This year marks 40 years since the first edition of cricket’s World Cup, and while the 50-over format has declined in popularity in recent years, the tournament always provides plenty of magical moments.
Sports writer Will Evans is counting down his 40 most memorable World Cup moments of all-time. Here are the first 10.
40. Lara trumps hosts in tournament opener (2003)
Heavily favoured as one of the foremost contenders, hosts South Africa were stunned by the enigmatic West Indies at a packed Newlands Stadium in the first match of the 2003 tournament. The visitors were reeling at 2-7 in the seventh over, but the incomparable Brian Lara rescued the innings with a masterly 116. Hailed as one of the all-time great World Cup knocks, Lara cracked 12 fours and a pair of sixes to lift the Windies to 5-278 off their 50 overs. The Proteas seemed to have the chase in hand but lost wickets at regular intervals and had one less over to reach the target as punishment for their slow over rate. Lance Klusener cleared the rope five times on his way to 57 off just 48 balls, but in a disastrous final over (from which they needed nine runs) that brought back harrowing memories of their semi-final choke in ’99, the all-rounder holed out and South Africa lost by three runs.
39. England lands a blow for the Empire (1992)
Anglo-Australian relations were at a Paul Keating-fuelled all-time low in 1992 thanks to the republic debate and the ‘Lizard of Oz’ incident. Australia’s campaign was teetering after securing just one win in the opening three games, and Allan Border’s charges were bowled out for 170 at the SCG with Ian Botham claiming four wickets. ‘Beefy’ Botham and Graham Gooch then reefed the match away from the hosts with an opening stand of 107, England going on to win by eight wickets as they partially atoned for a disastrous Ashes tour in the 1990-91 summer.
38. Pakistan veterans bring Australia undone (1999)
The group match between Pakistan and Australia at Headingley was one of the finest of the ’99 tournament. A vintage 81 from Inzamam Ul Haq and Moin Khan’s unbeaten 31 off just 12 balls propelled Pakistan to a handy 8-275. Australia had the chase well in hand, needing 62 off 52 balls with six wickets remaining thanks to a 113-run partnership between Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan. But when Bevan fell to Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, Australia imploded. A Shoaib Akhtar yorker disrupted Waugh’s stumps, and Shane Warne and Paul Reiffel were both dismissed for one. Australia needed 12 runs off the final over, but Akram bowled Damien Martyn and Glenn McGrath to wrap up an outstanding 10-run win.
37. Malinga’s freak spell not enough to topple Proteas (2007)
Sri Lankan quick Lasith Malinga had become established as one the most dangerous bowlers in world cricket by the time the 2007 tournament rolled around, but he created history in Providence as the first bowler in ODI history to take four wickets in four balls. Sri Lanka had limped to 209 all out after choosing to bat first and South Africa was cruising towards a comfortable win. But with just four runs required from 32 balls and five wickets in hand, Malinga went berserk to all but snatch a phenomenal victory. He dismissed Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall with the last two balls of the 45th over, before removing innings anchor Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini with the first two deliveries of the 47th. The Proteas were disintegrating. Every remaining run required became a mountainous task. Robin Peterson belatedly guided the notorious World Cup chokers to a one-wicket win by cracking Malinga for four with 10 balls remaining.
36. Waugh keeps his cool in trans-Tasman thriller (1987)
Australia’s charmed ’87 campaign continued with a heart-stopping three-run win over New Zealand in Indore. Reduced to a 30-over contest due to heavy rain, Australia charged to an imposing total of 6-199 after David Boon hit 87 and Dean Jones scored a blazing 52 off 48 balls. But some robust top-order batting from Ken Rutherford, John Wright and Martin Crowe had the Kiwis on target, needing seven runs from the final over with four wickets in hand. Up stepped Steve Waugh, who had danger-man Crowe caught first ball, bowled keeper Ian Smith with his second, and ran out Martin Snedden with the second-last delivery of the match. Australia had grabbed a three-run win, with 22-year-old Waugh the hero for displaying the composure that would become his trademark.
35. Windies pip Pakistan in early classic (1975)
The early stages of the inaugural tournament were marked by landslide results, but Pakistan and West Indies produced the first thriller in the eighth match at Edgbaston. Captain Majid Khan led the way with 60 as Pakistan reached 7-266 in their 60 overs (the 50-over format made its World Cup debut in ’87), while a superb 4-44 from fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz had West Indies on the ropes at 9-203 with 14 overs left. But veteran wicketkeeper Deryck Murray (61 not out) and No.11 Andy Roberts (24 not out) somehow guided the Windies to a stunning one-wicket win with two balls to spare. Captain Clive Lloyd later credited this improbable victory with giving the West Indies the self-belief to win the tournament and becoming the dominant force in world cricket, while the 64-run partnership between Murray and Roberts stood as a 10th-wicket ODI record for eight years.
34. Greatbatch goes the tonk against South Africa (1992)
New Zealand had already upset Australia and taken care of Sri Lanka by the time they met South Africa in their third clash at Eden Park – long-suffering Kiwi cricket fans were tentatively getting a bit excited. The co-hosts’ campaign became a juggernaut when, after restricting the Proteas to 7-190, burly opener Mark Greatbatch launched a withering attack on the South African bowlers. His blistering 68 off 60 balls culminated in a towering six that landed on the roof of the packed grandstand. The Black Caps carved out a seven-wicket win with 15 overs to spare and ultimately won seven straight matches before a heartbreaking semi-final defeat to Pakistan.
33. Bichel tears England apart (2003)
Lionhearted Queenslander Andy Bichel enjoyed one of his finest hours at the 2003 World Cup, ripping through England’s batting line-up with 7-20 off 10 overs. England had made a bright start to be 66 without loss in the 10th over, but Bichel’s devastating opening spell of 4-10 had the underdogs on the ropes. The veteran seamer returned later to terrorise the lower order as England reached a modest 8-204. Australia almost crumbled in the chase, however, left reeling at 8-135, but the mercurial Michael Bevan (74 not out) and that man again Bichel (34 not out) guided the eventual champs to a two-wicket victory with two balls to spare. Bichel’s figures are the second-best in World Cup history, behind only teammate Glenn McGrath, who took 7-15 against the lowly Netherlands just three days earlier.
32. Viv Richards blasts 181 against Sri Lanka (1987)
The West Indian ‘Master Blaster’ was 35 years of age at the ’87 tournament, but had confirmed he was still one of the world’s premier cricketers earlier in the year with 119 and 5-41 in a one-dayer against New Zealand in Dunedin. The legendary Richards produced one of World Cup cricket’s truly mind-blowing knocks against rising Sri Lanka, bludgeoning 16 fours and seven sixes – the latter a then-record for an ODI – in a majestic 181 off 125 balls, beating Kapil Dev’s World Cup record of 175 not out against Zimbabwe four years earlier. The Windies prevailed by 191 runs after reaching a monstrous 4-360, but the perennial contenders were bundled out of the tournament in the group stage.
31. Gilchrist walks in semi-final (2003)
Adam Gilchrist secured his lofty place in the pantheon of cricketing sportsmanship in Australia’s semi-final showdown with Sri Lanka at Port Elizabeth in ’03. One of the dominant batsmen in ODI cricket, Gilchrist walked in the sixth over after an Aravinda de Silva delivery took an edge and ballooned up off his pads – despite umpire Rudi Koertzen ruling not out. Australia was soon struggling at 3-51 after Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden departed, but Andrew Symonds’ unbeaten 91 saw them through to 9-212. Chasing a rain-reduced target of 172 from 38.1 overs, Sri Lanka came up 39 runs short as Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Brad Hogg starred with the ball. Gilchrist was lauded for his act of honesty that still resonates in the cricketing fraternity (except Stuart Broad) more than a decade later.
Part two will be published on Thursday.