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Glory against all odds - six times the underdogs had all the fun

India's triumph in the 1983 World Cup, South Africa's ambush of England in 1905-06, Sri Lanka's other fairy tale and more

Murray Goodwin and Andy Flower seal the win against Pakistan, Pakistan v Zimbabwe, 1st Test, Peshawar, 4th day, November 30, 1998

Murray Goodwin and Andy Flower seal the win against Pakistan  •  Associated Press

Following Sri Lanka's historic triumph in South Africa, we look back at some of the greatest upsets the game has previously thrown up in Test series and one-day tournaments.
Zimbabwe had only won two Test matches in their history - both of them at home - when they set off to tour Pakistan, but those with a nose for these things quickly caught the scent of an upset. With the Justice Qayyum inquiry casting a shadow over Pakistani cricket, Aamer Sohail was preferred to Wasim Akram - one of the players under investigation - as captain, but he only lasted one Test before withdrawing, supposedly through illness but amid rumours of disagreements with the coach and selectors. Zimbabwe's victory in the first Test, in Peshawar, was built on Neil Johnson's fighting hundred before Heath Streak, Henry Olonga and Pommie Mbangwa combined to roll Pakistan for 103 in their second innings. Having taken the lead, Zimbabwe were then aided and abetted by the weather, as fog ensured draws in the second and third Tests. It remains their most significant success.
An upset that inspired a nation. India were basically tourists out in England and somehow they ended up playing the final. Against the two-time champions. Against Clive Lloyd. And Viv Richards. And Michael Holding. And Malcolm Marshall. Imagine sitting in the Indian change-room, doing opposition research. "Oh. Cool. That one guy has made 153 all by himself and he went unbeaten." "And that other guy bowls so fast he's called 'Whispering Death'. Yay." Fast-forward to the end of the match though, and it was Kapil Dev on the Lord's balcony, lifting the World Cup aloft in front of a rapturous crowd. India only made 183. India made only 183 against that West Indies team full of superstars. But like all great underdogs, they wouldn't accept they were beat. Just kept nagging away, looking for an opening. And then it came. Richards lofted Madan Lal to midwicket. Kapil pulled off a dreamy catch. West Indies slumped from 57 for 2 to 76 for 6 to 140 all out.
In mid-2015, Pakistan were in serious danger of missing out on qualification for the Champions Trophy. Having been overtaken in the ICC rankings by Bangladesh, it was between them and West Indies to secure eighth place before the cut-off and take the last spot at the 2017 tournament. They duly did so but arrived in England as rank outsiders, having continued to struggle for consistency and replaced Azhar Ali as captain with Sarfaraz Ahmed. In their opening game in the group stage, they were hammered by India; in the decider, against Sri Lanka at Cardiff, they needed all Sarfaraz's qualities in a scrap (plus a few dropped catches) to make it into the semi-finals. Then, something clicked. The favourites, England, were sucker-punched and in their rematch with India, Fakhar Zaman set fire to the script. You could even forgive them the white blazers.
"He knew it in his bones," Sidhath Wettimuny said of Arjuna Ranatunga when talking about that day in Lahore. The Sri Lanka captain had come into the tournament with a plan. Each player had a specific role to play. "I was there to make the new ball old," Pramodya Wickramasinghe said. "He asked me to bat through the innings," Asanka Gurusinha said. The eventual match-winner, the man who made 107 in the final against Australia, well his brief was to "get us a hundred, that's all. You win us the World Cup." And as Aravinda de Silva brought the dream closer to reality, the entire world reeled in shock. How did he? How did they? Did that just happen? In the background, Ranatunga was quietly collecting a stump, probably thinking "I love it when a plan comes together."
If a team that has lost six series out of nine in a certain part of the world over the last 50 years loses a seventh, is it really that great an upset? Well, in this case, yes. England flew to the Caribbean ranked No. 2 in the world (although they were overtaken by South Africa before playing a game), fresh from a 3-0 whitewash away over Sri Lanka, and having beaten India 4-1 at home in the summer. West Indies, meanwhile, had not won a Test series against anyone other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe since 2012. Then came 77 all out, Jason Holder's double-century and a 381-run rinsing in Barbados; quickly followed by England crumbling again in Antigua, as West Indies secured the spoils with an emphatic 10-wicket win. If Holder hadn't been suspended for the third Test, the scoreline might well have ended up 3-0.
Just for kicks, one from not-so-recent memory, from the days when there were only three Test teams and they occasionally played on matting pitches. England arrived perhaps a little under-strength but still the fancied team. But they were faced with a new threat, a rarely seen beast: the googly. Back then, South Africa's bowling attack was built on legspin and Reggie Schwartz made sure each of his mates knew how to bowl the wrong 'un. Even so, the first Test in Johannesburg seemed like it was England's. They bowled South Africa out for 91 in the first innings and had them 105 for 6 in the second, chasing 287. Only the formalities were left but clearly nobody told that to Gordon White or Dave Nourse. Those two contributed 81 and 93 respectively as chills went up and down the England players' spine. There were a few sighs of relief when the ninth South African wicket fell on 239 but Nourse simply wouldn't fall. And the last man in was the captain Percy Sherwell. It'd take a bit to dislodge him too. And eventually the two of them put on what was then the highest 10th-wicket stand in a successful chase - a record Sri Lanka bested last week in Durban. That one-wicket win was the catalyst for a nine-wicket thumping, a 243-run thrashing and finally an innings-and-16-run mauling of England.