There is always a sense of trepidation for teams playing in the World Cup as a lot of the time one loss can derail your campaign or even send you packing. That’s why history has given us many thrilling and heartbreaking stories of comebacks, depending on which side you support. Many straightforward wins have been halted mid-flight. This has been down to either the unbearable weight of expectation or phenomenal skill. These are the 10 biggest comebacks that left the world in shock.
10. England vs Zimbabwe 1992
When Zimbabwe played England at the Lavington Sports Oval in the 35th game of the 1992 World Cup, few expected the men from sub-Saharan Africa to put up much of a fight. England were considered favourites during that tournament and had some marquee players in Botham and Gooch. The game started as expected and the Three Lions managed to bowl Zimbabwe out for a very underwhelming 134 in 46 overs. When the burly Eddo Brandes steamed in to bowl the first ball to the English openers and trapped Gooch LBW for a duck, eyebrows were collectively raised. Brandes didn’t stop there and carried on removing the English top order at will. England were on 125 when the last over was to be bowled, needing 9 runs for victory, a big heave by Small was caught in the outfield by Andy Pycroft off the first ball of the over. Zimbabwe had managed to bowl England out for 125 and win by 9 runs capping off a truly sensation effort by the Zimbabweans and one of their finest hours.
9. Bangladesh vs South Africa 2007
Bangladesh had one of their greatest days with the ball during the 2007 World Cup when playing South Africa in a super 8 game. South Africa chose to field on a slow pitch and saw Bangladesh register 251 in their allotted overs. The South African batting line up was powerful and very long. At 63 for 1 the Proteas were cruising with the talented Kallis going at almost a run a ball. Fast forward 10 overs and South Africa was 86-7. The Bangladeshi bowlers hadn’t put a foot wrong and gave nothing away. In the space of just over 10 overs they had won the game through discipline and great bravery to stick to a plan even whilst Kallis we threatening to make light work of the total. Bangladesh eventually bowled the Proteas out for 184 and won by 67 runs. The courage they showed on that day with the ball was a sight to behold.
8. Kenya vs Sri Lanka 2003
When the Sri Lanka team arrived to play Kenya in Nairobi during the 2003 World Cup there was a sense of the inevitable in the air. Sri Lanka had one of the very best teams at the World Cup. After Sri Lanka won the toss and chose they managed to restrict Kenya to 210 in their 50 overs. With the likes of Jayasuriya, Jayawardene and Sangakkara to come that target didn’t stand much of a chance. What followed was one of the greatest team efforts with the ball the game has seen. Kenya came back to bowl Sri Lanka out for 157 and to win by 53 runs in front of a passionate and loud Kenyan crowd. It was the 21 year old Collins Obuya that inspired the comeback as he captured career best figures of 5/24. His legbreak was all too much for some of the very best batsman the world has seen in the last 15 years. That win propelled Kenya to their greatest showing in a World Cup as they made the semi-finals and eventually bowed out to India in Durban.
7. Scotland vs Afghanistan 2015
When Minnows play each other it is never a dull affair. They contribute a great deal towards the flavour of the tournament and when all is said and done, provide the watching world with memories and performances you can’t forget. When Scotland took on Afghanistan in Dunedin during a group game in the 2015 World Cup few will forget the excitement that took place.
Afghanistan won the toss and elected to bowl. Scotland went about trying to put together a winnable target and ended up on 210 after their 50 overs. Afghanistan got off to a good enough start at 42/0 but began to falter in a big way. In the blink of an eye they were 97-7 and all hope was officially gone. Needing a further 113 runs with three wickets remaining it looked to be all she wrote. However, top order batsman Samiullah Shenwari, who put together an inspired knock of 96, managed to guide and shepherd the tail. He got them to 192 before losing his wicket and the score sitting on 192/9. With 18 runs left to get and two Afghanistan tail enders in the way it once again looked as good as over. Afghanistan rallied once more and in the 50th over needing 4 from 4 number eleven Najibullah Zadran wrestled one away behind square leg for the winning boundary resulting in a historic day for cricket and one of the best comebacks to be seen.
6. India vs West Indies 1983
The legendary West Indian team arrived at Lords in 1983 for another final. One day cricket at that time was played in white clothes and 50 overs wasn’t the norm, it was 60 and gave the bowling and batting teams an extra 10 overs. India were sent in to bat after losing the toss and had to face up to arguably the best bowling attack world cricket has seen. With Garner, Marshall and Holding steaming in India began to crumble and after their allotted overs only had 183 to their name. West Indies needed just over 3 an over and had the likes Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd to get them there. The West Indies stumbled in their chase and found themselves in heaps of trouble at 119/7. They were only to add another 21 runs as Michael Holding was the last wicket to fall. India won by 44 runs and lifted their first World Cup. The Indians put together a spirited fight back and defeated a team many thought invincible.
5. West Indies vs Kenya 1996
The West Indies have the unwanted record of popping up again on the list for all the wrong reasons. When they took Kenya on during the 1996 edition of the World Cup they put in a standout shift with the ball and knocked the Kenyans over for 166. That should have been enough but the Kenyan bowlers had vastly different ideas. Before the West Indian innings ever got going they were dead in the water. There were ominous signs for the islanders when Brian Lara was making his way back to the dressing room for 8 and the score at 33/3. That would be the best it got it for the West Indies. A short while later Cameron Cuffy was the last man out with a devastating scorecard only registering 93 all out. Kenya won by 73 runs and recorded a famous win against the West Indies.
4. South Africa vs New Zealand 2003
South Africa were the hosts during the 2003 event and came up against New Zealand in a Pool B group game. The Proteas won the toss and chose to bat, a decision that started to pay off immediately as Herschelle Gibbs went about putting together one of the greatest knocks in a South African shirt. At the end of the innings South Africa had amassed 306 with Gibbs getting 143 off 141 balls. New Zealand were staring a massive task in the face with the likes of Donald, Pollock and Ntini raring and ready to come at them. The next few hours proved to be Stephen Fleming’s greatest as he coolly and calmly went about destroying a dumbstruck South African attack. In the bullring with a partisan crowd baying for blood, Fleming was like a gladiator that was set up to lose but managed to beat everything that was thrown at him. The rain eventually arrived and reduced the target to 229 in 39 overs. The blackcaps got there in 36 and only lost one wicket in doing so, Fleming finished with 134 off 132 balls. Never before has a home team been put to the sword so brutally by one man. The South African faithful filtered out of the stands and on to the streets of Johannesburg in a subdued and eerie silence.
3. Australia vs Zimbabwe 1983
Australia and Zimbabwe faced off in a group game at Nottingham in 1983. In Zimbabwe’s 60 overs they put together a meagre 239 and scored at under 4 runs an over. The one positive was that they weren’t bowled out and had managed to bat out all of their overs. The feeling during the break was that Australia should walk to victory. Those initial feelings and expectations around the ground began to disappear as Zimbabwe kept the Australian batsman very quiet. Zimbabwe stuck to their plans and kept proceedings very tidy. Kepler Wessels had accumulated 76 off 130 balls and was beginning to feel the pinch as the run rate crept out of hand. When he got himself run out on 76 panic set in. Zimbabwe eventually restricted Australia to 226/7 and won by 13 runs. They had pulled off the impossible and kept the mighty Australia at bay.
2. Australia vs South Africa 1999
When Australia and South Africa face off the cricket world comes to a standstill. The semi-final at Edgbaston in 1999 was no different. This was a game that ebbed and flowed and swung from one side to the other. During many side plots that developed both teams made brave and courageous comebacks but only one team can go through to a final.
The Proteas won the toss and sent Australia in to bat. Shaun Pollock had a standout day with the ball by picking up 5 wickets and helping restrict Australia to a modest 213. At 61/4 South Africa looked out of it and about to exit a World Cup during a semi-final. The boys in green and gold rallied thanks to the help of Lance Klusener. Klusener all but broke the back of the run chase as South Africa needed 1 run to win from 4 balls. Klusener punched the third ball of the over passed Fleming and set off for the winning single, in the blink of an eye both South African batsman were at the same end as Gilchrist was whipping of the bails at the striker’s end. Allan Donald had not heard the call and instead was watching the fielders.
Australia had pulled off a comeback that not even the greatest story teller could have come up with. It was a symbolic game, Australia won that game and went on to win the World Cup and dominated world cricket for the next 10 years. One feels who ever had won that game would have go on to enjoy the lion’s share of international cricketing glory for years to come.
1. England vs Ireland 2011
Every now and then if you’re lucky enough you get to see a once in a lifetime innings that will stay with you your entire life. When England took on Ireland in a group game in Banglaore during the 2011 World Cup they didn’t spare the Irish bowlers and went after them hammer and tong. Everyone seemed to score runs and they ended up on 327/8 after their 50 overs. That would have been enough against most teams but because Ireland were the ones asked to chase, the collective agreement was a slaughtering was on the cards. That’s exactly what it looked like as Ireland languished at 111/5 after 25 overs. They needed 216 more off 150 balls and the press began to shut down their laptops and begin making arrangements to get back to their respective hotels.
Kevin O’Brien walked to the wicket and with nothing to lose began to express himself. No one had taken too much notice even after he had hit a few sixes. After an hour at the crease, households, bars, sports clubs and anywhere where a TV was present had people fixated on what was happening before their very eyes. O’Brien had smashed a 100 runs in 50 balls and had put Ireland on track to win from a position of utter despair. He was eventually out in the 49th over after scoring 117 off 63 balls. The effort he had put in was good enough as Ireland reached their target with only one ball bowled of the 50th over. It was the highest victorious run chase in World Cup history and put Ireland on the map. Comebacks don’t come much better or unexpected than that.
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