On the eve of the biggest World Cup to date, Cricinfo looks back at the opening encounters of the previous editions. Only once (1979) has a team that has won the opening game gone on to win the tournament, so West Indies and Pakistan will know that well begun is far from half done.



Gordon Greenidge: overpowered India in 1979 © Getty Images

1975: Amiss the hare, Gavaskar the snail

In the first World Cup match England batted first and racked up a record 334 for 4, then the highest score for a 60-over game in the country. Madan Lal delivered the first World Cup delivery and it was met by John Jameson, England's opener who was born in Bombay. On a seaming Lord's pitch India left out the left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi. Amiss motored along to 98 at lunch to set the pace before Chris Old whacked a 28-ball 51 to launch the total. India's reply was most anti-climactic - Sunil Gavaskar batted out 60 overs for an astonishingly slow 36 and India ended on a feeble 132 for 3.

1979: Greenidge leads Indian rout

Clive Lloyd won the toss and, as one would expect on a lively Edgbaston pitch, chose to field, allowing AME Roberts and MA Holding to party. Strangled by a cluster of fielders close to the bat, India were reduced to 29 for 3 and it was left to Gundappa Viswanath to prevent an abject surrender. India's No.10 and Jack - Bedi and Venkataraghavan - surprised everyone with a battling 27-run stand but 190 was never going to be enough. Not with Gordon Greenidge controlling the chase. Greenidge, who was to end the tournament as the leading scorer, finished with an unbeaten 106, a point from where he and his side never looked back.

1983: Lamb shears Kiwi skins

Just like they'd done in '75, England's batsmen got the World Cup off to a flier. While it was Amiss in the inaugural edition, Allan Lamb stormed The Oval on this occasion. His 103-ball 102 took the game completely away from New Zealand, whose bowlers were punished for their waywardness (203 runs off the last 25 overs). Whatever little chance New Zealand had evaporated once they collapsed to 85 for 5 and it was only thanks to Martin Crowe raging against the fading light that they crossed 200.



Martin Crowe: on a Bradmanesque streak in '92 © Getty Images

1987: Mahanama stands alone, Pakistan wrap it up

Roshan Mahanama, then an unheralded Sri Lankan opener, almost orchestrated an upset in the opening clash of 1987. Chasing 268 in 50 overs, Sri Lanka were limping at 103 for 4 but Mahanama, along with the pugnacious Asanka Gurusinha and Aravinda de Silva, almost pulled off a heist before running out of gas in the final stages. Pakistan had built their total around a century from Javed Miandad, who was in the middle of a red-hot streak after piling up nine consecutive 50-plus scores. Imran Khan reached a special milestone in the game - when he nailed de Silva he'd reached 100 wickets in ODIs.

1992: Crowe pulls the rug from under Aussie feet

In a clash of the hosts, New Zealand shocked Australia largely through Martin Crowe's influence, first with the bat and then through his captaincy. On a sluggish Eden Park pitch, his well-paced century enabled New Zealand to overcome a horror start, which included John Wright being dismissed off the first legal delivery of the tournament, and guided them to 248. This despite a dodgy knee. Then, in what was an inspired move, he handed the new ball to offspinner Dipak Patel and saw him concede just 19 runs in his first seven overs. David Boon's battling century kept the contest alive but Crowe marshalled his bowling options admirably to kickstart the tournament with a grand upset.

1996: Astle too hot for England

England paid for their rusty fielding, allowing Nathan Astle to cruise to a century. Having sent New Zealand in, England's butter-fingered fielders grassed four chances. Graham Thorpe, who reprieved both openers, committed the most costly blunder: fluffing a chance from Astle when on 1 and watching him go on to a composed 101. England got close through Graeme Hick, who cracked 85 despite a hamstring strain, but his run-out at a crucial juncture allowed New Zealand to sneak home.

1999: Mullally swings out Sri Lanka

Just like the opening ceremony, the first match of the 1999 edition was a complete anti-climax, with the title holders Sri Lanka wilting in swinging conditions. Alan Mullally was dangerous with 4 for 37 and a middle-order collapse (five wickets for 23 runs) left Sri Lanka reeling at 65 for 5 before Romesh Kaluwitharana's half-century lent some sort of respectability. England didn't break much of a sweat while chasing 205 (the conditions were more batsmen-friendly in the afternoon) with Alec Stewart and Graeme Hick finishing the job.


Brian Lara on song at Newlands © Getty Images

2003: Lara poops South Africa's party

This was the first time that a host team had been part of the opening game of the competition and not won. South Africa were favourites in this one but it was the genius of Brian Lara, returning to the side after a five-month break, that shone through. From 30 for 2 after 15 overs, West Indies motored along to 278 thanks to a scintillating century from Lara and high-voltage hitting from Ramnaresh Sarwan and Ricardo Powell. South Africa were always in the hunt, despite losing wickets at regular intervals, and it was up to the 1999 World Cup hero Lance Klusener to repeat his heroics. He was lucky to be dropped on 48, when Pedro Collins not only spilled a skier but also tapped it over for six, but his dismissal in the penultimate over left Newlands silent.

2007: The next chapter

Pakistan have lost both games they've played at Sabina Park, the venue for the opening clash. The only time they were part of the opening match (1987), they didn't go past the semi-final. West Indies appeared in the first fixture in 1979, when they not only won the game but went on to claim the title, and in 2003, when they won by three runs but didn't make the Super Sixes. Batting first is historically a better option (only in '79 and '99 have teams chased successfully) but the unknown nature of the pitch may tempt the captains to field first.