A dozen matches that crowned the best cricket teams in the world
The cricket World Cup has changed in dramatic ways from the first time it was played, back in 1975 to the most recent edition, in 2019. As the limited-overs game has evolved, so too have the matches, the manner in which they have been played, the winners and the superstars that came to the fore in the process. Here is a trip down memory lane looking back at the best of the best.
1975: Lloyd’s men lay down the marker
No team knew exactly how to approach the World Cup, when it was first played, as a 60-over per innings One-Day International competition in England. But, there was a clear stand-out in the West Indies, under Clive Lloyd, who would go on to build one of cricket’s evergreen dynasties. In the final of the inaugural tournament, it was the captain who showed the way, scoring 102 off only 85 balls at a strike rate of 120 that was unheard of at the time. He was supported by Rohan Kanhai, who made 55 as West Indies posted 291 for 8. Australia’s response was typically robust, but with such a big total on the board they were always going to be behind the curve. Ian Chappell held the innings together with 62, but it was a young Viv Richards who caught the eye, being involved in three run outs, powering the West Indies to a 17-run win.
1979: The Calypso party at Lord’s
By the time the second edition of the tournament came around, the West Indies were a force to reckon with. Viv Richards, the greatest batsman in the world, had tremendous support, and with the ball the pace battery that would torment opponents was settled in harness. On this day at Lord’s, Richards bossed England, hitting an unbeaten 138 batting at No. 3. But, even as Richards was the powerhouse, the fireworks came from Collis King, who played the innings of his life, a strokefilled 66-ball 86 at No. 6 that took West Indies to a healthy 286 for 9, even though there was little support from the rest of the batting. With the runs on the board, the pace attack set to work and it was the Big Bird, Joel Garner who did the damage, picking up 5 for 38 from 11 overs. From a strong start of 139 nor no loss, England collapsed to 194 all out, losing by 92 runs.
1983 The Indian miracle
When the third edition of the tournament began, India were rank outsiders at 66 to 1, and no cricket fan in his right mind would have backed them to even reach the final, leave alone go all the way. It was the West Indies who were the team to beat for a third successive time, and India had reached the final through a collective effort of a spirited bunch of cricketers. On the big day, the underdogs appeared to have lost the game at the halfway mark, having been bowled out for just 183. But India had other plans. Mohinder Amarnath, who had scored 26 vital runs, the second best Indian score after Kris Srikkanth’s 38, bowled his canny slow medium pace to great effect. Amarnath wrapping up the West Indies lower order after Madan Lal had picked off the big guns at the top. India bowled West Indies out for only 140, winning by 43 runs and changing the narrative of the global competition forever. The age of West Indian dominance was over.
1987: Border’s boys scrap to success
The World Cup left the shores of England for the first time, being jointly hosted by India and Pakistan. While there was much attention on India, as they had won the previous edition in stunning fashion, it was England and Australia who had reached the final. Allan Border had taken his team through a phase of rebuilding and here they were, poised to earn their chops. David Boon had made 75 at the top of the order and a late surge from Mike Veletta (45) gave Australia 253 from 50 overs. England, the more experienced of the two teams, looked all set to systematically chase down the target, reaching 135 for 2 when Mike Gatting, the captain, chose to reverse sweep Border, and when he was caught by Greg Dyer, the wicketkeeper, the wheels came off. England scrapped their way to 246 for 8, but fell short by seven runs, giving Australia their first global title.
1992: Turn of the cornered Tiger
The 1992 World Cup, played in Australia and New Zealand was the first tournament in which all teams played each other. Halfway through the round robin format, it appeared that Pakistan were dead and buried, having lost vital games. Just when it seemed they were to be dumped from the tournament, they scraped through, and then did remarkably well in the knockouts to set up a final against England. Pakistan began poorly and rebuilt through their elder statesmen, Imran Khan (72) and Javed Miandad (58) putting on a sizeable if slow partnership before Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Akram threw their bats around to lift the total to 249 for 6. For the second time in as many finals, England seem set to take glory. At 151 for 4 they were on track to chase down the target when Akram removed Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis off successive deliveries. Under pressure, the lower order crumbled, handing Pakistan victory by 22 runs.
1996: Ranatunga’s army go all the way
The tournament returned to the subcontinent and the newest joint-host, Sri Lanka, pulled off a stunning victory in a fairytale campaign marked by some outstanding performances. In the final, the mighty Australians, under Mark Taylor, were the favourites by some margin, and began as though they would dominate. Taylor made 74 and a young Ricky Ponting 45 as Australia set Sri Lanka 242 for victory. When Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, whose attacking style at the top of the order had been the revelation of the tournament, departed early, it seemed that Australia were home and dry. But, Aravinda de Silva played one of the all-time great hands, scoring a counter-attacking classy 107, remaining unbeaten till Sri Lanka crossed the line. Asanka Gurusinha, a rock for Sri Lanka in the tournament, made a solid 65 and Arjuna Ranatunga, the charismatic captain who plotted the victory, was there at the end with 47 not out.
1999: Green and Gold blow away Pakistan
For the first time in its history the World Cup had a completely one-sided final. Pakistan, who had done well to reach the last two, simply had no answer to Australia, who were, by now, ahead of the rest of the world when it came to cracking the limited-overs code in cricket. Bowled out for only 132 at Lord’s in England, with Shane Warne taking 4 for 33, Pakistan handed the game on a platter to Australia. The chase was a breeze, Adam Gilchrist cracking 54 at the top of the order as Australia won comfortably with eight wickets to spare.
2003: Ponting crushes India’s dreams
India reached the final of the World Cup for only the second time, 20 years after their first visit to the pinnacle and this time it ended in tears. On a fast, true pitch in Johannesburg, India invited Australia to bat first and were made to regret the decision. The openers, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist laid the platform with a 105-run partnership and Ricky Ponting then teed off, cracking 140. Australia posted a mammoth 359 for 2, as Damien Martyn put the icing on the cake with a graceful unbeaten 88. India had no chance in their reply, and even a crisp 82 from Virender Sehwag only took them to 234, with Australia winning by 125 runs.
2007: It’s Australia again as Gilchrist comes to the party
There was an air of inevitability to the 2007 World Cup, played in the Caribbean as Australia were a cut above the rest of the competition. Sri Lanka had reached the final of a tournament that had seen some of the other big guns being knocked out in trying circumstances but they found the opposition too hot to handle at the final hurdle. Adam Gilchrist went berserk, opening the innings, hitting 149 off only 129 balls as Australia put on 281 for 4. The chase was a limp one, with only Sanath Jayasuriya (63) and Kumar Sangakkara (54) able to mount any challenge. From 123 for 1 Sri Lanka slumped to 215 for 8 in 36 overs in a chase curtailed by rain, losing by 53 runs.
2011: Home run for the Men in Blue
When the 2011 World Cup began, the Indian team was under more pressure than any team in the competition. At the peak of their powers under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, playing in front of a billion-plus fans with huge expectations, India entered the final unbeaten. The occasion was a massive one, but the home team rose to it in typical fashion. On the back of a masterful 103 from Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka reached 274 for 6 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The target was a challenging one but more than runs it was the mental aspect that India had to master. Gautam Gambhir showed nerves of steel, scoring 97, opening the innings, and Dhoni, who promoted himself up the order, finished things off with a bang, unbeaten on 91 as India won by six wickets.
2015: Clarke the hero as New Zealand are subdued
New Zealand were darlings of the 2015 World Cup, playing a brand of attacking cricket that entertained constantly. Even as they marched to the final they did so in good cheer, putting smiles on the faces of fans all along the way. If they were the most liked team, Australia were the most ruthless. Batting first, New Zealand threatened to run away with the game at 150 for 1, but James Faulkner pulled things back in style, dismissing Ross Taylor (40) and Grant Elliott (83). With a modest target on hand, Australia raced to 186 for 3 in just 33.1 overs, Michael Clarke doing the bulk of the damage with 74 as Australia won by seven wickets.
2019: England at last in dramatic finale
It was a script nobody could have written. England, at home, at Lord’s won their maiden World Cup title. But not in a manner anyone could have predicted. England and New Zealand were tied after the regulation 50 overs were completed, each scoring 241, both having chances to seal the deal and neither being able to. Ben Stokes was the hero for England, smashing an unbeaten 84. Then, when the Super Over was played to separate the teams, they were once again tied, with a run out off the final ball, an image that will be seen forever and a day in cricket, leaving England as winners on the boundary count back rule. The manner of deciding the winner may have been controversial, but this was a day of cricket as dramatic as any, and England will remember it for a long time to come.