20 Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup

They say the best moments are the ones that underline the thin line between success and failure. As far as ODI cricket is concerned, the Cricket World Cup is the pinnacle of glory. Here we look at the best moments from the 12 editions so far. 

20. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Gary’s Day in the Clouds

England vs Australia, Semi-final, 1975 (Headingley)

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On the morning of June 18, English minds were occupied with the threat of the Australian pace duo—Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson—and for good reason. But a low cloud, a gentle breeze, and a grassy pitch set the platform for Gary Gilmour to take center stage.

Sharing the new ball with Lillee, Gilmour’s inswinging deliveries had England reeling at 36/6. His figures read 12-6-14-6. And he wasn’t done. Chasing 94, the Aussies were reduced to 39/6. Gilmour walked in and guided his team home with an unbeaten run-a-ball 28 to complete what is one of the finest all-round performances to date.

19. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Viv Richards Has a ‘Hat-trick’

West Indies vs Australia, Final, 1975 (Lord’s) 

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The first-ever final of the ODI World Cup saw a captain scoring a century and a bowler taking five wickets. And yet, it was the agility of Sir Viv Richards in the field that stole the show. Chasing 292, Australia had the Windies on the defensive, courtesy of Alan Turner and skipper Ian Chappell. The duo tried to milk singles, but Richards had other ideas.

He dismissed both batsmen with direct hits and paired up with Clive Lloyd to remove the other Chappell brother, Greg. From 162/4, the Aussies never recovered, falling short by 17 runs in the end. Catches win matches? Well, so do run-outs.

18. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man

England vs West Indies, Final, 1979 (Lord’s) 

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What separates the good players from the great is how they perform when it matters the most. And Richards, one of the finest ODI batsmen of all-time, stood up tall on June 23, 1979. Batting first, the Windies were in a spot of bother at 55/3. Soon, their skipper Lloyd was back in the hut.

Richards found Collis King for company and the duo put on a 139-run stand. In the end, the Windies defended their crown rather easily, but it was Richards’ 138 (11 fours, three sixes) that made the difference.

17. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Like a Hero From Fairy Tales

India vs Zimbabwe, 20th Match, 1983 (Tunbridge Wells) 

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When Kapil Dev strode to the crease to face the music on a lively pitch, India was already struggling at 17/5. But what followed was—in addition to Richards’ 138—the finest innings on the World Cup stage to this day.

Dev bailed his team out with a majestic 175 not out off just 138 balls, with 16 fours and six sixes. India finished with 266/8 and went on to win by 31 runs.

16. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Now That’s a Catch! 

West Indies vs India, Final, 1983 (Lord’s)

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Most of India themselves were surprised when their team made it to the final. What followed was even more special.

West Indies were 57/2, another 127 runs away from a third successive World Cup title. Richards, batting on 33 off 27 balls, then top-edged one off Madan Lal. Dev charged off from mid-wicket, running a good 20 yards, looking over his shoulder all along, and completed the catch. The Windies collapsed and were bowled out 43 shy of the 184-run target. Lal and Mohinder Amarnath picked up three wickets each, but it was Kapil’s catch that turned the game—and perhaps all of Indian cricket itself.

15. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: The ‘Gentleman’s Game’

Pakistan vs West Indies, 9th Match, 1987 (Lahore) 

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Chasing 217, Pakistan was only two runs away from a famous win. Abdul Qadir, having just hit a four and a six, was at the crease with Saleem Jaffar, the No. 11.

To this day, Courtney Walsh is recognized as one of the finest fast bowlers to ever grace the game. But what he did next defined Walsh, the man. He ran in but stopped abruptly. He looked at the non-striker, and warned him about being out of his crease. Then, he went back and ran in again. The Pakistani duo scampered through for two and the Windies were knocked out of the tournament.

14. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: An Unfortunate Sweep 

Australia vs England, Final, 1987 (Kolkata)

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On the back of a fifty from David Boon, Australia set 254 as the target for arch-rivals England. Both teams were chasing their maiden title. In reply, England was cruising at 135/2, with captain Mike Gatting at the crease. But when Allan Border, his counterpart, brought himself on, Gatting sensed an opportunity. He took a risk off the first ball, playing an audacious reverse sweep, but it didn’t quite come off. The ball looped up off Gatting’s shoulder to Greg Dyer, the wicketkeeper.

The match went down to the wire, but England fell seven runs short.

13. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Silly Rules

England vs South Africa, Semi-final, 1992 (Sydney) 

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By the time the rain became heavier at the SCG, the equation for South Africa to make it to the final was tough, but possible: 22 runs from 13 balls. It was their first-ever World Cup appearance.

The rains came and went, but the equation changed. Based on a silly set of experimental rain rules, the Proteas now had to get 22 runs off just one ball. What followed is anybody’s guess.

12. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Akram Swings It

Pakistan vs England, Final, 1992 (Melbourne)

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Wasim Akram made his debut in the international arena in 1989. But his claim to being a legend of the game took its first step on March 25, 1992. In the 35th over of England’s chase of 249, Imran Khan brought back his strike bowler.

And in front of a packed MCG crowd, Akram delivered. Not once but twice. Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis were turned into an ‘S’, with the off stump pegged back behind them. Pakistan went on to win the World Cup by 22 runs.

11. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Tragedy at Eden

India vs Sri Lanka, Semi-final, 1996 (Kolkata) 

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Set 252 to win, the Indian batsmen, apart from Sachin Tendulkar, fell like ninepins. At 120/8, match referee Clive Lloyd awarded the game to Sri Lanka. A teary-eyed Vinod Kambli was the poster boy of how all of India felt. But he had to be quickly ushered off the field as the crowd at the Eden Gardens had set fire to the seating. For some, the pain was simply too much to bear.

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10. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: He Bowls, He Bats, He Conquers

Sri Lanka vs Australia, Final, 1996 (Lahore)

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Though Sri Lanka had humiliated India in the semis, Australia were still the favorites to lift the World Cup a second time. At 23/2, chasing 241, the result looked all but inevitable. Enter Aravinda de Silva. The classy right-hander, who had chipped in with three wickets, hit 13 fours en route to an unbeaten 107. First with Asanka Gurusinha, and later with skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, De Silva scripted Sri Lanka’s finest cricketing moment until now. 

9. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Too Early to Celebrate

Australia vs South Africa, Super Sixes, 1999 (Headingley)

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At 48/3, Australia looked to be well on their way out of the World Cup. It seemed South Africa’s total of 271, on the back of Herschelle Gibbs’ century, was enough. Aussie skipper Steve Waugh then joined Ricky Ponting and initiated a comeback.

Soon after he completed his 50, Waugh flicked one in the air off Lance Klusener. Gibbs pouched it… and in his eagerness to celebrate what would’ve been the match-defining moment, he let it go. Waugh marched on, completed his century, and took his team home with two balls to spare.

8. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: What Does It Mean to Choke?

Australia vs South Africa, Semi-final, 1999 (Edgbaston)

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Batting second, South Africa needed 214 to enter a well-deserved final. At 48/0, it looked well within reach. At 61/4, it seemed tough. At 185/6, it was close. At 198/9, it was all but over. Lance Klusener then smashed 6, 1, 4, and 4 off successive deliveries.

The scores were tied with four deliveries remaining. Steve Waugh brought the field in. A dot ball followed. Klusener mistimed the next one, but set off for the run. Except, his partner Allan Donald didn’t respond. Without panic, the Aussies completed the run out. And with the head-to-head stat in their favor, they reached the final.

7. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Things More Important Than Sport

Zimbabwe vs Namibia, Pool A, 2003 (Harare)

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Although not a cricketing moment in itself, Henry Olonga and Andy Flower combined to produce the bravest moment in World Cup history. Zimbabwe, in 2003, was reeling under the oppressive regime of Robert Mugabe. Olonga and Flower responded with black armbands and denounced “the death of democracy” in a press release ahead of their opening game against Namibia. Their protest meant neither one would ever play for their country again. In fact, both were forced to leave Zimbabwe and live in exile in England.

6. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: A Squash Ball Does the Trick 

Australia vs Sri Lanka, Final, 2007 (Bridgetown)

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Sri Lanka beat India, England, West Indies, and New Zealand en route to the final of the 2007 World Cup, only to be squashed—literally—by Adam Gilchrist. The Aussie southpaw walked out to bat with a squash ball inside his glove. Strange? Think again. It was his 104-ball 149 that helped complete Australia’s hat-trick of World Cup title triumphs.

5. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Ireland Shocks England

England vs Ireland, Group B, 2011 (Bengaluru)

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Looking at the fixture list, England would’ve had a stroll in the park marked for March 2, 2011. They put up 327 on the board, and had half of Ireland’s side back in the hut for 111.

But Kevin O’Brien refused to give up. The big Irishman smashed 13 fours and six sixes, and, with the help of cameos from Alex Cusack and John Mooney, pulled off a proper heist.

4. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: 1.21 Billion Dreams

India vs Sri Lanka, Final, 2011 (Mumbai)

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Sachin Tendulkar led with the bat, Zaheer Khan shone with the ball, and Yuvraj Singh’s all-round brilliance sealed the deal. But on the big night in Mumbai, it was their out-of-form skipper who delivered the dream.

MS Dhoni has pulled off many-a-masterstroke during his reign as captain. But promoting himself to bat ahead of Yuvraj, to counter the wizardry of Muttiah Muralitharan, and take India home safely has to be up there. Dhoni hit an unbeaten 91 off 79 balls, with eight fours and two sixes.

3. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: England Knocked Out By the Tigers 

Bangladesh vs England, Pool A, 2015 (Adelaide)

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When Rubel Hossain rattled James Anderson’s stumps, it put an end to a dismal World Cup campaign for England. For Bangladesh, it was the stuff of dreams.

Put into bat, they rode on Mahmudullah’s 103 and Mushfiqur Rahim’s 89 to post 275 on the board. In reply, England looked comfortable at 1212/. Rubel then removed half-centurion Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan in one over to change the match. He’d do the same in the 49th over to seal Bangladesh’s entry into the knockout stages of the World Cup.

2. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: A ‘Grant’ Finish

New Zealand vs South Africa, Semi-final, 2015 (Auckland)

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In all the parallel universes out there, AB de Villiers would’ve ran Corey Anderson out for 33. In reality, there was South African heartbreak again.

Dale Steyn had five to defend off two balls. He bowled length, and Grant Elliot pounced. As soon as the ball left the blade, 45,000 Kiwis in the stands knew. De Villiers knew too; it left him in tears. New Zealand had chased down 298 in 43 overs to enter their maiden World Cup final.

1. Best Moments From the Cricket World Cup: Sport is Cruel; Ask New Zealand

England vs New Zealand, Final, 2019 (Lord’s)

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England needed nine off three balls to clinch the title at Lord’s. The Kiwis needed one wicket. Ben Stokes hit a full-toss on middle to mid-wicket and set out for two. Martin Guptill’s throw had him diving full-length… only for the ball to deflect off his outstretched bat for four more. Six in all!

The match ended in a tie. The Super Over got tied too. But England was crowned as champions because they hit more boundaries. Yes, you read that right.

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