Top 10 Greatest Cricket World Cup Matches

This World Cup classic was bursting with drama. Then it went and added a heap more
10- Australia v South Africa, Super Sixes, Leeds 1999 (Australia won by five wickets)
Steve Waugh didn't say exactly those words, but Headingley 1999 was no less memorable for it

Having lost to New Zealand and Pakistan in the group stage, Australia had their work cut out for them. Going into the final Super Six encounter, Steve Waugh's team knew they had to beat South Africa to progress. Herschelle Gibbs' hundred meant Australia needed 272 - but that was not to be Gibbs' most significant contribution to a match that has gone down in World Cup folklore.

At 48 for 3, out strode Waugh, bristling with intent; in partnership with Ricky Ponting he resurrected the chase, cracking 50 from 47 balls. Then came the fateful moment when, on 56, he flicked Lance Klusener to midwicket. Gibbs took the catch but, seemingly attempting to celebrate, let the ball slip from his grasp. "You've just dropped the World Cup," was Waugh's (sadly apocryphal) response. He went on to score an unbeaten 120 and seal victory.

"Do you realise you've just cost your team the match?"

- What Waugh actually said to Gibbs (from his autobiography) "He's dropped it, I don't believe it! That's unbelievable! He was throwing it up, he thought he had it… Well, this could change the course of this match, that's for sure."

- Tony Greig on commentary

9- India v Pakistan, quarter-final, Bangalore 1996 (India won by 39 runs)
When India met Pakistan in a World Cup knockout, sparks were expected to fly - just not these many

Defending champions Pakistan had eased through the group stages. India had a harder time, with losses to Australia and Sri Lanka. But now India were playing in front of a partisan crowd, of over 55,000, that had commentator Sunil Gavaskar remarking that he had seen "nothing quite like this before". And Pakistan were without their captain Wasim Akram because of injury. Aamer Sohail led in his stead.

Despite opener Navjot Singh Sidhu's fighting 93, a slow-burn middle-overs period put India on course for a middling total. Only a late blitz - 51 runs off the last three overs, powered by Ajay Jadeja's 25-ball 45 - carried them to 287. In response, Pakistan's openers racked up 84 off the first ten overs, before twin strikes from India's seamers slowed things down. Pakistan needed much less than a run a ball, but their chase flagged as India's spinners applied the choke. Veteran Javed Miandad stuck around with a 64-ball 38, but there was to be no late assault nor last-ball six this time round.

"Javed [Miandad] actually taught us over the years, when a bowler is troubling you, just break his focus a little bit. Venky kept his focus and doing what he did, [while] I was actually expecting a bouncer"

- Aamer Sohail on the wicket-taking ball from Venkatesh Prasad (in a 2018 interview with Star Sports)

8- England v Ireland - group stage, Bangalore 2011 (Ireland won by three wickets)
An Irish victory over England looked impossible - then Kevin O'Brien happened

After they narrowly fell to Bangladesh in their opening match of the tournament, not much was expected from Associate qualifier Ireland against a far stronger Full Member team like England. Especially not after England posted 327, meaning Ireland would need to complete the highest successful chase in a World Cup to win. Obviously not after Ireland captain William Porterfield dragged the first ball of the chase onto his stumps. Absolutely not after Ireland were reduced to 111 for 5 four balls before the halfway mark of their innings.

But Kevin O'Brien carved out a place in World Cup lore by making the impossible happen with an epic, record-breaking 50-ball century. By the time he was run-out in the penultimate over for 113, Ireland needed 11 off the final 11 balls. John Mooney sealed a legendary victory by clipping the first ball of the final over off James Anderson to the midwicket rope.

"I remember looking up at the board and I was 80 off 40 balls. That's the first time that it really dawned on me that, 'What have I done?' I had no recollection of what went on for the previous 40 balls. It was actually quite surreal to be out there."

- Kevin O'Brien on Ireland's Finest Hour, Sky Sports

7- Pakistan v West Indies, Lahore 1987 (Pakistan won by one wicket)
Pakistan had come into their home World Cup (co-hosted with India) as possible favourites. They won their first two games, and were now taking on two-time world champions West Indies in Lahore. West Indies won the toss, batted first and got off to a brisk start. But Imran Khan and Saleem Jaffar dragged them back with four and three wickets each. From 169 for 5, West Indies were bowled out for 216.

Soon Pakistan were themselves in trouble, having lost half their side for 110, and it was only a 49-ball 56 from wicketkeeper Saleem Yousuf that brought them back into the contest. It came down to an improbable 14 off the last over, with Abdul Qadir and the No. 11, Jaffar, out in the middle to face up to Courtney Walsh. A six from Qadir and a sloppy overthrow brought Pakistan into the reckoning, before Qadir finished the game off with a slice through point off the final delivery. It sent Lahore into a frenzy, and helped send West Indies home before the final for the first time in World Cup history.

"The old cricketers all had great character and played positive cricket with integrity. If I had been at the other end, I would have done the same. The Pakistan government gave him [Walsh] a medal for his sportsman's spirit."

- Saleem Jaffar reminisces about the incident

6- Australia v West Indies - semi-final, Mohali 1996 (Australia won by five runs)
Having elected to bat on a pacy Mohali wicket, Australia discovered their decision had played right into West Indies' strengths. At 15 for 4, they had lost a significant portion of their batting: Mark Taylor, Ricky Ponting, and the Waugh brothers. The relatively inexperienced Stuart Law and Michael Bevan had to do the steadying, and their 138-run stand set Australia up for an Ian Healy cameo that lifted them to 207 for 8.

West Indies remained in sight of a first World Cup final since 1983, thanks to opener Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose 80 was the glue in the chase. Brian Lara and Richie Richardson batted around him to bring them within 43 runs of a win, with eight wickets still in hand. But Chanderpaul's dismissal at that stage was followed by the promotions of Roger Harper and Ottis Gibson, and when they fell quickly, the pressure was too much for the regular batsmen Jimmy Adams and Keith Arthurton. Eventually, Richardson was stranded on 49 as Shane Warne's four-for helped Australia snatch a last-over win.

"I had Stuart Law caught off a no-ball. I think he flicked one to midwicket. On reflection, that would have been a significant breakthrough. Even now, it's very disappointing on my part that I couldn't keep my foot behind the line, given the situation Australia were in at the time."

- Ian Bishop reflects on a crucial moment during Australia's recovery

5- India v West Indies, final, Lord's 1983 (India won by 43 runs)
Nobody gave Kapil Dev's team a chance in 1983 - not even the team themselves

The kings were beaten. A bunch of upstarts took away their crown. And the world itself changed. Well, a part of it, at least.

Put in to bat, India could only manage 183 against the menace of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. Kris Srikkanth top-scored with 38. In response West Indies briskly moved along to 57 for 2, with a rampaging Viv Richards taking 33 runs off the first 27 deliveries he faced. Madan Lal ran in to bowl at him. The ball went up. Kapil Dev ran back - his head thrown back, hands thrust out - to complete the catch at midwicket. And the crowd went wild. Really. People jumped the fence and spilled onto the field.

The seamers continued to chip in, with Mohinder Amarnath and Madan Lal picking up three-fors to eventually bowl West Indies out for 140.

The underdogs won. India might be the biggest superpower in cricket now but in 1983 they were made up of players more interested in sightseeing than winning the trophy. Sandeep Patil wrote that only two of his team-mates had ever played in a World Cup before. And yet they overcame Australia, breezed past England and stunned West Indies to get up onto the Lord's balcony and lift the most coveted trophy in cricket.

In its wake a whole new generation of champions was born. Everyone from Sachin Tendulkar to Harbhajan Singh points to that momentous day as an inspiration.

"I turned to Malcolm [Marshall] and said, 'Do you think you'll have to bat today?' He came back with, 'Yeah, and you too. And I said, 'In that case, well then, we've got a problem.'"

- Joel Garner recalling a conversation he had with his bowling team-mate as they left the field for the innings break "Sheron, jeet lo!" [Go win it, tigers!]

- Kapil Dev was short and sweet in his team talk

4- New Zealand v Pakistan, semi-final, Auckland 1992 (Pakistan won by four wickets)
A young Inzamam-ul-Haq did not want to play the 1992 semi-final against Zealand. He did, and how

New Zealand had become favourites for the World Cup over the course of the tournament, winning their first seven matches on the bounce with innovative strategies. Pakistan, meanwhile, had needed the weather gods to escape a desperately early elimination, although they were the only team to beat New Zealand in the group stage. When the two sides met again, New Zealand opted to bat first and posted an intimidating 262, spurred on by 91 from their talismanic captain Martin Crowe and a half-century from Ken Rutherford. No one among the Pakistan bowlers copped more punishment than their own charismatic skipper, Imran Khan, who conceded 59 in ten wicketless overs.

While chasing, Pakistan were in trouble at 140 for 4, with the run rate climbing. It required an innings of a lifetime from 22-year old Inzamam-ul-Haq to drag them back into it. His stunning 60 off just 37 balls took Pakistan close, as Crowe watched from the dressing room, missing the second innings after injuring his hamstring while batting. When Inzamam was run out, Pakistan still needed a further 36 from five overs. It wasn't until a six from Moin Khan in the penultimate over that victory was assured in front of an anguished Auckland crowd, who had been ready to serenade their side to the final.

"When I was going in, Imran Khan told me to play my natural game. It just so happened, whatever I tried that day was coming off. The run rate was up to eight, and the team's requirements gave me the chance to play freely. Martin Crowe once blamed the defeat on John Wright, the stand-in captain, getting his tactics wrong, but I think that shouldn't be the focus. It would be better to acknowledge Pakistan just played very well."

- Inzamam-ul-Haq on the innings that put Pakistan in the World Cup final

3- New Zealand v South Africa, semi-final, Auckland, 2015 (New Zealand won by four wickets 'D-L Method')
With a strong bowling attack and a predisposition to wobble in crucial World Cup elimination games, South Africa elected to bat in the first semi-final of the 2015 World Cup. An 82 from Faf du Plessis set them up nicely before rain in the 38th over made it a 43-overs-per-side game. AB Villiers made a 45-ball 65 and David Miller 49 off 18; an additional 16 runs came via Duckworth-Lewis. New Zealand needed stiff 298.

South Africa's late dash was negated in the Powerplay by Brendon McCullum's 26-ball 59, and on that start, New Zealand built a decent response. They lost their fourth wicket on 149 but were still up with the scoring rate before a tight Imran Tahir spell set them back. But Corey Anderson's fifty complemented Grant Elliott, whose unbeaten 84 culminated with a six over midwicket against Dale Steyn when five were needed off two.

"I was looking to hit that ball for six or four. I was just going to line it up and wherever it was, it was going over the boundary, hopefully. I didn't want to be there 70-odd and not winning this game."

- Grant Elliott describes his thoughts with five needed off two against Dale Steyn

2- West Indies v Australia, final, Lord's 1975 (West Indies won by 17 runs)
Two top teams, great performances, a long sunny day, and a scare at the end: the first World Cup final had it all

At a sun-soaked Lord's, West Indies closed out a deliciously tense victory to become the first team to lift the men's World Cup. Inserted by Ian Chappell, they were in a spot of bother at 50 for 3 when their captain, Clive Lloyd, strolled to the middle. A hooked six off Dennis Lillee set the tone as Lloyd careened to an 82-ball hundred - greased lightning just four years after the advent of ODIs - and led his team to 291 from their 60 overs. Australia were well placed in the chase, but a solid top-order foundation was undermined by three run-outs, each involving a young Viv Richards. At 233 for 9, the result seemed confirmed, only for Lillee and Jeff Thomson to cobble together 41 for the last wicket, before the fifth run-out of the innings sparked a jubilant pitch invasion from the heavily Caribbean crowd.

"It was wonderful. The ball came off the middle from the first ball, and as sometimes happens, I suspected it was going to be my day."

- Clive Lloyd reflecting on his knock "Man, haven't you heard of Mr Dickie Bird, the great Test match umpire? This is one of his famous white caps."

- A West Indian bus conductor, quoted by Bird in his autobiography, who grabbed a souvenir after the final wicket fell

1- Australia v South Africa, semi-final, Birmingham 1999 (Match tied)
Wite-ball cricket is fast food; red-ball cricket is fine dining. This immutable cliché is hard to dispute, yet there is one almighty exception which proves ODIs can also be haute cricket. The 1999 World Cup semi-final between Australia and South Africa was Ferran Adria's take on the Big Mac. It was a Test match in all but name, with the same subtlety, tempo variations and depth. It wasn't just stranger than fiction; it was more complex, more profound - and it had a twist so savage that even Hitchcock might have deemed it too callous.

Two decades later, it's still hard to comprehend that a limited-overs match - any match - could produce such intensity. Towards the end, even Shane Warne, who lived for such moments, thought that he had never known such tension on a cricket field.

Warne was part of an ensemble cast to die for. There were present and future greats on both sides, from Allan Donald and the Waugh brothers in their 30s to Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis in their early 20s. Between them, the two XIs would end their ODI careers with 4584 caps, 106,188 runs and 2630 wickets. None would experience anything to compare with a match that was career-defining for many of the losers, never mind the winners.

Klusener took a comfortable single off the last ball of the 49th over, which left him needing nine from the final over to win the match. McGrath, fearing the consequences of Klusener retaining the strike, gruffly accepted his cap and mouthed a popular four-letter word under his breath. It was now that the possibility of a tie started to dawn on everyone. The commentators explained that South Africa needed to win the game, though they didn't say why. Most of the players on both sides didn't even know what would happen if there was a tie. (ESPN Cricinfo)

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