Cricket World Cup: The 10 greatest matches in competition's history

By Sam SheringhamBBC Stumped producer

For all its flaws and formatting faults, the men's Cricket World Cup has served up many remarkable matches over its 11 previous editions.

Alison Mitchell, Jim Maxwell and Charu Sharma, who present Stumped on BBC World Service, have been raking through their collective memory banks to come up with a list of matches which include seismic upsets, tight finishes and games whose significance resonated far beyond cricket.

Here are the 10 greatest matches in Cricket World Cup history, as nominated by Stumped.

Take a look, then have your say in the comments section below. The full podcast is here.

10. New Zealand v South Africa, 2015

Grant Elliott in action for New Zealand at the 2015 Cricket World Cup
Elliott's six off the penultimate ball helped New Zealand reach the World Cup final for the first time in 2015

This was a rollercoaster of a semi-final in which the fortunes of both teams fluctuated back and forth, with the outcome in the balance right into the final over.

Chasing 298 in 43 overs after rain, New Zealand were struggling at 149-4 in the 22nd over, but as a raucous Eden Park crowd cheered every run, Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson hauled them back into contention.

With five needed from two balls, Elliott launched Dale Steyn into the Auckland night sky to send New Zealand into their first World Cup final.

"It's probably the most pressure I've had in my career in terms of a single moment because it was literally hero or zero," recalled Elliott.

"I didn't want to leave it to the last ball, so wherever the ball was I was going to have a go at it. Fortunately for me it was in a good position and the rest was a lot of relief. To achieve what seemed unachievable at the start of the tournament was a pretty awesome feeling."

9. Pakistan v England, 1992

Former Pakistan captain celebrates winning the 1992 Cricket World Cup
Pakistan's greatest moment in World Cup history came in 1992 with victory in Australia

A first World Cup title for Pakistan as Wasim Akram - inspired by Imran Khan's instruction to fight like "cornered tigers" - ripped the heart out of England.

Half-centuries for Imran and Javed Miandad helped Pakistan post 249-6 in front of a full house at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

And although England recovered from a rocky start, Wasim produced inswinging yorkers in successive balls to remove Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis, and effectively ensure a third World Cup final defeat for England.

"When we got back to Lahore, a bus journey that would normally take 20 minutes took seven hours," said Wasim.

"The streets were packed and we just crawled along. It's something you dream of. I've never seen anything like that before and I don't think I ever will again."

8. India v Australia, 1987

Former Australia captain Allan Border celebrates winning the 1987 World Cup
Allan Border is one of four Australian captains to have won the World Cup

Chennai witnessed one of the World Cup's closest ever finishes as Australia pipped holders India by one run in the group stages.

India needed two runs off two balls to reach their target of 271 when a young Steve Waugh bowled Maninder Singh to take the spoils.

The outcome could have been very different had Australia's Dean Jones not persisted in his determination to right a perceived wrong during Australia's innings.

"I was facing Maninder Singh, the left-arm orthodox, and I hit one down the ground," said Jones. "Ravi Shastri was on the boundary and it looked plain and clear to me that it went over his arm and carried beyond the rope, but Ravi said it was four, so we all complained.

"I looked at [umpire] Dickie Bird and he said he had to take the word of the fielder.

"I got out not long afterwards and ran into the match referee who was Hanif Mohammed. I complained and he said we'll talk about it at the end of the innings.

"Dickie Bird walked into their dressing-room and gave Ravi another chance. He said let him have it for six so they changed the score from 268 to 270.

"I'm not sure if that had ever happened before."

7. India v Zimbabwe, 1983

Kapil Dev in action for India at the 1983 World Cup
Former India captain Kapil Dev and the rest of the team became national heroes overnight after winning the 1983 World Cup

Kapil's match, as it's become known, was never televised but is ingrained in the memory of all those who attended among the rhododendrons of Tunbridge Wells.

A major upset looked on the cards when World Cup newcomers Zimbabwe reduced India to 17-5.

But India's captain had a different storyline in mind. His astonishing 175 not out from just 138 balls lifted India to what proved a match-winning score of 266-8.

"We took lunch after 40 overs and they were still only about 100-7. We were well in control, but then Kapil just changed gear," said Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Dave Houghton, who had a close-up view of the brutal assault.

"He didn't miscue one ball. Everything he went for he hit like a tracer bullet along the ground or like a missile out of the ground. It wasn't like we dropped him or he had a close shave, he didn't give a chance."

6. India v Sri Lanka, 2011

Mahendra Singh Dhoni in action for India at the 2011 cricket World Cup final
India captain MS Dhoni hits the winning shot against Sri Lanka at the 2011 World Cup

India beat Sri Lanka in a thrilling final to deliver World Cup glory to their cricket-mad population on home soil.

With his team seemingly stalling in pursuit of Sri Lanka's 274-6, captain MS Dhoni shifted himself up the order and paced his team's run-chase to perfection.

Gautam Gambhir's 97 became little more than a footnote as Dhoni sealed the victory with a six that sailed high into the stands, providing the catalyst for euphoric celebrations in the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

"It was surreal, the culmination of a great three-year journey with the Indian team," said coach Gary Kirsten.

"They were a very talented bunch of cricketers, and all we really needed to do was fly in formation. We'd been fairly up and down leading into the World Cup but it all came together very nicely."

5. West Indies v India, 1983

Victorious India players Yaspal Sharma and Roger Binny grab souvenir stumps after winning the 1983 cricket World Cup against the West Indies
Kapil Dev scored 303 runs, took 12 wickets and seven catches in eight matches at the 1983 World Cup

With holders West Indies in the opposing Lord's dressing-room, few gave India hope in the 1983 World Cup final, especially when they were skittled out for 183.

Once again, however, it was captain Kapil who proved the inspiration for an historic victory.

Hi stunning catch to dismiss a rampaging Viv Richards provoked the first of many pitch invasions in a match that is often seen to have ignited India's obsession with the game.

"We all knew that Viv was such an arrogant player, that he wasn't going to hang around and would get after us," said Roger Binny, who finished as the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 18.

"But the ball went to the right person. Kapil Dev was such a brilliant fielder, he never looked like he was going to drop it.

"It was a dream come true. It took some time to sink in that we had beaten the West Indies. They were unbeatable at that time. We did it for the country."

4. Sri Lanka v Australia, 1996

Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga (centre) celebrates with fellow batsman Aravinda De Silva and team mates after winning the 1996 cricket World Cup
An inspirational all-round performance from batsman Aravinda de Silva helped Sri Lanka win the 1996 World Cup

Another final, and another huge upset as Sri Lanka beat Australia at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, just 15 years after becoming a full member of the ICC and gaining Test status.

Aravinda de Silva was the hero for Sri Lanka with bat and ball, taking three wickets in Australia's below-par 241-7 before scoring a masterful unbeaten 107 to take his team home.

It was left to influential captain Arjuna Ranatunga, however, to hit the winning runs, steering Glenn McGrath to the third-man boundary to launch the celebrations.

"We got back to Sri Lanka the following morning and from the airport it was party time!" said Sri Lanka batsman Hashan Tillakaratne. "When we landed there was a big reception at the airport and then we were asked to go to the president's house.

"As we were travelling there, there were big crowds lining the streets to cheer us. It was an amazing feeling, awesome. And that was just the start. The receptions and parties went on for weeks."

3. Ireland v England 2011

Ireland's Kevin O'Brien and Niall O'Brien celebrate after beating England at the 2011 cricket World Cup
Kevin O'Brien inspired Ireland to a stunning three-wicket win and to stun England at the 2011 World Cup

On 2 March 2011 in Bangalore, an Irishman with pink-dyed hair produced one of the most astonishing innings in World Cup history to secure a famous victory over England.

Kevin O'Brien's 50-ball hundred would have been remarkable in any circumstances, but was all the more so given Ireland's predicament at 111-5 moments after he arrived at the crease.

What followed was a heady mix of power and skill as O'Brien dismantled an attack featuring James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann and Ireland romped to their imposing target of 328 with five balls to spare.

"It was just one of those days - everything I hit came out of the middle and when it didn't come out of the middle it went over the fielders' heads," said O'Brien.

"Andrew Strauss dropped me on 91, so there was obviously a bit of luck as well. You need a bit of luck in big tournaments and fortunately for me and the Irish team, we had it that day."

2. Australia v South Africa 1999

Glenn McGrath in action for Australia against South Africa at the 1999 World Cup
Australia beat South Africa in a thrilling match in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup

This contest, and its extraordinary finale, continues to defy belief even 20 years on.

South Africa entered the last over needing nine runs to reach a first World Cup final and when player of the tournament Lance Klusener smashed the first two balls of the over for four, the result seemed assured.

But then nerves set in. After nearly running himself out off the third ball of the over, Allan Donald stayed put at the non-striker's end when Klusener set off for a single from the fourth.

And by the time Donald did start to run, Damien Fleming's underarm throw was well on its way to Adam Gilchrist's gloves to complete surely the most famous run-out in cricketing history.

"I don't know if Lance called but he just started running," recalled Fleming. "The ball was close enough to my right hand so Donald stayed in his crease. I got the ball and proceeded to underarm the ball to poor Adam Gilchrist at about 1 centimetre per hour.

"Eventually Gilly got it and hit the stumps. After that it was pure euphoria - that's the reason we all play sport."

1. 1975 Australia v West Indies

Clive Lloyd, West Indies cricket captain at the 1975 World Cup
Clive Lloyd led the West Indies to the first of their two World Cup wins in 1975

The first ever World Cup final was a thrilling contest involving some of the leading Test cricketers of the age adapting their skills to the brave new world of one-day cricket.

Clive Lloyd's blistering hundred and Viv Richards' spectacular fielding are the enduring images but the Australians more than played their part in an historic occasion.

An unlikely last-wicket stand between Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee kept Aussie hopes alive right into the penultimate over before Deryck Murray ran out Thomson to unleash thousands of delighted West Indian supporters onto the hallowed turf of Lord's.

"It was a very good day for cricket," said Australia captain Ian Chappell. "The two best teams got into the final and it was such a terrific game. I certainly thought after that the World Cup is here to stay."

"We made a lot of people happy," said Lloyd. "It was an exciting day, an exciting game and I think we thoroughly enjoyed it. In those days the ordinary fan could get a ticket and a lot of West Indians were there. I thank that victory was the starting point of our great run."

Download the Stumped podcast for a truly international perspective on the Cricket World Cup. We'll cover all the big talking points, reaction to the key matches and plenty of features you won't get anywhere else.


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