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Top five close knockout games in the World Cup

Top five close knockout games in the history of Cricket World Cups. The five closet knockout games in the World Cup history.

England vs New Zealand, 2019 World Cup final | Walking Wicket (Images: ©ICC/Twitter)
England vs New Zealand, 2019 World Cup final (Images: ©ICC/Twitter)

With the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 starting tomorrow, let’s rewind to the top five close knockout games in the history of the tournament.


1. Australia vs England, 1987 World Cup final

It was a World Cup final where arch-rivals Australia and England were competing for the title. This World Cup win was important for both teams to not only win their maiden major ICC trophy but also to score brownie points ahead of their clash in the Ashes Test series.


It was a closely fought final where Australia managed to eke out a win by 7 runs to win their maiden World Cup title. Since that win, Australia have won four more titles, essentially becoming the boss of modern-day cricket. The 1987 World Cup title paved the way for Australia to become one of the superpowers of world cricket.


Summary: As was the norm in World Cup finals, Australia chose to bat after winning the toss, and posted 253/5 in 50 overs. England were in the game till the very last over - where they required 17 runs in 6 balls to win the title, but fell short by 7 runs.


Top performances: Australian opener David Boon anchored the innings brilliantly with a knock of 75 runs off 125 balls. He had two useful stands, first a 75-run partnership with fellow opener Geoff Marsh, and then a 76-run stand with Dean Jones for the second wicket. The No. 6 batsman Mike Veletta gave the innings the push with a quick knock 45* - which came at a strike rate of 145.16, something which was unheard of during those times.


For England, the No. 3 Bill Athey played a knock of 58 but played just too many balls (103), which resulted in unnecessary pressure on other batsmen, and eventually, England fell short by 7 runs.


Brief scores: Australia 253/5 (David Boon 75, Mike Veletta 45, Eddie Hemmings 2/48) beats England 246/8 (Bill Athey 58, Steve Waugh 2/37) by 7 runs.



2. Australia vs West Indies, 1996 World Cup semi-final

Australia was a top limited-overs side, while West Indies was extremely competitive as well, with few greats such as Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Curtly Ambrose, and Courtney Walsh in the squad.


While Australia were looking to enter their second final, West Indies were eyeing a shot at their fourth title. But what came to the fore was Australia’s never-say-die approach, as they first recovered from 15/4 to post 207/8, and then eked out a 5-run win by triggering a collapse of 8/37 during the West Indies chase.


Summary: West Indies pacers breathed fire as Australia slumped to 15/4 in 9.1 overs. But Australia’s middle-order batters fought back to post a total of 207/8. Later, when the West Indies were cruising, the Aussie bowlers ran through them and stopped them at 202 to seal the fate of the memorable match.


Top performances: A stand of 138 runs for the fifth wicket between Stuart Law (72) and Michael Bevan (69) gave Australia a new hope and enabled them to post a fighting total after being down in the dumps at 15/4. It was Law who played the innings of his life in the match. Later, Shane Warne stole the show from West Indies by taking 4/36 - which ravaged their middle-order. For West Indies, opener Shivnarine Chanderpaul stood out with his 80-run knock which had also anchored the innings. It was his dismissal which gave the Aussies the chance to win the crucial match.


Brief scores: Australia 207/8 (Stuart Law 72, Michael Bevan 69, Curtly Ambrose 2/26) beats West Indies 202 (Shivnarine Chanderpaul 80, Shane Warne 4/36) by 5 runs.



3. Australia vs South Africa, 1999 World Cup Semi-final

This was probably one of the greatest knockouts ever played in World Cup history. But there is a back story to it.


Australia were playing a do-or-die Super Six match against South Africa. Australia’s win would secure them a clash with South Africa again in the semis. And a loss would have meant that the Aussies would be forced to take the next flight home.


Australian captain Steve Waugh led the chase successfully with a century, albeit a dropped catch by Herschelle Gibbs that prompted Waugh to say, “You just dropped the World Cup, mate.”


Australia then tied the semifinal game against South Africa, and thanks to the Super Six win the Steve Waugh-led side were able to secure a spot in the final.


Summary: Asked to bat first, Australia stuttered to 213 all out on the pace-assisting wicket of Birmingham. But Aussie survived Lance Klusener’s cameo to tie the match, and progress to the final. Klusener’s suicidal single to win the semis with No. 11 Allan Donald being run out is a picture that the Aussies cherish, although it remains a sore for the Proteas.


Top performances: After Australia were reduced to 68/4 in 17 overs, captain Steve Waugh led from the front with a knock of 56, and stitched a stand of 90 runs with Michael Bevan (65). Later, Shane Warne weaved his magic to take 4/29 to help Australia tie the semis. For South Africa, Shaun Pollock’s brilliant 5/36 spell, and Jacques Kallis’ 53-run knock went in vain.


Brief scores: Australia 213 (Steve Waugh 56, Michael Bevan 65, Shaun Pollock 5/36) tie with South Africa 213 (Jacques Kallis 53, Shane Warne 4/29).



4. South Africa vs New Zealand, 2015 World Cup semi-final

South Africa went through another heartbreak in the 2015 World Cup semis, losing by 4 wickets via the Duckworth Lewis method. The contest was crucial for both teams as a win would pave the way for their maiden World Cup final appearance.


In the rain-shortened game, South Africa posted 281/5 in 43, but the target was revised for New Zealand to just 298 in the same allotted overs. But South Africa fought tooth and nail only to lose on the penultimate ball of the match. This loss ended the World Cup dreams for a few South African greats, such as Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers.


Summary: South Africa were cruising to a total of 350 and beyond, but rain restricted their innings to 283 in 43 overs. New Zealand, led by Brendon McCullum, played attacking cricket throughout the chase to spoil South Africa’s party. The scenes of South African players in tears post the match, while Kiwi batsman Grant Elliot lifts a heartbroken Dale Steyn is one of the best picture-perfect moments from the World Cup.


Top performances: Faf du Plessis anchored the innings with a knock of 82. But it was captain AB de Villiers’ 65 not out off 45 balls that gave the impetus to the innings. ABD and South Africa could have batted New Zealand out of the match if not for rain shortening the game. During the chase, the Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum struck a brilliant 26-ball 59 to set up the game, and Grant Elliot scored 84* off 73 balls to win it.


Brief scores: South Africa 281/5 in 43 overs (Faf du Plessis 82, AB de Villiers 65 not out, Corey Anderson 3/72) loses to New Zealand 299/6 (Grant Elliot 84 not out, Brendon McCullum 59, Morne Morkel 3/59) by 4 wickets via D/L method.



5. England vs New Zealand, 2019 World Cup final

If ever there was a World Cup knockout match where you feel more for the losing side than the winners, it has to be the 2019 England vs New Zealand World Cup final.


Both the finalists were eyeing their maiden 50-overs World Cup title. New Zealand, playing their second straight final, were done in by a rule that led to many memes, social outrage, and nothing but sympathy for the hard-working side. The 50-overs match was tied, the Super Over was tied, and England were handed the trophy for scoring 26 boundaries compared to 17 by Kiwis.


Summary: It was a match that had more twists and turns than a Bollywood movie. New Zealand looked poised to win their maiden World Cup, but the Kiwis gave a reprieve to Ben Stokes who was caught in the deep, but the fielder Trent Boult touched the ropes. Later, a deflection off Stokes’ bat gave England five runs before the England all-rounder tied the match. In the Super Over, Martin Guptill was run out going for the tournament-winning single, but England won on the higher boundary count. Phew!


Top performances: Opener Henry Nicholls was the top-scorer for New Zealand with 55 runs. He joined captain Kane Williamson to post a stand of 74 runs for the second wicket. The top performer of the final was, however, Ben Stokes who single-handedly helped England tie the final with a knock of 84* after his team looked down and out at 86/4 chasing 242 for the win. He also batted in the Super Over to give England a decent score to defend.


Brief scores: New Zealand 241/8 (Henry Nicholls 55, Chris Woakes 3/37) tie with England 241 (Ben Stokes 84 not out). Super Over tied. England won by a higher boundary count.


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