Sport Cricket Countdown: the 40 greatest World Cup moments
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Countdown: the 40 greatest World Cup moments

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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 moments 20-11.

The 40 greatest World Cup moments – 40 to 31
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The 40 greatest World Cup moments – 30 to 21

20. Confusion reigns as Australia take third straight crown (2007)

The 2007 World Cup final was delayed by three hours due to rain, but Adam Gilchrist lit up Bridgetown’s Kensington Oval by plundering a 72-ball century – the fastest ever in a final – on his way to 149 from just 104 balls as Australia reached 4-281 off their 38 overs. But the drizzle and bad light plagued Sri Lanka’s reply and they were well behind the asking rate. The umpires called a halt with three overs left (and Sri Lanka still requiring 63 runs) due to the light and Australia celebrated – but match referee Jeff Crowe decreed that the remaining overs must be played or, farcically, the teams would have to return the following day to finish them off. The presentation platform had to be taken off the ground and the players reluctantly finished the game in near-dark conditions before Ricky Ponting’s side could finally let their hair down.

19. Australia edges hosts by one run (1987)

Hosts India went into their opening clash of the 1987 tournament as warm favourites against an Australia team chided as one of the worst to leave our shores. But a spectacular journey to a maiden World Cup triumph began with a one-run win over the defending champs. Australia posted 6-270 thanks to 110 from Geoff Marsh, and handy contributions from David Boon (49) and Dean Jones (39). Kris Srikkanth (70) and Navjot Sidhu (73) had the chase in hand, but the bowling of McDermott and a couple of run outs set up a nerve-jangling finish. Iceman Steve Waugh bowled No.11 Maninder Singh with the second-last ball, India coming up one run short after losing their last seven wickets for 40 runs.

18. A captain’s knock (1999)

The Australia-South Africa semi-final of 1999 is regarded as arguably the most incredible World Cup match of all time, but the heavyweight rivals produced a spectacular showdown just four days earlier during the Super Sixes stage. Australia needed a win or tie to progress; a loss would put them on a plane home. A Herscelle Gibbs century powered the Proteas to a formidable 7-271 and Australia was teetering at 3-48 in reply. Ricky Ponting (69) and captain Steve Waugh put the chase back on track with a 126-run stand, but it was destined to go down to the wire. The skipper produced one of his greatest one-day innings, hitting the winning runs with two balls to spare and finishing on 120 not out.

17. Fleming’s bag skittles India (1996)

After an underwhelming opening couple of weeks of the 1996 tournament on the subcontinent, Australia and hosts India – two of the favourites for the trophy – produced a top-shelf day-nighter in Mumbai to ignite the competition. Australia desperately needed a win after forfeiting their match against Sri Lanka in Colombo due to security concerns, and notched a slightly disappointing 258 after openers Mark Waugh (126) and captain Mark Taylor (59) had got them off to a flyer. Damien Fleming snared three early wickets, but Sachin Tendulkar’s blistering 90 and a handy 62 from Sanjay Manjrekar put India back in the frame. Fleming then took a couple of vital late wickets – finishing with a career-best 5-36 – as India was bowled out 16 runs short with two overs remaining.

16. Kiwis fly in tournament-opening boilover (1992)

The first World Cup to be held Down Under opened with co-hosts New Zealand and Australia, the defending champs, facing off at Auckland’s Eden Park. It was a classic contest packed with brilliant moments, and it immediately garnered a treasured place in New Zealand’s cricketing folklore. Captain Martin Crowe scored 100 not out as the Kiwis reached 6-248, bringing up the milestone in the final over and sparking a mini pitch invasion; the partisan crowd went nuts earlier when Allan Border put down a high catch. David Boon anchored the Australian innings with 100, but a brilliant performance in the field – including superb caught-and-bowled efforts by Gavin Larsen (who took 3-30) and Rod Latham, and a sensational run out by Chris Harris to dismiss Boon – saw the overwhelming favourites bowled out for 211. New Zealand’s giant-killing run continued all the way to the semi-finals, while Australia’s trophy defence spluttered and they missed the final four.

15. Gilmour spearheads Australia to inaugural final (1975)

Australia became the first team to reach a World Cup final, downing archrivals England by four wickets at Headingley after a devastating bowling performance by NSW left-armer Gary Gilmour. In a 12-over spell, Gilmour took 6-14 – three lbw, two caught behind and one bowled – to rout England for a dismal 93. An equally shocking collapse began unfolding in the Australian innings, on the ropes at 6-32 … but Gilmour took the game by the scruff of the neck again, top-scoring with 28 not out to steer Australia into the final. Remarkably, Gilmour – who took 54 wickets and scored a century in 15 Tests – only played two further ODIs, including the loss to the West Indies in the final.

14. Rain thwarts South Africa in controversial semi (1992)

The wet-weather rule came under scrutiny in England’s tight round-robin win over South Africa (see No.26) but the absurd application of it when the teams met again in the semi-final signalled its death knell. Graeme Hick (83) led England to 6-252 from a rain-reduced 45 overs. The Proteas were behind the eight-ball throughout their chase, losing regular wickets and struggling to keep up with the run-rate, but as the rain tumbled they required a gettable 22 off 13 balls. The umpires directed the players from the field due to the adverse conditions and the SCG crowd booed vociferously. Ridiculously, after a delay of just 12 minutes, the scoreboard showed the South Africans’ new equation: 22 runs … off just one ball. The non-English fans became even more unruly as the teams made a token return to the pitch for the remaining delivery, but there was no animosity between the opposing sides themselves – only for the outdated rules; Graham Gooch’s England outfit was through to the final.

13. Harris and Waugh trade brilliant centuries in Madras quarter (1996)

The trans-Tasman foes produced a wonderful quarter-final at the 1996 World Cup, underdogs New Zealand throwing down the gauntlet to star-studded Australia with 9-286 after captain Lee Germon (89) and the talismanic Chris Harris (130) put on 168 for the fourth wicket. But Mark Waugh responded to Harris’ majestic knock with a sizzling 110, laying the platform for Australia’s chase before Steve Waugh (59 not out) and Stuart Law (42 not out) clinched a six-wicket victory with 13 balls to spare.

12. Australia regains world champions title in emphatic style (1999)

Australia swept away the disappointment of their home campaign of 1992 and the final loss of 1996 to emphatically reclaim the World Cup trophy, trouncing Pakistan by eight wickets with 30 overs to spare in the final at Lord’s. Shane Warne’s 4-33 underpinned Australia’s magnificent bowling performance, while Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting took mind-blowing slips catches off Glenn McGrath as Pakistan crumbled to be 132 all out. Australia wasted no time in running down the meagre target – Adam Gilchrist’s 54 off 36 balls and Mark Waugh’s 37 not out saw the legend-stacked side finish it off in the 21st over.

11. India become first hosts to lift the trophy (2011)

After despatching three-time champs Australia in the quarter-finals and archrivals Pakistan in the semis, India became the first team ever to win a World Cup on home soil by defeating Sri Lanka by six wickets in the 2011 final. Mahela Jayawardene (103) and mercurial captain Kumar Sangakkara (48) led the way as Sri Lanka posted a competitive 6-274. Virender Sehwag was trapped lbw by Lasith Malinga with the second ball of India’s innings, and Malinga then had Sachin Tendulkar caught behind with the score on just 31. But Gautan Gambhir (97) and skipper M.S. Dhoni (91 not out) turned the final with a 109-run partnership. Fittingly, Dhoni hammered a six for India to seal the win with 10 balls to spare, sending the Mumbai faithful into raptures.

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