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When associate teams turned giant killers

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Last updated on 09 Jun 2023 | 05:06 AM
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When associate teams turned giant killers

On this day, Zimbabwe defeated Australia at the 1983 World Cup thanks to an all-round show from Duncan Fletcher

It’s not often that an associate member defeats a Test-playing team in ODI cricket, but there have been such instances at every edition of the World Cup from 1979, apart from 1987 and 2019 – it was not possible in the latter as all 10 teams had Test status. Here, we look at the top upsets in the first seven editions of ODI cricket’s premier tournament.

1979 - Sri Lanka defeat India by 47 runs

As one of the top two teams during the 1979 ICC Trophy, Sri Lanka qualified for the second World Cup which was held in the same year. An interesting fact from the ICC Trophy was that although almost the entire tournament was held before the World Cup, the final took place between the semi-finals and final of the marquee event. At the World Cup, the Lankans were grouped along with defending champions West Indies, New Zealand and India.

While Sri Lanka lost against New Zealand in their opening match, the game against defending champions West Indies was abandoned due to rain which gave them two points. India, on the other hand, came into this match with zero points after defeats against the Windies and the Blackcaps. As a result, Srinivas Venkataraghavan’s team were already eliminated from the tournament.

India were huge favourites going into this match, yet they would end up on the losing side. Batting first, Sri Lanka put up a total of 238/5 in their 60 overs. In pursuit of that score, India were 119/2 at one stage but would collapse to 191 all out and the first instance of an associate team beating a Test-playing one at the World Cup had occurred.

Sri Lanka would get Test status three years later in 1982 and they improved tenfold in the years that followed before winning the World Cup in 1996.

1983 - Zimbabwe defeat Australia by 13 runs

When Zimbabwe qualified for the 1983 World Cup having won the ICC Trophy a year earlier, not many would have envisioned them defeating a Test-playing nation at the tournament. After all, this was going to be their first appearance in the premier limited-overs competition.

The Zimbabwean players, though, had other ideas and produced one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history on day one of the 1983 World Cup. Facing an Australian side that consisted of the likes of Allan Border, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson among others, it was a Duncan Fletcher-inspired performance that would lead Zimbabwe to victory.

After being put into bat first, the Fletcher-led side found themselves in a precarious situation at 94/5 before the captain made a fine unbeaten half-century to lead them to 239/6. In reply, a 61-run opening partnership looked to put Australia on the front foot, but Fletcher was on hand once again – this time, turning the match with the ball. The future England and India coach would take four wickets to cap off one of the most memorable all-round performances in World Cup history.

A few days later, Zimbabwe would reduce India to 17/5 and looked to be in prime position for their second win in the tournament, but a masterly 175* from Kapil Dev guided eventual champions India to victory. 

1992 - Zimbabwe defeat England by 9 runs

A few months before they would play their first Test, Zimbabwe would secure their second World Cup win – this time against England.

Having qualified for the 1992 marquee event after winning the 1990 ICC Trophy, Zimbabwe lost their first seven matches at the tournament. The format was such that all nine teams faced each other once during a league phase before the top four qualified for the semi-finals. Meanwhile, England had already confirmed their entry into the final four ahead of this fixture which was the last for both teams during the league stage.

After being skittled out for 134, Zimbabwe seemed to be headed towards finishing their 1992 World Cup campaign with a 100% loss record. But Eddo Brandes had other ideas. The Zimbabwean pacer dismissed Graham Gooch off the first delivery of England’s innings and the 1987 World Cup finalists were soon reduced to 43/5. Brandes accounted for four of those wickets and would have bowling figures of 4/21 with four maiden overs as Zimbabwe came out on top in a thrilling encounter.

1996 - Kenya defeat West Indies by 73 runs

The World Cup in 1996 was expanded to 12 teams and with nine sides playing Tests at the time, three entered the tournament via the 1994 ICC Trophy – a tournament in which Kenya finished as the runners-up.

Slotted alongside India, Sri Lanka, Australia, West Indies and Zimbabwe, it was expected that Kenya wouldn’t register a win at the tournament. And in their first three matches, they faced defeats versus India, Australia and Zimbabwe. Next up, they were up against a strong West Indian team that had the likes of Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh among others.

Expectedly, Kenya were bowled out for just 166 and it was assumed that West Indies would stroll to victory. That wasn’t the case though as an inspired bowling performance from the Kenyans, led by Maurice Odumbe (3/15) and Rajab Ali (3/17) saw the two-time world champions succumb to 93 all out with only two of their batsmen reaching double figures.

Kenya would put up some credible performances in ODI cricket in the years that followed, especially during the 2003 World Cup where they reached the semi-finals but did not gain Test status. In this edition, they went on to defeat three full-member nations - Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - and also received a walkover from New Zealand.

1999 - Bangladesh defeat Pakistan by 62 runs

While Bangladesh have a solid ODI team now, in 1999, they were making their World Cup debut. They had qualified for the tournament after winning the 1997 ICC Trophy.

Bangladesh secured their first World Cup victory in a group stage match against fellow debutants Scotland. But they had struggled against Test-playing teams, with Australia – who had an eye on the net run-rate – chasing down a target of 179 within 20 overs against them. On the other hand, Pakistan had won all their four matches at the World Cup going into their final group stage match against Bangladesh.

After being put into bat, Bangladesh managed 223/9 in their 50 overs with Saqlain Mushtaq picking up a five-wicket haul for Pakistan. In reply, the 1992 World Cup winners were rocked early by some fine bowling from Khaled Mahmud and were reduced to 42/5. Eventually, Pakistan were bowled out for 161 and Bangladesh had secured their first big win in ODI cricket.

A year later, Bangladesh were granted Test status.

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