April 7, 2014

Are you sitting down for this?

Netherlands beat England last month. A look at some other big international upsets over the years

Australia beat England, 1882
Despite some wins by the upstart Aussies in early Tests against privately raised teams, supporters in the mother country were smugly sure that a full-strength England side would always come out on top. All that changed at The Oval in 1882, when, set only 85 to win, England collapsed for 77 against a fired-up Fred "The Demon" Spofforth (7 for 44). The tense finish was so exciting that one spectator apparently died of a heart attack, and another gnawed through his umbrella handle. The shock setback led to the mock obituary notice for English cricket that started the whole Ashes legend.

West Indies beat England, 1929-30
West Indies' first Tests - three games in England in 1928 - had all ended in innings defeats, and more of the same was expected when MCC toured the Caribbean a couple of years later. England were also playing Tests in New Zealand at the same time, which meant the talent was spread more thinly than usual, and on home turf West Indies were much more competitive. With the young George Headley in imperious form, they won the third Test by 289 runs, and squared the four-match series. England never took West Indies quite so lightly again.

Pakistan beat India, 1952-53
Pakistan's inaugural Test, in Delhi in October 1952, had resulted in an innings defeat, so there was a lot at stake in the second match, in Lucknow: pride, and an urgent need to show that Pakistan were worthy of their recent elevation to Test status. Fazal Mahmood, Pakistan's first great bowler, took 12 wickets as the tables were turned: this time it was Pakistan who won by an innings, to show they belonged at the top table. Pakistan made a habit of early success: in 1954 they became the only visiting country to win a Test in their first series in England, and late in 1956 won their first Test match against Australia.

Ireland beat West Indies, 1969
The greatest day in Irish cricket - at least until St Patrick's Day in 2007, when they beat Pakistan in the World Cup in Kingston - came in Sion Mills near Londonderry in July 1969. "Conditions were all in favour of the bowlers," admitted Wisden, but it was still amazing that the once-mighty West Indians were soon 12 for 9. They eventually limped to 25 all out. Rumours remain that the tourists may have been suffering the after-effects of a tour round the local Guinness factory the night before.

New Zealand beat Australia, 1973-74
Oddly, it took nearly 100 years of Test cricket for those close neighbours Australia and New Zealand to play each other regularly. New Zealand were humbled for 42 and 54 in the one Test they had contested, in Wellington in 1945-46, which seems to have been enough to convince Australia that it wasn't really worth playing the Kiwis. That changed in 1973-74, with home-and-away series - and although the Aussies still had the upper hand overall, Glenn Turner's second century of the match steered New Zealand to a satisfying five-wicket victory in Christchurch in March 1974.

Zimbabwe beat Australia, 1983
In their first official one-day international, Zimbabwe humbled the might of Australia in the 1983 World Cup, at Trent Bridge. Zimbabwe's captain, a feisty allrounder called Duncan Fletcher (whatever happened to him?), scored 69 not out to lift his side to 239, then claimed 4 for 42 as Australia were restricted to 226. The two teams have contested 27 ODIs since, and Zimbabwe haven't won any - although they did pull off a narrow victory in the inaugural World Twenty20 in Cape Town in September 2007.

Zimbabwe beat England, 1992
It was arguably the turning point of the 1992 World Cup: England had been skating through the competition until this point, but maybe they peaked too soon. In their last qualifying match, at up-country Albury on the NSW-Victoria border, England collapsed to 125 all out in pursuit of Zimbabwe's modest total of 134. England were already assured of a semi-final place, but this was underwhelming. They stumbled over the line in the controversial semi-final against South Africa in Sydney, then lost to Pakistan in the final in Melbourne. This first official meeting between the two countries gave Zimbabwe a liking for tweaking English tails: they have won seven more ODIs since, including a 3-0 whitewash at home in 1996-97.

Kenya beat West Indies, 1996
It's the crispest memory of the 1996 World Cup - Kenya's leap-year-day victory against an over-confident West Indian team in Pune. Kenya's 166 looked insufficient - until West Indies started batting. After the openers soon departed, Brian Lara was out in comical circumstances, as Kenya's well-padded wicketkeeper Tariq Iqbal - who turned 50 last week - missed a straightforward catch but hugged the ball between his thighs before it hit the ground. West Indies couldn't recover, and were all out for 93.

Bangladesh beat Pakistan, 1999
Pakistan had already qualified for the second phase of the 1999 World Cup when they took on neighbours Bangladesh in Northampton, and mucked up what should have been a regulation chase. They were soon 29 for 4, and slid to 161 all out and defeat by 62 runs. Bangladesh's victory did much to advance their case for Test status, which was confirmed the following year: sadly, after the match-fixing scandals of recent years, this result is now viewed with some suspicion.

Netherlands beat England, 2009
Yes, it's happened before! England's expectations of a comfortable start to the 2009 World Twenty20 at home were rudely shattered when Netherlands pulled off a stunning victory at Lord's, winning thanks to an overthrow off the last ball. "It simply doesn't get better than this," said the Dutch allrounder Peter Borren. "To be sitting in the Lord's dressing room, having beaten England… it's just fantastic." And Borren, by now captain, was at the helm as Netherlands made it 2-0 in Chittagong last month.

Ireland beat England, 2011
England looked home and hosed when they ran up 327 in the 2011 World Cup in Bangalore: Ireland, a non-Test nation, surely weren't going to threaten that, especially after their captain, Will Porterfield, fell to the first ball of the reply. It was 106 for 4 in the 23rd over when Kevin O'Brien strolled in... and changed the match, blitzing the World Cup's fastest hundred, in just 50 balls. Although O'Brien was out just before the end, John Mooney kept his cool and flicked the winning boundary in the final over. There have been five successful chases of over 300 in the World Cup - and the Irish are responsible for two of them.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013. Ask Steven is now on Facebook