A lot of times, it is the matches that are labelled “one-sided” that end up being the most exciting ones. They’re the ones, where the team that has been written off beats all odds to emerge as the winner. They’re the ones where the underdog entertains, impresses and takes everyone by surprise.
In such matches, records (and some hearts) are broken. New players grab onto opportunities, show the world what they’ve got and join the party. Names you’d never heard off, find their way to your coffee conversations. New countries achieve glorious feats and establish themselves slowly and steadily.
Cricket, too, has had its fair share of the unexpected. Let’s have a look at the matches that turned the world of cricket around, and changed its face forever.
Here are the top 10 underdog moments in the history of the Cricket World Cup:
Ireland beat England by 3 wickets, 2011
England had scored 327; a total which should have seen them home, even if they were playing the best team in the world. To top it off, Ireland had lost a wicket on the first ball. For the Englishmen, all was going according to plan till Kevin O’ Brien took the crease. His breath-taking display of a total mastery of the game won Ireland the match and his impressive innings went down in history. This World Cup match between two of the oldest rivals of the sport, turned out to be one of the biggest upsets ever.
Bangladesh beat India by 5 wickets, 2007
In a World Cup that didn’t quite go India’s way, neither did this match against Bangladesh (perhaps the only country in the Indian peninsula not so well-known for its cricket). Mashrafe Mortaza destroyed the legendary Indian batsmen, while the spinners took care of the rest. With a low target of 192, there wasn’t much left in the contest and Tamim Iqbal finished things off in a hurry. Bangladesh marched its way to an easy win.
Ireland beat Pakistan by 3 wickets, 2007
Even before the start of the match, most people would have written-off the little-known Irish cricket team. And thus, how the game unfolded, was quite unexpected, to say the least. After restricting Pakistan to 132, Niall O’ Brien came out to bat and ruthlessly slammed the ball left, right and center, creating a historic underdog moment in the sport and bringing glory to Irish cricket.
Kenya beat Sri Lanka by 53 runs, 2003
Kenya had put 210 on the board, a respectable total for a team of their calibre. In the second innings, Obuya silenced the Sri Lankan batting line-up who were initially cruising and led Kenya to a remarkable victory. They casually handed Sri Lanka a loss and walked towards a semi-final birth at the greatest stage of the game.
Zimbabwe beat South Africa by 48 runs, 1999
Zimbabwe had never defeated South Africa and all the odds were against them. The Zimbabwean batsmen did their job by scoring 233, followed by the opening bowlers delivering quick blows to the Proteas. The favourites could not recover from the early damage and were served a shock defeat at the hands of the over-the-moon Zimbabweans.
Bangladesh beat Pakistan by 62 runs, 1999
Bangladesh had never defeated a test-playing nation, and Pakistan was definitely not ready to lose. But upsets do happen, and they did. Pakistan was chasing a mere 223, which should have been a walk in the park. The Bangladeshi bowlers, however, proved to be too much of a match and finished things off for their side in style.
Zimbabwe beat India by 3 runs, 1999
The Flower brothers, Andy and Grant made valuable contributions to the Zimbabwe total of 252 runs, an excellent score for a team of their stature. India was to bat 4 overs less, penalised for a slow over rate, but that should not have been a problem. Things were quite going smoothly until Olonga picked up 3 wickets in half a dozen balls, in a match-winning spell and registered a win for the underdogs.
Kenya beat West Indies by 73 runs, 1996
West Indies was at their prime and losing to Kenya, an Associate side, was extremely unlikely, and some would have even claimed, impossible. After being restricted to a low total of 160 odd runs, the Kenyan pacers took things in their own hands and dismissed the West Indies in a double-digit score. This was an amazing feat, much talked about for many years to come.
Zimbabwe beat England by 9 runs, 1992
The English bowlers ousted the Zimbabwean batsmen, dismissing them for a low total of 134. The English batsmen gave their team a good start and the match was headed towards an early finish. It was done and dusted early enough, but the Zimbabwean bowlers ensured that the outcome was very different from what was predicted. Zimbabwe had pulled off a shocker!
Zimbabwe beat Australia by 13 runs, 1983
It was Zimbabwe’s debut World Cup and they were the only non-test playing nation participating. Forget that, it was their first ever One-Day International and they were put up against a team that had dominated the game for years. What went on to happen left many mouths open and several people wide-eyed. Today we know him as former India coach, but in that day and age, Duncan Fletcher guided the 240 run chase and led his team to an epic win. Calling it unexpected, would truly be an understatement.
Don’t write off the underdog, for every dog has his day!