Six and out
My clearest memory from the first World Cup in 1975, when I was still at school, comes from the final. It was played in glorious sunshine at Lord's, on the longest day of the year (June 21). That was lucky, since an epic match (60 overs a side in those days) went on till almost 9pm. But early on, Roy Fredericks, the electric West Indian opener, hooked the fearsome Dennis Lillee. The ball sailed over the ropes, possibly out of the ground: but Fredericks had slipped during the shot - perhaps there was some early-morning moisture - and disturbed the bails. While the spectators were still looking for the ball and applauding the shot, poor Fredericks was trudging back to the pavilion.
Kalli v Lillee
Another clear memory from the first World Cup, seen from a perch high up in the Oval pavilion, was of another Guyanese left-hander - even shorter than Fredericks - hooking Lillee in a group game. The slender, bare-headed Kallicharran hardly looked strong enough to withstand Lillee, who charged in, hair flowing, before uncoiling that superb textbook fast-bowling action. But he was hooked, pulled and cut to shreds as Kalli sprinted to 78. He smashed 35 from the last ten balls Lillee bowled to him, including five successive fours (444414604), before finally mistiming a pull to be caught. But by then West Indies were only 42 away from the victory that gave them - and what seemed like most of south London - bragging rights ahead of the final.
By 1979 I was working at Lord's, and sneaked away from the desk for long enough to watch the end of West Indies' innings in the final. And the very last ball provides my indelible memory of that World Cup: Viv Richards sauntering across his stumps as Mike Hendrick wheels down the final delivery. It wasn't a bad ball: Viv would probably have been bowled if he'd missed it. But he hadn't missed much during that innings - he had 132 before that last delivery - and the bat scythed down from somewhere in the region of cover and dismissed the ball into the Mound Stand for another six with what seemed like an effortless swish (until you tried it yourself). Genius at work.
In 1983 I'd like to have seen Kapil Dev's 175 not out which rescued India among the rhododendrons in Tunbridge Wells (they had been 17 for 5 against Zimbabwe), and did see Allan Lamb make an attractive century at The Oval (when New Zealander Martin Snedden's 12 overs cost 105). But the first thing that actually comes to mind is another scene from a final. West Indies undoubtedly thought they'd done the hard bit when they bowled India out for a modest 183, but their seemingly inevitable march to a third successive World Cup title was derailed by a touch of overconfidence... and the cool head of Kapil, their captain, when Viv Richards lofted an attempted hook off Madan Lal's military-mediums. I had somehow found my way into the scoreboard in the old Grand Stand for this one, so had the perfect view as Kapil ran some way to take the catch over his shoulder. He never took his eye off the ball (unlike the rest of the West Indian batsmen later), and India were on their way.
Walsh's good deed
Playing truant from the office wasn't really an option in 1987, since the World Cup was played in India and Pakistan for the first time. Mike Gatting's reverse-sweep in the final - which popped up to be caught, and England never recovered - is probably most people's snapshot from that tournament, but for me it came during the group game between West Indies and Pakistan in Lahore. Pakistan required 14 from the final over with their last pair in. Since Courtney Walsh was bowling, West Indies were favourites - at least until Abdul Qadir smashed the fourth ball for six, to the delight of the home crowd. Two runs off the fifth ball meant two were needed off the final delivery. In loped Walsh ... and just before he went into that familiar whirl of limbs that usually ended up with the ball hurtling down the track at 90mph he stopped. Non-striker Saleem Jaffer, the last man, was backing up too far. Walsh could have run him out and ended the game - but, in a remarkably sporting gesture in the circumstances, he just wagged a finger at him and trudged back to his mark. He may have regretted it when Qadir sliced the last ball away for the winning runs. Walsh might have lost the match, but he was later given a carpet from a local businessman, impressed by his sportsmanship, which was probably not much of a consolation.
A shrewdly timed trip to see family in Australia in 1992 meant I just happened to be in Sydney for England's semi-final - and the silly 21-off-one-ball climax - and the final in Melbourne. Arriving early enough to bag a seat behind the bowler's arm in a crowd of more than 87,000 is an early memory of a very long day, which ended with a late-night mystery drive round unfamiliar Melbourne suburbs as police directed the traffic away from the one route I knew. In between there was England's good start, Pakistan's batting recovery, Ian Botham's duck ... and then my magic moment(s): Wasim Akram's successive balls to Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis. The first one swung in and straightened, the second veered in sharply. Both knocked the stumps back, and England - now 141 for 6 chasing 250 - were up against it from then on.
Srinath's first over
I don't think I've watched a World Cup more closely, before or since, than the 1996 one in the subcontinent, mainly because we had rather rashly undertaken, in Wisden Cricket Monthly, to identify the fielders involved in each run-out in our scorecards. In pre-internet days this was quite an ask, especially for games like Holland against the UAE, or Kenya v Zimbabwe. I remember incidents like Neil Smith being sick on the pitch, the UAE's captain Sultan Zarawani unwisely spurning a helmet and being crusted by Allan Donald, and the portly Kenyan wicketkeeper Tariq Iqbal's thigh-catch to dismiss Brian Lara as West Indies collapsed to a shock defeat ... but the sharpest memory, for some reason, is from the first over of the semi-final between India and Sri Lanka. Sanath Jayasuriya had eviscerated England's bowlers in the quarter-final with 82 from 44 balls, and the anticipation as he and his equally aggressive partner Romesh Kaluwitharana came out in the Kolkata semi was intense. But Kalu carved the second ball of Javagal Srinath's first over straight to third man, then Jayasuriya followed suit fourth ball. (It was a different third man - Venkatesh Prasad rather than Sanjay Manjrekar - as Jayasuriya was a left-hander.) It was 1 for 2, with both "pinch-hitters" out ... game over, surely? It wasn't. Sri Lanka recovered superbly to reach 251, and India collapsed to 120 for 8 - before crowd scenes at Eden Gardens that won't be a happy memory for anyone ended the match.
Warne does it again
When the World Cup returned to England in 1999 Wisden sent someone to every match, which for me meant a flight to Scotland for their match against Bangladesh (it rained), and a trip to Birmingham for England v India (it rained, and England lost on the reserve day, which eliminated them from their own party). Later, after covering the first semi-final, I watched the second one on television. It turned out that I'd chosen the wrong one, as this was a cast-iron epic. The Aussies made a modest 213, but Shane Warne served up a repeat of his 1993 Mike Gatting wonder ball, this time to Herschelle Gibbs - drifting, dipping towards the legs, then spitting back to strike the top of off stump as the batsman groped at thin air. Warne's first eight overs cost just eight runs, and he finished with 4 for 29 and the match award. That match provided more great memories: Lance Klusener's two cover-driven boundaries in the last over were hit as hard and travelled faster than any other shots I've ever seen, while the finale (Allan Donald's sad run-out with the scores level) was another. But for a legspinner of somewhat more modest talents, to see Warnie do it again was just magical.
Probably my strongest memory of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa was the news, in mid-tournament, that Wisden.com (which I was working for at the time) was to merge with Cricinfo. While we wondered about our jobs, the tournament continued - and for much of the time England looked equally distracted, their campaign never really recovering from an emotion-packed refusal to travel to Zimbabwe, which meant they forfeited the points and ultimately failed to qualify for the later stages. But it might have been very different had they hung on to beat Australia in Port Elizabeth. England had made 204 - not enough, surely, although it represented quite a triumph considering that fast bowler Andy Bichel had taken 7 for 20. It looked more than adequate, though, as Australia crashed to 114 for 7 - but, with the arch-finisher Michael Bevan combining with the pesky Bichel, the Aussies inched closer and closer to their target. With two overs to go Australia needed 14: everyone expected Andy Caddick (4 for 35) to be given the ball for the 49th over, but England's captain, Nasser Hussain, instead went for the inexperienced James Anderson "on a hunch". Even Anderson looked vaguely startled, and the hunch turned into a nightmare: that man Bichel clubbed the second ball for six, then collected a four, and Australia squeaked home.
There are sad memories from 2007, notably the death of Bob Woolmer, a long-time friend to Wisden, and the stupid scenes in the dark at the end of the final. But my snapshot from that tournament came early on, when Robin Uthappa thick-edged the seventh ball of India's group game against Bermuda in Port-of-Spain. It flew out towards gully, where the substantial frame of Dwayne Leverock flew to the right and intercepted the catch one-handed. Leverock's weight was variously estimated at between 19 and 24 stone: his landing probably registered on the Richter Scale, and his celebrations - which involved a lap of honour round most of the ground with his team-mates in tow - could easily have left him too exhausted to bowl later on. He might have wished they had, as India recovered to amass 413 for 5, with Leverock's ten overs of left-arm spin disappearing for 96. But no one can take that moment away from an endearing man who, asked why he had attained such an impressive bulk, sheepishly admitted that he lived above an Indian restaurant - "And there's another one next door!"
It's too early, of course, to pronounce definitely on the snapshot moment of the 2011 World Cup just yet. The signature pose so far is Shahid Afridi, arms thrust skywards after another wicket. There's been Lasith Malinga's hat-trick (and his hair), Darren Sammy's smile, Seren Waters's catch. But the rest of the tournament will have to produce something pretty memorable to usurp Kevin O'Brien's astonishing century from the top of the list, especially the biggest of those six sixes in his 50-ball hundred as Ireland mugged England in Bangalore.
Tell us what your favourite moments of the World Cups have been
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2011