chance of play in 2007 cup final.Lankans had to bat on a pitch dark pitch!! as if the sun wont shine over the caribbean on the reserve day?!?!?! and yes 1996 cup final, an invincible SL eleven beating AUS is a MISTAKE by CRICINFO

Posted by AJ_Tiger86 on (February 7, 2011, 16:17 GMT)

Lol. Bangladeshi tigers will once again beat India in the first match of the world cup. And this time it won't be an upset. Lol.

Posted by rohanblue on (February 7, 2011, 14:23 GMT)

what abt bangladesh vs sa in 2007????????

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 14:00 GMT)

where is zimbabwe beating india in 1999???

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 13:39 GMT)

Cybertron12 - well observed but mostly they have been hammered by the aussies! Heres hoping that Simon Taufel can umpire in his first world cup final!!

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (February 7, 2011, 13:12 GMT)

It's a pity that the rules have now been tinkered with to make real upsets almost impossible. Now, even if top a side loses a match or two they will make the Super Eights. Maybe some people were unhappy to see Ireland and Bangladesh in the second phase in 2007 instead of India and Pakistan, but they had got there on merit: now the odds are stacked against the little sides who have to raise themselved time and again rather than having just a couple of big games and a fighting chance of pulling off a real upset when the result matters.

Posted by ssm2407 on (February 7, 2011, 10:27 GMT)

West Indies beating Pakistan @ Edgbaston 1975 with their last 2 wkts adding over a 100 runs - how did that happen ? Also as a general point Geoff Boycott's bowling in the 1979 World Cup - bowling England to win over Pakistan & taking more wkts than runs in game v Australia! - no one saw that coming!

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 10:07 GMT)

i still remeber that fateful day on 2007 when india lost to bangla cats .........its revenge time this year ...... cats are gonna be whipped ready ...

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 10:05 GMT)

Well the list will end here...No more upsets now.There will only be 10 teams in the 2015 WC.Who knows if Bangladesh beat Pak/Ind/SA again then the 2019 tournament will have only 8 teams...Nz & WI are already on a decline.2023 will have six teams....He He He...ICC ROXX...!!!

Posted by chandau on (February 7, 2011, 8:44 GMT)

Again CRICKINFO gets one wrong!!! SRI LANKA playing in Asia unexpected winners over Australia? It must be all the floods and fires affecting the writer's senses :) If my memory serves me right, India lost Zims in '99. NOW THAT IS UNEXPECTED MATE !!!

Posted by Cybertron12 on (February 7, 2011, 8:18 GMT)

Since 1992, there was atleast 1 Asian team in the world cup finals. Hope this trait continues..Or better still, both the teams in this WC final can be Asians...

Posted by Saqib_Sheraz on (February 7, 2011, 7:32 GMT)

1999 world cup final was also a upset!

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 7:09 GMT)

Netherlands beating England in the t20???

Posted by Balumekka on (February 7, 2011, 7:09 GMT)

Perhaps for Steven Lynch, Sri lanka's win over Aussies in 1996 WC might be an unexpected result. But its not so for the Cricket fans!!!! Sri Lanka was undefeated throughout the tournament in 1996!!!!

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 7:04 GMT)

well well!! We arent forgetting the Srilankans winning a semifinal on crumbling eden gardens pitch. for me that was the only reason Lankans managed to reach finals and histroy was because of the pitch....

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 6:50 GMT)

I would have thought New Zealand beating Australia in the opener to the 1992 WC would be up there- considering the side was in tatters before it, the change in fortune was astonishing. The tactics used: opening with Patel, packing the circle with their best fielders, and strangling the middle-part of Australia's innings with medium pacers- were also hugely influential. Crowe's "Young Guns" would go onto win seven in a row, eventually falling to Pakistan in that heartbreaking semi-final.

Posted by Issac_Samuel on (February 7, 2011, 6:42 GMT)

Also, what about Zimbabwe defeating India on 1999 World Cup and left India pointless on super sixes group.. and the first super six match against Australia left India on tatters.

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 6:36 GMT)

Sri Lanka beating Australia in 1996 was not unexpected. Sri Lanka had won all the games convincingly prior to the final game in 1996. So how come their win in final was unexpected?

Posted by ray_kay on (February 7, 2011, 5:57 GMT)

Last 12 years which includes 3 World Cups, 99',03',07', Tigers shook the world twice already :D Let's shake the world yet once again in 11'...Tigers will be unlished, flags will be waved, parties will be held. Tigers all the way...

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 5:43 GMT)

i think srilanka beating australia in the 1996 final should not feature in this list. srilanka were strong right throughout that worldcup. when a team playing great cricket throughout a tournament wins the final,u seldom ask "how did that happen".

i think you should add zimbabwe beating iindia in that 99 worldcup match (which tendulkar couldnt play) instead.

Posted by mihir_nam on (February 7, 2011, 5:38 GMT)

what about Bangladesh Defeating South Africa 2007..Quite Unexpected.. and Canada winning over a Test Team in 2003

Posted by devrajr on (February 7, 2011, 5:37 GMT)

i dont think srilanka beating australia in the 96 final should feature in this list. srilanka were very strong right throughout that worldcup.

u should better add zimbabwe beating india in the 99 worlcup instead.

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 5:30 GMT)

So Bangladesh beating South Africa in WC'2007 wasn't an upset? Thats a big complement to the then Bangladesh indeed :-)

Posted by   on (February 7, 2011, 4:11 GMT)

thats kool info to get...thanks cricinfo analyst for that. What about an article on the important hundreds in World Cup crucial/historical matches? That would be quite a read, young generation following cricket today will get to know the greatest ODI batsmen

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Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

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