An elated Australian side celebrating with its fifth World Cup trophy; a stunned, disbelieving South African side fighting back the tears after yet another choke – these are two sides of the same sporting coin. Because for every winner, there is a loser – and while we celebrate the wins, we empathize with the defeated side, we feel their pain, and this is the emotional yin and yang that makes sport so appealing.
Here are some of the closest finishes in World Cup history:
South Africa vs Australia, 1999 World Cup semi-final, Edgbaston: On a gloomy Birmingham afternoon, South Africa took on Australia in the semifinal of the 1999 World Cup at Edgbaston. Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald used the overcast conditions to perfection, taking nine wickets to bundle Australia out for a modest 213 – and even that score was only made possible by the obduracy of Steve Waugh, who scored 56, and the ace finisher of the time Michael Bevan, who chipped in with a valuable 65.
Waugh was the Proteas’ recurring nightmare. A few days earlier, in a Super Six game, the Aussie skipper had smacked a sublime unbeaten 120, in course of which a dropped sitter by Herschelle Gibbs gave birth to the famous jibe “You just dropped the World Cup.”
The semifinal was however all about Lance Klusner, who had lighted up the World Cup stage with power packed finishes until then. He brought the Proteas within two runs of a win and then the famous “choke” took hold – having narrowly survived one run out chance, Klusener ran again, head down, brain disengaged, and with his partner Alan Donald literally ran South Africa out of the contest, paving the way for Australia to reach the summit clash for the third time in four editions.
India vs England, 2011 World Cup, Match 11, Bengaluru: As many as 676 runs were scored, and yet the two teams could not be separated when India took on England in a high-octane clash at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. It was a flat track with nothing in it for the pacers but with some purchase for the spinners. Beating the hosts in their own backyard would have been a massive achievement for the Andrew Strauss-led side, but they were on the back foot right from the outset. India’s top-order chipped in with valuable runs, with Sachin Tendulkar top-scoring with 120 as the home side finished with a massive 338.
Strauss led from the front and ensured that he scored at least one boundary every over for the majority of his innings, but the wicket of Ian Bell in the 43rd over triggered a collapse. Despite the setback, England managed to secure a tie. Strauss was dismissed for 158 off 145 – his highest ODI score.
India vs Australia 1987 and 1992: These two matches are perfect examples of ‘margins’ in cricket. In 1987, Dean Jones smashed Maninder Singh over the long off boundary. The umpire had initially not given a four, but during the break, the Australian camp had a chat with the umpire and convinced him that the ball had indeed crossed the boundary. With the approval of the Indian captain Kapil Dev, two more runs were added to the Australian total.
The generosity would prove costly as India went on to lose the match by a run. Steve Waugh bowled a magnificent last over, with India needing six runs with a wicket in hand. Maninder Singh managed to get four runs off the first four deliveries, but Waugh knocked over the stumps with the penultimate delivery to give his side the win. Exactly a year ago, India and Australia had played out just the second tie in Tests at the same venue – Chennai.
In 1992, India’s margin of defeat was once again just one run. This time, they were chasing just 236, unlike the 271 in 1987. Mohammad Azharuddin played a superb innings (93) and Sanjay Manjrekar (47) too chipped in. But in the end, it came down to Kiran More in the last over, where India needed 13 to win. India began the over well as More smashed Tom Moody for two fours off the first two deliveries, leaving India to just five needed off four deliveries. More tried to play an adventurous paddle sweep and missed, to see his middle stump go cart-wheeling. India needed four from the final delivery with Javagal Srinath on strike. He smashed the ball in the air towards deep mid-wicket, the catch was dropped, but while attempting the third run that would have tied the game, Venkatapathy Raju was run-out, leaving India short by a run in the end.
New Zealand vs Australia, 2015 World Cup, Match 20, Auckland: In a low-scoring encounter at Eden Park, Auckland, co-hosts New Zealand and Australia produced a low-scoring classic. Both teams were unbeaten going into this match, and it was New Zealand who had the upper hand after bowling Australia out for 151 inside 33 overs. David Warner (34), Shane Watson (23) and Brad Haddin (43) made the only significant contributions. There was plenty of swing on offer, and Trent Boult made the best of it, finishing with five for 27.
Chasing just 153, New Zealand made a bright start with Brendon McCullum breezing to a 24-ball 50. once he was dismissed in the eighth over, the Kiwis collapsed thanks to it led to a collapse, courtesy of Mitchell Starc’s toe crushing yorkers that yielded figures of six for 28 and took Australia to the threshold of a win.
Kane Williamson, emerging as one of the best batsmen in the world, however soaked up the pressure and with six to win, he hit Pat Cummins over the fence, taking New Zealand to a one-wicket win with 161 balls to spare. The two teams would once again clash in the final, where Australia eased past the Kiwis to win their fifth title, but it was this game, played under hostile batting conditions, that defined the rivalry.
Pakistan vs West Indies, 1987 World Cup, Match 9, Lahore: This was the game that reminded people why cricket is called the gentleman’s game. Courtney Walsh generously refrained from running out Saleem Jaffar at the non-striker’s end when the batsman backed up too far.
It was the last over of the game, with Pakistan needing 14 in the final over. Abdul Qadir stepped up with the bat, hitting Walsh over long-off for a six off the third ball after the first two had yielded a couple of singles. With six more required off the last three deliveries, Pakistan got there off the final delivery to send the entire crowd at the Gaddafi Stadium into a frenzy.
The match was West Indies’ to lose when they had Pakistan at 110 for five, chasing 217. But wicket-keeper Saleem Yousuf played a swashbuckling innings of 56 off just 49 to give Pakistan a real chance of winning the match. And then came Walsh’s moment of generosity, which in retrospect created a halo around his head but lost the Windies the game.