The 2019 Cricket World Cup in England is right around the corner, and this tournament marks the 12th edition of the tournament hosted on roughly, every 4 years. It will be the 5th time that England will play hosts to the biggest 50 over tournament in international cricket, having previously hosted the tournament in 1975, 1979, 1983, and 1999. Australia, the reigning champions, are also the most successful country in the tournament's history, having won it 5 times. This year's World Cup will feature 10 teams from around the world with the top 8 ODI playing nations automatically qualified for the tournament, with Afghanistan and the West Indies qualifying via a separate tournament.
In previous editions of the World Cup, countries have been split into groups, before progressing to a knockout stage, though from 1999 to 2007, the tournament had a second group stage of the top 6-8 teams. The Super Six, or Super Eights, was phased out of the World Cup after the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies since then the tournament has gone directly from the group stage to knockout competition. This year's tournament will have only one group with all teams playing against each other once and the top four teams will progress to the semi-finals.
Due to the high stakes of the tournament, especially in the knockout stages, the World Cup has provided some of the most exciting games in the history of the 50 over format, with the best in the world often facing off against each other. Some of the most memorable matches between Pakistan and India, or South Africa and New Zealand, and South Africa and Australia have taken place in the context of crucial World Cup matches.
The following are the eight best and closest matches in the 44-year history of the competition.
# 8 India Def Pakistan - 1992 World Cup
The rivalry between Pakistan and India goes all the way back to the independence of each country. Combine their already heated political rivalry with both nations intense passion for cricket leaves you with a rivalry for the ages. The rivalry made it to the World Cup in 1992 as both teams faced off against each other for the first time in the tournament's history.
India won the toss and elected to bat, with a 19-year-old Sachin Tendulkar the pick of the batsman scoring a handy 54 off 62 deliveries. The Indian batters also kept star bowler Wasim Akram wicketless, scoring 45 off of his 10 overs. Indian opener Ajay Jadeja scored a handy 46 and all-rounder Kapil Dev scored a quick 35 off 26 deliveries. India posted 216, which was a defendable but not a dominant total at the time.
Pakistan lost Inzamam-ul-Haq and Zahid Faizal early in the chase as they fell to 2/17 in reply, before opener Aamer Sohail and Javed Miandad batted together to get Pakistan back into the match. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the Indian bowlers would get on top in combination with some key run outs allowed the Indians to win the match. Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar, and Javagal Srinath would all end up with two wickets and Sachin Tendulkar would Aamer Sohail to win the man of the match award.
Despite the loss, Pakistan would eke their way into the finals in the fourth position while India would be eliminated. Pakistan would then defeat New Zealand in the semi-final and England in the final to win their first ever world cup.
# 7 Australia Def England - 1987 World Cup
The final of the 1987 World Cup saw Australia defeat England in another match in their classic and lengthy rivalry. Both teams finished second in their respective groups, Australia behind the host nation of India while England finished second behind Pakistan in a group that also included the West Indies. On route to the final, Australia narrowly defeated Pakistan despite the best efforts of Imran Khan, who took 3 wickets and scored 58, and Javed Miandad, who scored 70. While England defeated India by 35 runs with Graham Gooch scoring a century and Mike Gatting added 56.
In the final itself, Australia won the toss and batted first with David Boon and Geoff Marsh combining for a 75 run opening stand to get the Australians off to a fine start. Unfortunately for Australia, Boon would be there only player to pass the half-century mark despite Marsh, Jones, McDermott, and Border all getting starts. Eddie Hemmings was the pick of the bowlers, picking up 2 wickets for 48 runs off of his 10 overs. Australia's final total was 253, leaving England needing to score 254 in order to win their first World Cup.
The English started on the back foot, with Craig McDermott trapping Tim Robinson LBW off the second ball of the innings. Graham Gooch and Bill Athey combined for a partnership of 65 runs before Gooch was given out LBW off the bowling of Simon O'Donnell for 35. Athey would be the only person for England to pass the 50-mark as Gatting and Lamb were both dismissed in their 40s. Steve Waugh and Allan Border, two players you wouldn't have picked for their bowling both got 2 wickets each in the final. England would finish their 50 overs falling 8 runs short of Australia's 253.
# 6 Bangladesh Def England - 2015 World Cup
In the 2015 World Cup, Bangladesh faced off against England with the final spot in the knockout stages up for grabs. While Australia, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka had already qualified for the next round as the top three spots of the group, Bangladesh and England were left to fight out for fourth place in the group.
England won the toss and sent Bangladesh in to bat and the decision paid dividends almost immediately. Anderson removed both Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes in the first three overs of the innings. Bangladesh's innings was salvaged by Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah and, while Sarkar would fall just before he reached his half-century, Mahmudullah would go on to score a century and Mushfiqur Rahim would contribute as well making 89.
England got off to a better start, with the Lions making it to 97 before they were 2 down. While Ian Bell would pass the 50-mark, Ali, Hales, and Root all made starts but failed to push on to make anything of their innings. Jos Butler and Chris Woakes looked like they were going to get England over the line. With 5 overs left to go, England needed 47 with 4 wickets in hand and both batsmen set at the crease. However, in the 46th over Bangladesh got both Butler and Jordan out in consecutive balls, sending the English camp into chaos.
Woakes did his best, but with 8 wickets down he was quickly running out of partners to do it with. One of Bangladesh's shining lights, Rubel Hossain, stepped up to bowl the 49th over and England only needed 16 to win off the final 12 balls. With the first ball of the over, Hossain cleaned up Broad's stumps, sending Bangladeshi fans into raptures. Following a nervous dot ball, Hossain landed a perfect yorker which ripped through Anderson and cannoned half way up middle and leg stump.
# 5 Sri Lanka Def England - 2007 World Cup
The 2007 World Cup in the West Indies was the first and also the last time that the World Cup had two group stages. After the World Cup, the group stage led directly to the knockout phase. The initial group stage threw up a series of upsets, with both Pakistan and India being eliminated in the group stage with Ireland and Bangladesh progressing to the next phase.
During the Super Eights, Sri Lanka and England faced off against each other with the results of these matches crucial in order to determine who would progress into the knock out phase and who wouldn't make the cut. Michael Vaughn, the English captain, won the toss and elected to bowl first and allowing the Sri Lankans to set the target. England, led by Flintoff and Sajid Mahmood, would bowl out Sri Lanka for 235 with Upul Tharanga and captain Mahela Jayawardene scoring half centuries.
England would lose both of their openers quickly, falling to 2/12 after 6 overs at the start of their chase. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen would combine to add another 105 runs between them as England climbed to 3/121 after 30 overs, needing only 115 off of the last 20 overs with 7 wickets in hand. Pieterson, Collingwood, and Flintoff would then fall within the next 5 overs, leaving Ravi Bopara and wicketkeeper Paul Nixon to chase the rest of the runs. Needing 19 off the last two overs, Lasith Malinga would get Nixon out after he made 42 but Bopara would hit the last ball of the over for four to bring it down to 12 required off the last over.
Ravi Bopara hit a boundary off the second ball of the over, and thanks to a few quick singles and doubles, Bopara and Sajid Mahmood would need a 4 off the last ball of the game to win. Fernando would bowl the ball just back of a length with Bopara missing with a swing as the ball crashed into the stumps. At the end of the Super 8 stage, Sri Lanka would progress in 2nd on the table while England missed out on the cut by just 1 win.
# 4 Sri Lanka Tied with South Africa - 2003 World Cup
Anyone that knows the history of South Africa in the World Cup knows that the Proteas have continuously found new and exciting ways to get eliminated from the tournament. Following the bizarre elimination in the semi-final against Australia in the 1999 World Cup, South Africa looked to make up for their mistake when hosting the 2003 World Cup. The final match of the group stage saw South Africa taking on Sri Lanka, and needing a win to progress to the Super Sixes as Kenya and New Zealand had won their last matches respectively.
Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat at Durban. Marvin Attapatu stood tallest of the batsmen even when wickets fell all around him. The Sri Lankan opener would compile a score of 124 and was the pick of the batsmen, with Aravinda de Silva next best with 73. Jacques Kallis was the pick of the bowlers getting 3 wickets for 41 off his 10 overs. Sri Lanka ended up posting 268 off of their 50 overs with 9 wickets down.
In reply, Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs got the South Africans off to a fantastic start before Smith fell went out for 35. Gibbs would continue on to pass 50 with a massive 6 but he eventually fell to Muttiah Muralitharan, while Jayasuriya would remove Kallis and Dippenaar cheaply to make up for his poor showing with the bat. The game would be thrown into greater chaos as rain threatened to ruin the end of the game.
With 31 deliveries left in the game, South Africa found themselves at 6/229, as the rain started to come down. Everyone at the ground apart from South Africa's wicketkeeper, Mark Boucher, seemed to be aware that South Africa needed to get to 230 in order to be ahead on Duckworth-Lewis. Unfortunately, Boucher pushed the ball out to mid wicket and they didn't run. This resulted in a tie and South Africa would finish 2 runs behind Kenya and New Zealand in 4th and out of the World Cup once again.
Had Boucher scored a single off the last ball, South Africa would have finished second in the group thanks to the fact that their run rate was better than both Kenya and New Zealand.
# 3 Australia Def West Indies - 1996 World Cup
During the 1980s the West Indies were the most dominant cricketing team on the planet, however by the 1990s their power had begun to fade as the old generation retired and a new generation came to the fore. At the same time, Australian cricket was on the way up starting with a series win over the West Indies in 1994-95.
Australia was led by their captain Mark Taylor, but also included the likes of Ricky Ponting, Glen McGrath, Shane Warne, Michael Bevan, and both the Waugh brothers. Many of those players were in their first World Cup. The West Indies had an ageing team featuring the likes of Richie Richardson, Curtly Ambrose, Phil Simmonds, Ian Bishop, and Courtney Walsh. However, they also included the likes of Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul who would lead the Windies team into their next generation of talent.
The West Indies removed the opening four Australian batsmen cheaply with Ambrose getting Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting LBW for ducks, while Ian Bishop bowled Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh for 1 and 3 runs respectively. After 9 overs, the Australians found themselves 4 wickets down with only 15 runs on the board. Stuart Law and Michael Bevan got the Australians back into the game with a partnership of 138 runs, and Ian Healy chipped in with a handy 31 runs. Australia posted a score of 207 off their 50 overs.
The West Indies would start well, but 6 overs in Shane Warne would remove Courtney Browne, catching the opener off his own bowling. Lara then joined Chanderpaul at the crease and the two began dismantling the Australian attack, adding almost 70 runs before Lara was bowled by Steve Waugh 5 runs short of his half-century. With roughly 10 overs to go, the West Indies were only 2 wickets down and required only 43 runs to win the match. However, after Chanderpaul was finally dismissed getting caught at mid on by Damien Fleming the Australians picked up a succession of quick wickets.
Harper, Gibson, Adams, Arthurton, Bishop, Ambrose, and finally Courtney Walsh were removed without a single one of them scoring above 3 runs and leaving their captain Richie Richardson stranded at the non-strikers end on 49 not out. The West Indies would be bowled out for 202, leaving them 6 runs short of the 208 run target set by Australia. The West Indies were dismissed with 3 balls left to spare in the innings.
# 2 South Africa Def New Zealand - 2015 World Cup
The tale of South African misfortune at international cricketing tournaments is the stuff of legends. Starting from the woes of the 1999 semi-final, the choker tag has followed the South African team whenever they appear at a World Cup, especially as the tournament heads towards the final stages. In 2015, with the World Cup being held across Australia and New Zealand, the Proteas would find themselves in the semi-final against New Zealand at Eden Park.
The South Africans won the toss, and AB de Villiers elected to bat first believing that the inform Proteas batters could post a score that would put the New Zealand side under pressure. The Proteas looked in trouble early as New Zealand's Trent Bolt got both Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock out in the first 8 overs. However, Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw, de Villiers, and David Miller rescued the South African innings getting them back up to a reasonable score of 5/272 after 42.2 overs in a rain effected innings of 43 overs.
In reply, the Kiwi's got off to a great start thanks to the power hitting of their captain Brendan McCullum. With the new target of 298 to win off 43 overs, the New Zealand captain bludgeoned the total to 71 after 5 overs, including pounding 25 off one over from Dale Steyn. The South Africans pegged the game back, getting out McCullum and Williamson as New Zealand ended the first powerplay on 2/88. Ross Taylor and Martin steadied the ship adding a further 47 runs in almost 10 overs before Martin was run out after a miscommunication between the two.
Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot would put together a partnership of 102 runs in 15 overs to put the ball back in New Zealand's court. The match came down to the last over with the New Zealanders needing 11 to tie and 12 to win off the final 6 deliveries. Facing off against one of the premier fast bowlers in the world, in Dale Steyn, Elliot would keep his composure to hit a six to win the game for New Zealand with 2 balls remaining to win the game.
# 1 Australia Tied with South Africa - 1999 World Cup
Two of the strongest teams in the 1999 World Cup South Africa and Australia faced each other in the semi-final after both progressed from the Super Six stage. Australia had the edge, as they had beaten South Africa in the Super Six stage and finished ahead of them on the table, meaning that in the event of a tie, Australia would go qualify to the finals.
The Australian's started poorly as Shaun Pollock got Mark Waugh out cheaply in the first over of the game. Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan steadied the ship for Australia, putting together a 90 run partnership to get the Australian's to a reasonable score of 5/158. The Australian's posted 213 in 49.2 overs with Michael Bevan top-scoring for the Australian's with 65, while Pollock did the damage for the Proteas taking 5 wickets.
Despite a reasonable start, Jonty Rhodes and Jacques Kallis would occupy the crease for 20 overs as the required run rate jumped from 5.42 an over to over 7 an over before Rhodes was dismissed. Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusner did their best to rescue South Africa, especially Klusner who came in with just over 5 overs to spare and the Proteas needing 38 runs. With 2 overs to go, South Africa looked like they were in pole position, requiring only 18 off 12 deliveries and Klusner and Boucher at the crease.
Despite the dismissals of Boucher and Elsworthy, South Africa held high hopes heading into the last over with Klusner batting exceptionally well and only needed 9 runs for victory. South African anticipation climbed even higher after Klusner pummelled the first two balls of the over to the boundary leaving South Africa 1 run away from victory and a place in the final. With three balls to go Klusner mistimed a pull shot on the third ball of the over to Darren Lehman at mid on, who in turn missed his opportunity to run Alan Donald out at the non-striker's end.
The next ball would see the game thrown into complete chaos. With two balls still to go, Klusner hit the ball down the ground and charged off for a single but Alan Donald had not left his crease. Donald, realizing that Klusner had charged down the pitch looking for the match-winning single, accidentally dropped his bat. Meanwhile, Australia's mid-off fielder threw the ball to Fleming, who would then roll the ball down the pitch to Gilchrist,
With the game tied, Australia progressed to the final where they would beat Pakistan and win their 2nd World Cup. Meanwhile, South Africa has been unable to progress past the semi-finals in any World Cup, despite arguably having some of the best players in the world.