West Indies v Pakistan, 1975
Pakistan's strong batting line-up posted a stiff 266 for 7, and Sarfraz Nawaz soon had West Indies in trouble at 36 for 3 with some nippy bowling. Clive Lloyd and Rohan Kanhai steadied things somewhat, but Kanhai played on, and Viv Richards was caught off an injudicious pull. Lloyd continued to lead the chase, reaching his half-century in quick time. But Javed Miandad got him caught behind, and soon West Indies needed 101 with only two wickets standing. Deryck Murray was in fluent touch, though, and was clattering them through cover. He and Vanburn Holder took the score past 200, but Sarfraz had Holder driving straight to extra cover, and Pakistan then needed only one. Murray found that Andy Roberts was willing to stick around, and the duo set about overhauling an improbable target. Roberts ran like a man possessed between the wickets, and gave it a good thump when it was in his slot. The game went down to the last over, during which wicketkeeper Wasim Bari missed a run-out opportunity, throwing wide of the bowler and conceding an overthrow. Roberts got the three needed for victory off the next two balls, and then sped off the ground as the crowd rushed on. It is still a tournament record for the highest last-wicket partnership in a win.
England v Pakistan, 1979
Both teams had already made the knockouts, but the winner of this tie would eventually avoid the marauding West Indies in the semi-final, so there was a fair bit to play for. When England limped to 118 for 8, against a batting line-up that had Imran Khan coming in at No. 9, it looked all over for them. The Bobs, Taylor and Willis, though, stuck around for a 43-run partnership that was to prove crucial. Any English hopes of an early breakthrough were quelled by Sadiq Mohammad and Majid Khan in an opening stand of 27. "It was then that Mike Hendrick, moving the ball either way off a perfect length, tangled them up completely," the Wisden Almanack report noted. Hendrick took four, Ian Botham joined in, and Pakistan collapsed to 34 for 6. Wasim Raja and Imran partnered captain Asif Iqbal (51) in slowly hacking away at the target. Iqbal became the eighth to fall, on 115, but Imran and Wasim Bari added another 30. Mike Brearley desperately turned to the medium pace of Geoffrey Boycott, who had Bari caught behind, and then had last man Sikander Bakht swinging one - fittingly, straight to Hendrick at mid-off - as England stopped Pakistan 14 runs short.
India v Zimbabwe, 1983
India's semi-final chances depended largely on the outcome of their second game, against Zimbabwe. Kapil Dev chose to bat on a pitch where the ball moved around initially, and soon found himself in the middle after India slid to 9 for 4. Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran were running in purposefully, and Kapil had barely settled in before Rawson dismissed Yashpal Sharma with the score on 17. Duncan Fletcher then decided to give Rawson and Curran a break, and that allowed Kapil and Roger Binny to begin the repair job. But Zimbabwe removed Binny and Ravi Shastri in a double strike as India slipped to 78 for 7. Kapil needed some support, found it in Madan Lal and Syed Kirmani, and then put up one of the most brutal displays of sustained hitting ever. He hardly offered any chances as 22 boundaries flew off his bat, six of them over the ropes. Kirmani's contribution in a then record ninth-wicket partnership of 126 was 24, and Kapil finished on an unbeaten 175. Zimbabwe refused to give in to the assault, and Curran kept them in the hunt with 73. It was not until he became the ninth man to be dismissed with Zimbabwe 37 short that India breathed easy. Kapil caught and bowled last man John Traicos soon after and sealed the deal.
India v West Indies, 1983 final
West Indies were at their absolute peak, and had brushed aside almost everyone on way to their third consecutive final. Lloyd put India in, and "Kamikaze" Kris Srikkanth's 38 was to be their highest score as they lurched to 183. They had predictably not been able to contend with the ferocity of Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. The might of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Richards and Lloyd awaited them. Though Greenidge went early, shouldering arms to an incutter from Balwinder Sandhu, Richards came in and muscled seven boundaries as West Indies raced to 50 for 1. The Caribbean drums had already begun their celebratory beats in the stands before Haynes went, trying to cover-drive Madan Lal. Richards fell to a well-judged catch by Kapil off a mistimed pull, and West Indies were suddenly 57 for 3. Soon after, a powerful drive from Lloyd found Kapil's safe hands. The target of 184 began to look properly formidable at 76 for 6, and though Jeff Dujon tried his best, Mohinder Amarnath's medium-pacers proved too much for the lower order. India had stopped the juggernaut short by 43 runs. A grinning Kapil lifted the World Cup on the Lord's balcony, and a nation celebrated wildly.
Australia v England, 1987 final
England had restricted Australia to 168 for 4 in the final before the slog overs, despite David Boon's 75. But Mike Veletta, along with captain Allan Border, took Australia past 250 with a charge that saw 65 come off the final six overs. However, England had the game under control at 135 for 2 with 19 overs to go, and their best player of spin, Mike Gatting, had breezed to a near run-a-ball 41. Then came the moment of indiscretion that would ultimately cost England the title. Gatting decided to reverse-sweep Border's first delivery of left-arm spin from leg stump, but only managed to top-edge it off his shoulder to the keeper. A stunned Eden Gardens - which had been supporting Australia after England had taken out India in the semi-final - roared back to life, and the fight went out of England's chase. Wickets fell as the asking rate mounted. Allan Lamb briefly threatened to finish what Gatting had left undone, with a quick 45, but he was bowled by a young Steve Waugh, who then dismissed Phil DeFreitas, who was looking dangerous, having taken only 10 deliveries for his 17. The same target off the final over proved beyond the rest, and Australia clinched the first of their four World Cups by seven runs.
Zimbabwe v England, 1992
When Zimbabwe were blown away for 134 on a pitch that played low and uneven by a red-hot England - who had lost only one of their seven games till then - victory seemed a formality for Graham Gooch's side. But Eddo Brandes responded with an inspired opening spell, trapping Gooch leg-before first ball of England's chase with an inswinging yorker. Brandes bowled his 10 overs on the trot, removing Allan Lamb and bowling Robin Smith and Graeme Hick as England stuttered to 43 for 5. They never recovered, and though Alec Stewart and Neil Fairbrother added 52, they also ate up 24 overs in doing so, before being dismissed. Twenty-three off the last three overs, and 10 off the last, proved too much for the tail, and England fell nine short. It remains the smallest target successfully defended in a World Cup.
Pakistan v New Zealand, 1992 semi-final
New Zealand surged to 262, thanks to contrasting half-centuries from Martin Crowe (91) and Ken Rutherford (50). Then, despite a steady start, Pakistan found themselves well behind the asking rate, thanks to a slow 44 from captain Imran at No. 3. When Saleem Malik became the fourth wicket to fall, they needed more than eight an over off the last 15. That was when a young and not-yet-portly Inzamam-ul-Haq chose the big occasion to announce his arrival, blitzing 60 from 37 deliveries as an injured, gum-chewing Crowe watched helplessly from the sidelines. Javed Miandad was around to guide the prodigy, and remained unbeaten on 57. Moin Khan hastened New Zealand's exit with an 11-ball 20, and Pakistan marched in to the final with an over to spare. Four days later an emotional Imran went on to lift the World Cup; Inzamam would go on to become one of the best batsmen Pakistan ever produced.
Kenya v West Indies, 1996
Absolutely no one gave Kenya a chance against West Indies, and once they had been shot out for 166, the Kenyans themselves probably thought the game was over. Even that total was only possible due to the West Indies' generosity - they gave away 37 extras. Rajab Ali and Martin Suji ensured it would not be a cakewalk for West Indies, bowling the openers cheaply. Brian Lara batted like a millionaire, swinging and missing repeatedly before edging an attempted drive to keeper Tariq Iqbal, who held on miraculously, after his "stout figure and village-standard juggling had hitherto caused much mirth," noted the Almanack. Maurice Odumbe ran through the middle order with his offbreaks, accounting for Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams and Roger Harper, and the other bowlers mopped up the tail. The result was a 73-run walloping for the West Indies, and it remains their lowest World Cup total. Kenya did a celebratory lap of the Nehru Stadium in Pune, cheered on by a vocal crowd.
Australia v West Indies, 1996 semi-final
West Indies faced Australia in what proved to be their last World Cup semi-final till date - and their best chance to win a third World Cup. Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop had shredded the top order, knocking Australia to 15 for 4. But Stuart Law and Michael Bevan put on 138, targeting the slow bowlers, whose 18 overs yielded 1 for 89. West Indies needed 208, and Chanderpaul (80) led their reply. With 43 needed in nine overs and eight wickets left, a place in the final seemed to have been booked. Even when a badly cramping Chanderpaul fell to Glenn McGrath, things seemed under control, with captain Richie Richardson around. West Indies started to panic, though, sending Roger Harper and Ottis Gibson ahead of regular batsmen Jimmy Adams and Keith Arthurton. McGrath soon trapped Harper in front, and Shane Warne stepped into the widening breach: he had Gibson caught behind off one that took off, trapped Adams leg-before, and the asking rate climbed all the while. Arthurton went flailing wildly at Damien Fleming, and Warne got Ian Bishop leg-before. Richardson brought it down to 10 to get off the last over, and proceeded to bash the first one for four. Ambrose was run-out off the next delivery attempting a tight single, and Walsh played all over a full one. Australia couldn't believe themselves, and Mark Taylor said later that West Indies had won 95% of the match. The remaining 5% would haunt Richardson forever.
South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1999
South Africa were at their strongest in this World Cup, with Lance Klusener batting at No. 9. That depth was to be tested thoroughly. Pramodya Wickramasinghe and Chaminda Vaas justified Sri Lanka's decision to bowl, sending five South Africa batsmen back with the score on 69. Daryll Cullinan (49) tried to hold the innings together, but Muttiah Muralitharan took three in four overs to put South Africa on the mat at 122 for 8. Klusener was around, though, and he took the total past 150 along with Steve Elworthy. It was his last-over assault on Vaas that seemed to stun Sri Lanka. The second delivery was lifted down the ground for four, the fourth went wide of long-on, the fifth over deep midwicket, and Klusener got to his half-century off the last ball, with a swing over long-off for six. South Africa finished one short of 200, and took the field rejuvenated. Then Jacques Kallis removed the top three, swinging the ball at lively pace, and Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald proved too much for the middle order. Klusener finished off the tail as Sri Lanka managed 110.
Australia v England, 2003
England, needing to win against Australia to get to the Super Sixes, had started brightly, getting to 66 without loss in the tenth over. Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee had been dealt with comfortably, and a Warne-less attack didn't seem to hold more alarms. Seven balls and three wickets later, Andy Bichel made them hastily reassess their plans. Getting just enough seam movement on a sluggish pitch to trouble the batsmen, Bichel went on to singlehandedly rip England apart, and but for a slow 90-run stand between Alec Stewart and Andrew Flintoff, they would have struggled to reach 200. Bichel ended with 7 for 20, but Australia themselves had a horror start with the bat: Andy Caddick dismissed the top four before 50 was reached. But that finisher par excellence Michael Bevan was around, and he and Darren Lehmann took Australia past 100. Progress was slow, though, and England suffocated the chase further by taking four quick wickets. At 135 for 8, what should have been Bichel's match was now almost England's. The required rate was now almost six, but Bichel and Bevan set about snatching the game from England's grasp. With 14 needed off two, Nasser Hussain threw the ball to Jimmy Anderson, not Caddick, whereupon Bichel blasted him over midwicket and past mid-on. Bevan completed the formalities in the last over. The Almanack report noted that "as Bichel and Bevan ran off delirious… Hussain was on his knees, his head in his hands".
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo