A spectacular choke

ESPNcricinfo staff
Ireland sneak one over the Zims, and England fall to Sri Lanka but raise their game against West Indies

Ireland v Zimbabwe, Kingston
Chasing 222, Zimbabwe were teetering at 133 for 5 when Stuart Matsikenyeri and Brendan Taylor steadied the ship and guided them falteringly towards the finishing line before the wheels came off. Taylor was run-out in unlucky circumstances at the non-striker's end after a fortuitous deflection off the bowler's wrist. When Gary Brent fell leg-before with 10 needed, the jitters set in properly. In the penultimate over of the game Kevin O'Brien had Prosper Utseya caught off a full toss with the first ball, and then Christopher Mpofu was stranded at the wrong end off the last.

Matsikenyeri took five off the first three balls off the last over, bowled by Andrew White. Ed Rainsford chipped a single off the fourth, leaving Zimbabwe needing three from two. Matsikenyeri then top-edged and an airborne Trent Johnston at short third man couldn't quite hold on. Then his shy at the bowler's end was thwarted by some unsubtle but effective blocking by Rainsford, who threw himself in the path of the throw.

With the scores tied, Matsikenyeri had to get something on the ball, but he played and missed, and while the attempt to stump him failed - he never left his ground - Rainsford, who had charged towards his colleague, was left stranded. Zimbabwe had lost four wickets for nine runs in 15 balls in one of the most sensational World Cup chokes of all.

England v Sri Lanka, North Sound
Though Sri Lanka only made 235, England's middle order fell away meekly before a thrilling fightback from Paul Nixon and Ravi Bopara dragged the required total down to 12 from the final over. It proved to be two too many.

That England even got into a winning position owed much to Nixon, whose crafty 42 took them out of the woods. Reverse-sweeping with furious intent, if not great success initially, and nurdling singles with relative ease, he weathered the storm after a middle-order failure. An old head needs young legs, though: Nixon was joined by Bopara, and 69 balls later the young-old combination had a 50-run partnership to their name. And without ever attacking the target with real intent, they chipped away to bring the required runs down to 32 from three overs. Nixon then unfurled the shot of the day, a remarkable reverse-swept six off Muttiah Muralitharan to raise hopes of an unlikely victory.

It all boiled down to the last over from Dilhara Fernando. His second ball was paddled over short fine-leg by Bopara for four. Seven needed from four balls, but Bopara's crunching drive couldn't pierce the covers. They picked up just two - enough to register his first one-day fifty. A single off the fourth ball and another off the fifth, but with three needed from the final ball, Fernando cleaned up Bopara to end a memorable match.

West Indies v England, Bridgetown
Although he couldn't finish his career with a major innings, Brian Lara at least appeared set to end with a victory when England fell to 189 for 6, chasing 301. But Kevin Pietersen was ticking and he timed his charge to perfection, expertly picking out the required boundaries.

When Pietersen was joined by Nixon, England needed a tough 112 in 14 overs, but the pair added 80 in 63 balls. Pietersen reached his ton with a huge six over midwicket off Jerome Taylor, only to miss an attempted repeat the next ball and lose his leg stump. Nixon, who came so close to carrying England home against Sri Lanka, took the momentum forward and three boundaries off the 48th over left England needing 12 off the final two.

When Nixon was confounded by Dwayne Bravo's excellent slower deliveries it was down to Broad and James Anderson to find three from four balls. Off the penultimate delivery, Lara, in his final gesture as an international player, brought the field in and Broad, at the opposite end of his career, scythed over cover.

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