April 2, 2011 marks the end of the tenth edition of the ICC ODI World Cup. With ODI cricket moving into the 2010s, a decade which has largely been dominated by the batsmen, the tournament kicked-off with a humongous score of 374 governed by Virender Sehwag’s 175 against Bangladesh.
That was not the end of it. The tournament saw a lot more astonishing batting displays. Here are the five top and most impactful performances of the 2011 World Cup:
Andrew Strauss, 158, vs India
An old-fashioned England Test opener known for a workmanlike approach, Andrew Strauss surprised everyone showcasing a different side of his batting at the Chinnaswamy Stadium during his sublime knock of 158 from 145 balls. When England were almost written off after India posted a mammoth 338 on the board, Strauss played a captain’s knock letting England believe in achieving the unthinkable.
He started England’s run-chase with a boundary off the first ball of the innings but largely took the backseat in a 68-run opening stand with Kevin Pietersen. Once Pietersen departed, Strauss launched an astonishing assault on the Indian bowlers, adding 32 with Jonathan Trott and then 170 with Ian Bell. He went deep in the crease against the spinners, danced down the track against the pacers plundering 18 fours and one six in his innings. For the 42.3 overs he was in the middle, England had no reason to think they were behind the eight-ball.
His departure opened the gates for India to come back and it took England’s lower order to turn up to secure a tie but Strauss’ knock made England believe in themselves after four dismal World Cup campaigns.
“I think this is the best innings I have played”, said the England skipper on receiving the man-of-the-match award.
Kevin O’Brien, 113, vs England
Fortunes shift in the blink of an eye in international sport. Merely three days after a scintillating tie against India, England found themselves on the receiving end at the same venue - courtesy of Kevin O’Brien’s 113 off 63 balls. England were in control for 75 off the 99.1 overs bowled in the match. At 113 for five in 25 overs, Ireland seemed far behind in their pursuit of 328.
O’Brien, still fresh at the crease then decided to cut loose. He collected two fours off the 26th over, followed it with two sixes in the next and as he gained momentum, he did not look back. In a sixth wicket partnership off 162 runs off only 103 deliveries with Alex Cusack, O’Brien’s bat was reminiscent of Thor’s hammer, putting the opposition bowlers to the sword. He completed his hundred off only 50 balls and by the time he got out, Ireland required only 12 runs from 11 balls - a job finished by Trent Johnston and John Mooney.
The innings put O’Brien’s name in Irish cricket folklore and will always be remembered when one recalls Ireland’s most famous performances on the biggest stage.
Yuvraj Singh, 57*, vs Australia
The 2011 World Cup is filled with critical all-round performances from Yuvraj Singh but none more important than his unbeaten 57 in the quarter-final against Australia.
Under testing circumstances - 74 away from the target with five wickets in hand on a dry pitch against the defending champions in the knockouts - Yuvraj played with assurance carrying India to safety without any further loss of wickets. What added charm to his innings was his captivating strokeplay which included a boundary through third man off a Brett Lee yorker and a sumptuous cut over point off Shaun Tait.
The southpaw sealed the game in similar fashion - a commanding drive piercing the gap between mid-off and extra cover for four - ending Australia’s World Cup reign that had carried on for three successive editions. The image of Yuvraj kneeling down in the middle of the pitch waving his bat in an emotional celebration speaks what the victory meant for him and Indian cricket.
Gautam Gambhir, 97, vs Sri Lanka
Batting at three majorly, Gautam Gambhir was India’s crisis man in this tournament. India’s second-highest run-scorer in the tournament, the southpaw proved his worth in the final walking in to bat after India lost Sehwag with the scorecard reading none for one.
Six overs later, India also lost Sachin Tendulkar. Batting with Virat Kohli, Gambhir steadied the ship playing the senior pro in a 83-run stand and then played the perfect foil to MS Dhoni in a 109-run stand for the fourth wicket. Gambhir’s solidity turned the tide in India’s favor after a dwindling start in a run-chase of 276.
He got out for 97 off 122 balls, missing a golden opportunity to score a hundred in a World Cup final, but had put his country in a firm position to lift their second World Cup trophy.
MS Dhoni, 91*, vs Sri Lanka
The old cliché that only Dhoni understands his captaincy came true once again when the Indian skipper walked out to bat at five after scoring 150 runs in the competition at an an average of 30.
The fact that he came in at the cost of Yuvraj, the most impactful performer in the tournament, did not instill much confidence in his decision either. But Dhoni knew how to back it up with the bat.
He countered Sri Lanka’s spin duo of Muttiah Muralitharan and Suraj Randiv perfectly and stitched a 109-run stand with Gambhir, the highest partnership for India in their three World Cup final appearances. He was so focussed that Dhoni had to be reminded by Gambhir to lift his bat on completing his fifty. He also required the assistance of the physio but he was so determined in his objective that the only thing that seemed to take him off the pitch was an Indian victory.
Once Gambhir departed, Dhoni upped the ante scoring 31 runs off only 18 balls in the World Cup-sealing 54-run stand with Yuvraj finishing at 91* off 79 balls. In the end, the wicketkeeper-batsman gave the typical Dhoni-touch to the win by finishing the game with a six over long-on and sending the whole country into joyous scenes of jubilation.