Cricket is a team sport. Nothing reminds of us of this fact more than those instances when cricketers who have played exceptionally well in a game still end up on the losing side. Although those situations are disappointing for the individual cricketer, in some cases, their individual performances can seem even more impressive in light of the fact that they produced brilliance when their teammates weren’t at their best.
Here we look back at some of the best individual ODI performances that weren’t quite enough to secure a victory.
Top 10 Batting Performances in a Losing Cause
10. George Bailey – 156 versus India, Nagpur, 2013
When Australian skipper George Bailey scored 156 runs against India at Nagpur, few would have imagined he would end up on the losing side. After all, his innings helped the Australians pile up a huge score 350 on the board. The side had lost one ODI in the series after scoring 359, but this wasn’t expected to happen again. Bailey’s master class knock included 13 hits to the fence and 6 towering shots over it. But such was the form of the Indian team that they chased down the total in the last over of the game thanks to a brilliant hundred by Virat Kohli. It was heartbreak for the Aussie skipper as he had played one of the great ODI knocks against the turning ball.
9. Tillakaratne Dilshan – 160 versus India, Rajkot, 2009
Tillakaratne Dilshan was unarguably one of the best batsmen in ODI cricket; a man unfazed by the situation or odds in any game. If there was one innings that summarised this best it has to be this one against India in 2009. India had racked up a huge score of 414 and most Sri Lankan fans had given up on the chase. But Dilshan crafted one of the best second innings centuries in the history of the game to almost take his side to victory. Before he was dismissed in the 40th over of the innings, the Sri Lankans were ahead of the asking rate. His knock included 20 fours and 3 hits over the fence. Sadly for Dilshan, the lower order couldn’t hold on to their nerves and lost the game by a narrow margin of 3 runs. This was the second instance of Dilshan scoring 150+ runs and ending up on the losing side – the only cricketer to do so.
8. Ricky Ponting – 164 versus South Africa, Johannesburg, 2006
No cricket fan worth his salt would ever forget this sensational game where Australia ended up losing despite putting up a record score of 434. When the Australian skipper came into bat, the platform was perfectly set with his side at 97 for 1 in the 16th over. From there, Ponting dominated the helpless South African bowlers on a placid pitch to score 164 off just 105 deliveries, including 9 sixes. But in what is surely the best fight back ever in the history of ODI cricket the hosts chased down the mammoth total thanks to Herschelle Gibbs’ astonishing 175. Ponting’s performance was ultimately in vain, but he at least shared the Man of the Match award with Gibbs.
7. Robin Smith – 167* versus Australia, Birmingham, 1993
This innings was played in an era when most batsmen would settle for a hundred and the trend of scoring big hundreds hadn’t yet arrived. Batting first, Robin Smith came to the wicket with his side standing at 3 for 1 and produced a truly memorable knock against a very good Aussie bowling attack, which was constantly piling pressure on the English batsmen. Unfortunately for Smith, there was little support from the other end with the next highest score being 36. Smith hit 17 fours and 3 towering sixes during his 163 ball stay at the crease scoring more than 60% of his side’s 277 runs. It wasn’t enough, as the Australians won the match comfortably by 6 wickets, but Smith was given the Man of the Match award for his brilliant performance.
6. Rohit Sharma – 171* versus Australia, Perth 2016
Rohit Sharma has a knack of scoring big hundreds and he has proved this with three double centuries in the ODI format. During the 2016 summer tour of Australia he won the hearts of fans in Perth scoring a magnificent 171 where he carried his bat through the innings. It was a typical Sharma knock where he started slow and piled up runs in the end, sending the ball over the fence on seven occasions. Despite this knock, India’s total of 309 runs proved inadequate as the Australians, riding on hundreds from Steve Smith and George Bailey, chased down the total comfortably in the end. Sharma was denied a win, but could be proud of one of his best ever ODI knocks outside the sub-continent.
5. David Warner – 173 versus South Africa, Cape Town, 2016
It was an uncharacteristic Australian tour of South Africa in 2016. Going into this last ODI the Aussies were staring at a 5-0 whitewash. An upbeat South Africa amassed 327 runs batting first bolstered by Rilee Rossouw’s brilliant century. David Warner, opening the Australian innings, found his side struggling at 27 for 2. From there, wickets kept falling at the other end, but Warner was in the zone and found gaps all over the field hitting 19 fours during his sensational knock of 173. The quality of his performance can be judged by the fact that the next highest individual score in the innings was 35. Warner was eventually the 9th wicket to fall, run out in an attempt to retain strike. This outstanding hundred wasn’t enough to prevent his side from suffering a 28 run loss and losing the series 5-0 in what remains one of Australia’s worst performances.
4. Sachin Tendulkar – 175 versus Australia, Hyderabad, 2009
The 7-Match series was tied 2-2 before this game at Hyderabad. Batting first, Australia plundered a massive total of 350 and looked set for an easy win. But the Master Blaster had other ideas. While wickets kept tumbling at the other end, Sachin held the fort together playing a well-paced innings. The Australian bowlers looked clueless against Sachin’s onslaught, as he kept piercing the ball between the fielders on both sides of the wicket hitting 19 fours and 4 sixes. Even when the side was 4 down for 162, Sachin showed no signs of nerves and brought the equation to less than run a ball in the 47th over. Sadly, one false shot saw him out with the side still needing 19 runs to win the game. A batting collapse in the end left the Indians losing by 4 runs. So close and yet so far.
3. Evin Lewis – 176* versus England, Oval, 2017
The West Indies were 3-0 down in the 5 Match ODI series and they needed something exceptional to defeat the strong English side. It was 25 year old Evin Lewis who played out of his skin to score a mammoth 176 before retiring hurt from the match. His 17 fours and 7 sixes sent the English fielders on a leather hunt to all parts of the ground. Lewis’s stunning innings helped his side reach 356 in their 50 overs and is rated as one of the best individual performances in ODIs from an underdog side. But this wasn’t enough in a rain-curtailed game as the home side won by 6 runs under the D/L method. Though he was adjudged Player of the Match, Lewis might have felt some disappointment that his first ODI hundred versus the Sri Lankans had been in vain.
2. Matthew Hayden – 181* versus New Zealand, Hamilton, 2007
This was an era when the Australian team dominated the world of cricket and their rare losses became newspaper headlines. On a warm summer afternoon, Hayden played one of his best ODI knocks, amassing his highest individual score to take Australia to a mammoth score of 346 carrying his bat through the entire innings. He murdered the Kiwi attack hitting 11 fours and a remarkable 10 sixes. Few fans would have expected Australia to lose from there, but a spirited performance from the Kiwi batsman and a great rear-guard innings from Craig McMillan saw the home side chase down this total in the last over of the game. At the time, Hayden’s 181 was the highest individual score in ODIs in a losing cause and the towering batsman was rightly awarded with the Man of the Match award for his knock.
1. Charles Coventry – 194* versus Bangladesh, Bulawayo 2009
On a day when he equalled the highest individual ODI score, Charles Coventry would have at least expected to end up on the winning side. But as luck would have it, with meagre contributions from other players in the Zimbabwean top order batsman, he was denied the icing on the cake as his team lost a high scoring encounter. Batting first, Coventry’s sensational innings (which included 16 fours and 7 sixes) helped his side notch a total of 312. He scored more than 62% of the runs with the next highest individual score on 37! Bangladesh, thanks largely to Tamim Iqbal’s superb hundred, chased down the score easily in what would have come as a rude shock to Coventry. He was still adjudged Man of the Match for what remains the highest individual ODI score in a losing cause.
Top 10 Bowling Performances in a Losing Cause
10. Muttiah Muralitharan – 5 for 9 versus New Zealand, Sharjah, 2002
No batsman in the world would ever take Muttiah Muralitharan lightly. As a bowler he was a miser who would give nothing away to the batting side. In what was one of the most incredible bowling spells on a batting friendly wicket, Murali returned with the remarkable figures of 5 wickets for only 9 runs in a 10-over spell that included 3 maidens. He captured the important wickets of Stephen Fleming, Scott Styris and Chris Harris and helped his side reduce the Kiwis to a small total of 218. Sri Lanka were going well at 159 for 4 and looked all set to win the game but a batting collapse saw them get bowled out for 207 runs. This meant that Murali was denied the sweet smell of victory after bowling one of the best spells in the history of ODI cricket.
9. Gary Cosier – 5 for 18 versus England, Birmingham, 1977
ODI cricket was still in its early days and Gary Cosier wasn’t someone who would be remembered by most fans. He had a short career in ODIs, making just 9 appearances for his side. But he would be best remembered for this sensational bowling performance against England. In a low scoring game on a pitch that was assisting the fast bowlers, the English batsmen were hanging in at 84 for 4. This was when Cosier was introduced into the attack by skipper Greg Chappell. He ran through the middle order, quickly reducing England to 90 for 7, but some good batting by the lower order saw them scramble to 171. Australia batted horribly and were bundled out for 70 runs with only three batsmen reaching double figures.
8. Chris Woakes – 6 for 45 versus Australia, Brisbane, 2011
The Australians were at their dominating best during England’s 2011 Down Under tour. Going into the 5th ODI they led 3-1. Batting first, the Aussies came up against Chris Woakes who was in great rhythm. He picked up the wicket of Shane Watson cheaply and then took the important wickets of Michael Clarke and Cameron White to reduce the hosts to 178 for 5. Australia fought back, but Woakes wrapped up the lower order neatly to limit Australia to 249, which was much lower than they would have expected. But, unfortunately, his 6 for 45 in 10 overs wasn’t enough to see his side win the game as the English side was bowled out for 198 runs. Woakes won the Man of the Match award for his performance, but he would have surely liked to have been on the winning side.
7. Ajit Agarkar – 6 for 42 versus Australia, Melbourne, 2004
Ajit Agarkar was having a dream tour of Australia in 2004. His inspirational bowling in the Adelaide Test Match had helped his side win the game earlier in the summer. In this ODI game at Melbourne he was in full flight. Agarkar picked up the vital scalps of Gilchrist and Hayden and followed this up with the wickets of Symonds and Martyn. Running through the tail, he helped dismiss the Australian side for 288 in the 49th over. Though India started well and there were good contributions from the top 3, they lost momentum in the middle and a batting collapse in the end saw them out for 270 runs in the 49th over. This was Agarkar’s best bowling performance in the career but it was sadly in vain.
6. Dale Steyn – 6 for 39 versus Pakistan, Port Elizabeth, 2013
In a rain-curtailed game that was reduced to 45 overs, Dale Steyn began brilliantly limiting the visitors to 22 for 2 in the seventh over. Some ordinary bowling from the other end saw the Pakistanis building a respectable score of 180 for 4 on a pitch that was assisting the fast bowlers. Steyn, though, came back into the attack and caused havoc in the middle order picking up the crucial wickets of Umar Akhmal, Shahid Afridi and Bilawal Bhatti. This effort meant that Pakistan were bowled out for 262. South Africa began well and looked all set for a victory at 227 for 3. But some quality bowling in the end meant that they finished their quota of overs with score at 261, thus losing the game by just one run!
5. Shaun Pollock – 6 for 35 versus West Indies, East London, 1999
The West Indies were no pushovers in 1999 and had a strong batting line-up. On this occasion, Shaun Pollock, who had earned the reputation of being one of the world’s best fast bowlers, was on fire and got South Africa off to the perfect start. The West Indies crumbled to 5 for 2 in third over and then 46 for 3 by the 8th, with Pollock nailing the all-important wicket of Brian Lara. Just when West Indies were comfortably placed at 272 for 3, he came back to bowl an inspiring spell, picking up centurion Chanderpaul and reducing the West Indies to 292 when they looked set for a much bigger score. His 6 for 35 in 10 overs was the best bowling performance of his career, but it wasn’t enough as the South Africans were bowled out for 249.
4. Zahoor Khan – 6 for 34 versus Ireland, Dubai, 2017
If you don’t recall Zahoor Khan, there isn’t anything to ashamed about. Khan appeared in only 11 ODIs for UAE but holds the record for the country’s best bowling performance in ODIs. A deceptive medium-pacer, he was in his perfect zone in UAE’s game against Ireland. The Irish side were going hammer and tongs, comfortably placed at 253 for 4 in the 42nd over. This is when Khan was introduced into the attack and for the next 7 overs he trampled over the Irish batting line-up, picking up 6 wickets including the prized scalp of William Porterfield, who scored a hundred, and bowling them out for 270. But this impressive display wasn’t quite enough, as UAE were bowled out for 185 chasing the total.
3. Mitchell Starc – 6 for 28 versus New Zealand, Auckland, 2015
Mitchell Starc was in incredible form during the 2015 ICC World Cup played at home. He was one of the key players behind Australia’s title win and finished as the highest wicket taker at the tournament. However, his very best bowling performance went in vain, as a dogged New Zealand side was able to cross the finishing line with one wicket in hand. Batting first, Australia were dismissed for an uncharacteristically low 151 runs. In response, New Zealand were very comfortably placed at 79 for 2 in the 9th over. From thereon, though, it was a Starc show where he picked off Taylor, Elliot, Mine and Southee to run a scare through the New Zealand batting line-up. It almost looked like Australia would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but the Kiwis held their nerve and won the game in the end. Starc’s stunning 6 for 28 remains his career best performance in ODIs.
2. Shane Bond – 6 for 23 versus Australia, Port Elizabeth, 2003
It was a big game in the 2003 World Cup and Australia had looked invincible in the run up to this encounter. They had the best batting line-up in the world, but Shane Bond wasn’t intimidated. New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming asked the Australians to bat after winning the toss and Bond quickly justified this decision reducing Australia to 80 for 5, taking four wickets in his first spell. His victims included Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting and Damien Martyn. His last spell saw him snare another two wickets as he finished with 6 for 23 in his 10 overs and Australia ended with 208 runs on the board. Unfortunately, careless batting from New Zealand saw them get bowled out for 112 runs. This brilliant bowling performance from Bond remains the best in a losing cause in Cricket World Cup’s history.
1. Imran Khan – 6 for 14 versus India, Sharjah, 1985
How unlucky can you get in an ODI game? There is perhaps no better example than this bowling performance from Imran Khan. It was the first game of the Rothmans Cup in 1985 and Pakistan were playing arch rivals India. Khan, who was at the peak of his career, reduced the strong Indian batting line up to 34 for 5, picking up all the five wickets including Ravi Shastri, Srikanth and Gavaskar. He came back in his second spell to add another wicket and finish with 6 wickets in 10 overs for only 14 runs. Khan’s efforts helped Pakistan clean up the Indian side for just 125 runs. Unbelievably, though, this wasn’t enough as the Pakistanis themselves were bowled out for 87, with five batsmen producing ducks (one was Imran himself). Still, Khan’s bowling performance was as good as they come and he continues to hold the record for the best ODI bowling figures in a lost cause.
Image Credit: David Molloy