February 10, 2011

The lone rangers

Eleven solo performances that took the World Cup by storm

Kapil Dev v Zimbabwe, 1983
When Kapil walked out to bat India's World Cup ambitions were in a state of embarrassment: 9 for 4 against Zimbabwe soon become 17 for 5 and India needed not so much a captain's innings as a miracle. They got both. First he carefully lifted his side to 140 for 8 before letting loose in a ninth-wicket stand of 126 in 16 overs with Syed Kirmani. With six sixes and 16 fours in all, he ended unbeaten on 175, then a World Cup record. Riding on their captain's inspiration India went on to win the match, qualify for the semis and pull off one of sport's great upsets, beating West Indies in the final. Without that single innings cricket in India and ODI cricket in general might never have achieved the gargantuan status it has today.

Andrew Symonds v Pakistan, 2003
Given they ended the tournament unbeaten champions, it's difficult to remember the farcical build-up Australia endured to the 2003 World Cup. Darren Lehmann had been suspended for racial abuse, Michael Bevan was injured, and on the morning of their opening match against Pakistan, Shane Warne announced he would be returning home to face drugs charges. Bad became much worse when Pakistan reduced them to 86 for 4. Joining his captain, Ricky Ponting, was Symonds. If many Australians had had their way he would not have even been there. Symonds had just two fifties from 54 ODIs and had managed 12 runs from three matches in the tri-series against England and Sri Lanka that preceded the event. He was Ponting's pick and on his arrival at the wicket, legend has it his captain thundered: "Look me in the eye and tell me you'll be here at the end." True to his word Symonds bludgeoned Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akthar all around the Wanderers, striking 18 fours and two sixes, to end unbeaten on 143. It kickstarted both Australia's campaign and Symonds' career.

Deryck Murray v Pakistan, 1975
By the time Andy Roberts joined Murray at the crease, Tom Graveney, the Man-of-the-Match adjudicator, had perched himself at the bar, believing best of the contest was up. The great names - Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards - had gone, West Indies were nine down and still 64 runs adrift in the must-win match against Pakistan. With 16 overs left time wasn't the concern and Murray counter-punched skillfully from one end while Roberts held fort at the other. Come the final over West Indies still needed five off Wasim Raja, with Roberts on strike. Two leg-byes - from a panicked hack at fresh air - were followed by a calmer clip to midwicket to level the scores, and Roberts scampered the final run to cue wild celebrations thousands of miles away back in the Caribbean. As for the Man-of-the-Match award, that went to Safraz Nawaz: Graveney missed the stunning comeback.

Andy Bichel v England 2003
Bichel is hardly one of the standout names from Australia's Golden Generation. Nestled in a team packed with Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and the like, Bichel never chased, and rarely hit, the headlines. Except in this match. England needed to win to progress to the Super Sixes and were given a perfect start as Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick raced to 66 from 59 balls. Then Bichel produced the spell of his life, in a flash reducing them to 87 for 5, which included a stunning outswinger to peg back Nasser Hussain's off stump. He finished with 7 for 20 from 10 unrepeatable overs. It should have been enough to ensure victory but England stormed back into the game on the back of Andy Caddick's four early wickets. At 135 for 8 England were all but home but Bichel joined the masterful Michael Bevan and pieced together a heartbreaking 73-run stand. With 14 needed from the last two overs Hussain opted for James Anderson over Caddick and Bichel settled the game by swishing a slower ball into the midwicket stands and driving the next for four. Australia went on to win the match and England went home.

Mike Hendrick v Pakistan, 1979
It may have been 1979, well before one-day average scores had inflated to their swollen levels of today, but defending 166 in 60 overs against Pakistan should have been beyond England. Instead Hendrick produced one of the finest World Cup bowling performances, to send Pakistan's top order packing. In just eight balls Majid Khan, Sadiq Mohammad, Mudassar Nazar and Haroon Rasheed fell, to reduce them to 34 for 6. With Ian Botham and Bob Willis in support Pakistan seemed buried. Instead Asif Iqbal found support from the lower order and instigated a magnificent comeback. At 151 for 9 Pakistan were well in sight but Hendrick intervened once more, leaping at mid-off to pull off a stunning catch from last man Sikander Bakht and seal England's victory.

Shane Warne v South Africa, 1999
The greatest ODI of them all is remembered mostly for its gut-wrenching ending, but it was the master, Warne, who set up the contest. South Africa were always one of Warne's favourite victims. His stranglehold on them had been established five years earlier when he took 33 wickets over six Tests home and away, and come the World Cup semi-final in 1999 he was ready to spook them again. South Africa were on top after Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten led them to 48 without loss in pursuit of a modest 213. In need of inspiration, Steve Waugh turned to Warne, who produced the ball of the tournament - drifting well outside leg before darting sharply back to ping the top of Gibbs' off stump. Kirsten, Hansie Cronje and Jacques Kallis followed soon. South Africa were rendered shotless as Warne finished with 4 for 29 before Lance Klusener's blitz carried them to the line, where that run-out saw Australia through.

Inzamam-ul-Haq v New Zealand, 1992
The cornered tigers had fought back from the brink to reach the semi-finals, but at 140 for 4, with 123 needed from 15 overs, when a youthful Inzamam joined Javed Miandad at the crease it looked as though Pakistan's World Cup dream had finally ended. Then Inzy launched a savage assault on New Zealand's army of dobbers, who had been so effective all tournament. It announced the arrival of a special talent, and he and Miandad added 87. Fittingly it was only a run-out that stopped him but his 37-ball 60 had sealed the game and booked Pakistan a place in a fantasy final against England at the MCG.

Andy Flower and Henry Olonga v Mugabe 2003
Today's cricketers rarely appear to have much grasp of the world beyond their bubble, but in the 2003 World Cup moral and political questions were thrust straight into the heart of the tournament. In the build-up, with the ECB and ICC silent, England's players agonised over the morals of playing in Harare before pulling out on security grounds. It took until Zimbabwe's first match for somebody to raise the right questions. Andy Flower, Zimbabwe's best ever cricketer, and Henry Olonga, the senior fast bowler, issued a statement and wore black armbands to "mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe". It was a protest of immense courage and both players were forced into retirement at the end of the tournament.

John Davison v West Indies, 2003
It was the sort of innings established stars normally reserve for hapless minnows. West Indies' standing may have sunk but minnows they were not. In 90 heady minutes of crazed hitting, Canada's Davison plundered them all over Centurion to race to 111 from 76 balls. The next highest score in the innings was 19. He reached his century off 67 deliveries - then a World Cup record - and struck six sixes and eight fours in all. Brian Lara spared his side the blushes by rushing to 73 to set up the chase but Davison's place was secured in history.

Gary Gilmour v England 1975
The heavy atmosphere, stiff breeze and thick grass covering at Headingley proved the perfect combination for Gilmour, a lanky left-arm medium-pacer, to inflict carnage on England. With Dennis Lillee opening up from the other end and Jeff Thomson lurking at first change England's batsmen had plenty to worry them but Gilmour outshone his fast-and-nasty team-mates with an unbroken 12-over spell of devastating seam and swing bowling. He took the first six wickets to fall, to reduce England to 36 for 6. Job done? Almost. Mike Denness rallied to drag his side up to 93 all out, and John Snow and Chris Old combined to tear through Australia's top order, leaving them tottering at a similarly perilous 39 for 6. Enter Gilmour, who merrily swung his way to a run-a-ball unbeaten 28 to see his side through to the final.

Aravinda de Silva v Australia, 1996
Behind the bluster of Romesh Kaluwitharana and the blitz of Sanath Jayasuriya was the class of de Silva, and on the biggest stage his all-round showing carried Sri Lanka to a remarkable triumph, completing their journey from minnows to masters. First, when Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting were going well at 137 for 1, he removed both with his offspin, before returning later to snare Ian Healy to finish with 3 for 42 from nine overs. In between times he caught Steve Waugh and Stuart Law. It restricted Australia to 241 for 7 and in itself was a fine performance. Then came the main event. Chasing under lights at 23 for 2 with both openers gone, de Silva carefully assembled the perfect chase, brisk without hurrying, to end unbeaten on 107, win the World Cup and catapult Sri Lankan cricket into the big time.

Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo