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ESPNcricinfo XI

Small fish, big teeth

Minnows who showed up their stronger rivals

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Khaled Mahmud celebrates victory against Pakistan, Northampton, May 31 1999

Khaled Mahmud: starred in Bangladesh's historic World Cup win over Pakistan  •  martin hayhow/Getty Images

Dwayne Leverock, Bermuda, 2007
No man better epitomised the fat-cat mentality that pervaded Bermuda's 2007 squad than their man mountain of a spin bowler, Leverock. Too many years of living upstairs from a curry house meant that his frame was as sturdy as the prison van he used to drive in his civilian life, but unlike England's Samit Patel, the national selectors did not see his lack of athleticism as an excuse to omit him from their plans. Just as well, really, because in the second over of their match against India, Leverock produced one of the finest moments of the tournament, an outstanding one-handed pluck at (a very wide) slip, to dismiss Robin Uthappa for 3. The ball was the first that the 18-year-old Malachi Jones had ever bowled in a World Cup, and he promptly burst into tears.
Sultan Zarawani, UAE, 1996
A multi-multi-millionaire, Zarawani was the only native-born member among the expats and mercenaries masquerading as the UAE national squad at the 1996 World Cup. He probably owned more cars than he managed international runs (26), and possibly more brain cells as well, judging by his ill-advised confrontation with Allan Donald in Rawalpindi. "Al, this guy's asking for it," snarled Pat Symcox as Zarawani strode in to bat, helmetless, with his side at 68 for 6 chasing 321. And so Donald obliged. His very first ball was a bouncer that pinned his target direct on the head. As Zarawani staggered away, his sun hat all but flopped onto the bails. But he picked himself up, dusted himself down, and struggled on for six more run-less deliveries before Brian McMillan had him caught at mid-off by Hansie Cronje.
Gavin Hamilton, Scotland, 1999
It is a measure of England's ineptitude at the 1999 World Cup that their leading run-scorer was in fact playing for the old enemy, Scotland. Hamilton's England career was brief and unfulfilling. In his solitary Test, in Johannesburg in 1999-2000, he went wicketless and bagged a pair. But dressed in the St Andrew's Saltire, he was a man transformed, as he showed in his country's first World Cup campaign with 217 runs at 54.25, comfortably beating Nasser Hussain's England tally of 194 in the same number of matches. Hamilton was unable to propel Scotland to victory at any stage, but having launched his campaign with a composed 34 against the eventual champions, Australia, his personal zenith came against Pakistan in Chester-le-Street. He took 2 for 36 in 10 tidy overs to restrict a powerful batting side to 261, then - with his team in disarray at 19 for 5 courtesy Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar - he salvaged some pride with a gutsy 76.
Khaled Mahmud, Bangladesh, 1999
With his lack of stature, and anti-athletic figure, Mahmud never looked like your average world-beater, and at one stage of his subsequent Test career he boasted the horrendous twin averages of 406 with the ball and 11.25 with the bat - the worst by a designated allrounder in Test history. But he certainly knew how to swing a cricket ball, and in helpful conditions on an unforgettable May day in Northampton, he took out the cream of Pakistan's cricket team to deliver a victory that would led directly to the creation of the world's tenth Test nation. Earlier in the game he had swung from the hip to club a valuable 27 from 34 balls; now he followed up with 3 for 31 in 10 overs, reducing Pakistan to 42 for 5 in the space of his first seven.
Duncan Fletcher, Zimbabwe, 1983
As England's coach from 1999 to 2007, Fletcher's unashamed adoration of "bits-and-pieces" allrounders attracted its fair share of criticism. But as they say, better the devil you know, and in Fletcher's case he has first-hand knowledge of how single-mindedness allied to a modicum of skill can land the biggest prizes. At the age of 34 he captained Zimbabwe in their very first international fixture, against Australia in the 1983 World Cup, and starred with both bat and ball to secure one of the biggest upsets of all time. With his side in some strife at 94 for 5, Fletcher guided the tail with an unbeaten 69 and then, defending a decent total of 239, grabbed each of the first four wickets in a probing 11-over spell of medium pace. Despite a brisk half-century from Rod Marsh, Australia fell 13 runs short. Fletcher meanwhile added an unbeaten 71 in Zimbabwe's third match, against the favourites West Indies, but he was unable to secure another victory.
John Davison, Canada, 2003
An Aussie offspinner with a short-lived career for Victoria and South Australia, Davison was born in British Columbia and propelled the country of his birth into World Cup folklore in Centurion in 2003 with an astonishing onslaught against a stunned West Indian team. An average of 8.15 from 42 innings for Victoria, and an average batting position of No. 9, gave no clue as to the mayhem that he was capable of unleashing, especially as his previous three innings in the tournament had yielded just 39 runs. His half-century arrived from just 30 deliveries, with six fours and three sixes, his century from 67 - at the time the fastest in World Cup history - and it was completed with his sixth six, a mighty swipe over long-on off Merv Dillon, in just the 19th over. Canada at that stage were 140 for 1, a competitive Twenty20 total, but sadly Davison's dismissal - to a remarkable back-pedalling pluck from Vasbert Drakes - signalled the end of the ride. Brian Lara, Wavell Hinds and Ramnaresh Sarwan hunted down a target of 203 in just 20.3 overs. Nevertheless the day belonged to Davison. "I guess playing for Canada gives me opportunities that I wouldn't really get in Australia," he demurred afterwards. "Like opening the batting for example."
Tariq Iqbal, Kenya, 1996
Portly and bespectacled, and comically inept with the gloves, Iqbal's claim to eternal fame was the catch that dismissed Brian Lara in Pune in March 1996, where Kenya produced a scarcely credible victory over West Indies. The Guardian noted that Iqbal was "wearing a blue headband and a double chin", and added that he had dropped so many deliveries and conceded so many byes that his own fielders had resorted to laughter rather than fury. However, he got the one that mattered right. Lara, in a curiously frenzied assault, launched into a back-foot smear and Iqbal somehow clung onto a thick edge. "The ball sank somewhere into his nether regions," reported the Daily Telegraph, "and the gloves clutched desperately, trying to locate it. Then, glory be, it reappeared in his hands and was raised aloft in triumph and relief."
Jan-Berrie Burger, Namibia, 2003
The Namibian World Cup squad in 2003 was a punster's delight, consisting as it did of three Burgers, a couple of vans, and a host of beefy strokemakers. The foremost among these was Jan-Berrie Burger, opening bat and fearless flayer of reputations. In Port Elizabeth he gave England the first of several frights in the tournament by creaming 85 from 86 balls in an onslaught that was more unsettling than the eventual margin of 55 runs would suggest. With rain in the air, everything might have hinged on the Duckworth-Lewis calculations, which Marcus Trescothick had tucked into his sock. But in a foretaste of cock-ups to come, he misread the sheet, and after 28 overs Namibia were 11 runs to the good. But the weather held off and England resumed the upper hand. "That was a very moderate performance," Burger joked afterwards. "I'm usually more attacking."
Austin Codrington, Canada, 2003
Canada had not featured in a World Cup since 1979, and back then their claim to fame had been a total of 45 against England at Old Trafford - the lowest score in the competition's history. Twenty-four years later they atoned for that indignity at the very first attempt, with a memorable triumph against Test fledglings Bangladesh. Their hero on the night was Codrington, a dreadlocked plumber with an open-chested action who took advantage of some uneasy batting conditions under the Durban floodlights to take 5 for 27 in nine immaculate overs. Chasing 181 for victory, Bangladesh were bundled out for 120. Admittedly Canada reverted to type eight days later, when they collapsed to a new record-low of 36 against Sri Lanka. But it no longer seemed to matter.
Collins Obuya, Kenya, 2003
Everyone loves a legspinner, especially a match-winning underdog. Obuya, the youngest member of the Kenyan clan that includes Kennedy Otieno and David Obuya, became a national hero and the toast of the 2003 World Cup, when, in a performance that would have made the absent Shane Warne proud, he bowled his team all the way to the semi-final. His finest hour came in the group stages in Nairobi, when he took 5 for 24 (and chipped in with a handy unbeaten 13) to deliver the victory that toppled Sri Lanka. His reward, among other accolades, was a one-year contract with Warwickshire, but it did not prove to be a fruitful season, and after he was ruled out of the 2004 Champions Trophy with appendicitis, his bowling went into freefall - to such an extent that these days he plays exclusively as a batsman.
Niall O'Brien, Ireland, 2007
Arguably the biggest upset in World Cup history occurred on St Patrick's Day 2007, when Ireland dumped Pakistan out of the tournament with a thrilling three-wicket win at Sabina Park. And while it was the bowlers who set up their shot at glory, it was their gnarled wicketkeeper, O'Brien, who pushed them towards the line with a redoubtable 72 in a match in which no other batsman passed 27. O'Brien's skills had been briefly showcased at Kent where he served as Geraint Jones' understudy before moving on to Northants, but this was his finest hour: he dealt nervelessly with the magnitude of the opportunity, as well as a pumped-up Mohammad Sami, to score two-thirds of Ireland's runs in the time he was at the crease, and leave them needing just 25 to win by the time he was fifth out in the 34th over.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo