Top 10 Upsets in World Cup History

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The cricket World Cup is the quadrennial showpiece which plays host to the best in world cricket along with certain teams which often punch above their weight and take some prized scalps along the way. This article deals with the 10 most memorable upsets which took the world by nothing less than shock and surprise,

10. Zimbabwe beat India by 3 runs, World Cup 1999, Group Stage match, Leicester

India looked to be in control in this group stage match at Leicester till that Henry Olonga over which finished off the match when no one suspected it. Chasing a target of 253 India kept losing wickets regularly but kept themselves in sight of the target and with Robin Singh still at the crease and with just 7 required off 34 balls and 3 wickets in hand the match looked wrapped up. In a stunning over of fast bowling the Zimbabwean fast bowler dismissed the well set Robin Singh, bowled Jawagal Srinath and then trapped the last man Prasad leg before wicket first ball to fashion a dramatic win for Zimbabwe. If possible, do check out the videos of that brilliant over by Olonga. 10

9. Kenya beat Sri Lanka by 53 runs, World Cup 2003, Group Stage match, Nairobi

On their way to a fairytale World Cup campaign in 2003 Kenya defeated Sri Lanka in a group stage match, the memories of which will stay on with everyone who has watched it. You would remember Sri Lanka to be one of the pre tournament favourites and when they were up against Kenya in Nairobi, the odds were heavily stacked in favour of a Sri Lanka win. After Kenya had put up a modest 210 in their 50 overs it looked like Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva and co would easily overhaul that target but Collins Obuya broke the back of the Sri Lankan batting juggernaut by returning awesome figures of 5-24 in 10 overs to inspire one of the most memorable upsets of the World Cup ever. 9

8. Zimbabwe beat England by 9 runs, World Cup 1992, Round Robin match, Albury

Zimbabwe has always been a team who are known to punch above its weight and in the 1992 World Cup they chose England as their victim. England were the favourites the win the 1992 edition of the World Cup and true to their billing they shot out the Zimbabweans for a disappointing 134, the top scorer being Dave Houghton with 29. The England chase started on a horrible note after they were reduced to 43-5 due to an early 4 wicket burst by burly fast bowler Eddo Brandes. Although Alec Stewart tried to engineer a revival it was nipped in the bud as England crashed to 125 all out to lose by 9 runs. If you ever get a chance go through the devastating spell  bowled by Eddo Brandes. 8

7. Bangladesh beat Pakistan by 62 runs, World Cup 1999, Group Stage match, Northampton

It was the clash of the sub continental heavyweights with the sub continental whipping boys when Pakistan took on Bangladesh in an inconsequential group stage game at Northampton. A bowling attack of Waqar, Wasim, Shoaib and Saqlain Mushtaq was negotiated with great discomfort by the Bangladeshi batsmen as they huffed and puffed their way to 223. It looked like a score which was supposed to avoid embarrassment but not actually one that would win the game. The credit that should go to the Bangladesh bowlers was that they stuck to their strength and bowled tight lines with a hint of swing that landed Pakistan in all sorts of trouble. The Pakistanis never really got going in their pursuit of 224 after their top 5 batsmen were cleaned up for 42 runs. The Pakistani lower order tried to salvage some pride by hanging in there and they took the score to 161. You would be surprised to know that the Bangladesh government announced a public holiday the next day in recognition of the stupendous victory. 7

6. Kenya beat West Indies by 73 runs, World Cup 1996, Group Stage match, Pune

The West Indies were still a cricketing force when they took on absolute no hopers Kenya in the group stage match in the 1996 World Cup at Pune. Bowling first the 4 pronged West Indian fast bowling machine of Walsh, Ambrose, Bishop and Cuffy dutifully dismissed the clueless Kenyans (except Steve Tikolo)  for a paltry 166 within 50 overs as a West Indian win looked as certain as a sunset. In their chase, the West Indies kept losing wickets to a combination of tight bowling, poor shots and a slow pitch. The Kenyan bowlers hunted in a pack as they dismissed the batting line up boasting of Lara, Hooper, Richardson and others for a shocking score of 93. You would hardly come across a more shocking capitulation as the West Indies that day at Pune. 6

5. Ireland beat England by 3 wickets, World Cup 2011, Group Stage match, Bangalore

When the English think tank were going through the fixture list for the 2011 World Cup they must have written down ‘win’ in their notebooks when they saw this particular fixture in their itinerary against first timers Ireland. Right on cue, the English top order completely dominated the Irish bowling attack as they ran up a seemingly match winning score of 327. In fact, when the first wicket fell off the very first ball in the second innings it looked like it was going to be stroll in the park as everyone had predicted but little known middle order batsman Kevin O’Brien upset all calculations. He scored a marauding century in 50 balls and ended up with 113(63), inclusive of 13 fours and 6 sixes. Eventually, Ireland won with 5 balls to spare to keep the English team and the rest of the cricketing world shell shocked. If you watch some of the short highlights of this match on YouTube, you will marvel at the sheer savagery of the match turning innings by O’Brien. 5

4. Zimbabwe beat South Africa by 48 runs, World Cup 1999, Group Stage match, Chelmsford

If you have watched the 99 World Cup then you would remember the superb form which title favourites South Africa showed throughout the tournament. So, the anticipated cakewalk against minnows Zimbabwe looked like a foregone conclusion in the lead up to the game. However, Zimbabwe’s start all-rounder Neil Johnson had other ideas as he scored cultured 76 at the top of the order to take their total to 233. The match still looked in South Africa’s grasp till Johnson struck with the very first ball of the second innings when he bounced Gary Kirsten out with a venomous bouncer. A procession followed and at one stage South Africa was in danger of being bowled out for less than 100 when the scoreboard read 40-6. Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener tried gamely but the result was a foregone conclusion in favour of Zimbabwe as they shocked the cricketing world with a display which would make any cricket team proud. 4

3. Bangladesh beat India by 5 wickets, World Cup 2007, Group Stage match, Port of Spain

This was the reversal which, in retrospect knocked the much fancied Indian team under Rahul Dravid out of the 2007 World Cup. Playing in a venue where they had traditionally played well in the past, the star studded Indian batting line up succumbed to the swing, seam and pace of Mushrafe Murtaza as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Other than Sourav Ganguly (66) and Yuvraj Singh (47), no other batsman contributed anything of note as India was all out for 191. However, their hopes of bowling Bangladesh out for below that total were cruelly dashed after opener Tamim Iqbal scored a breezy 51 to take his team to relative safety. With half centuries from Mushfiqur Rehman and Shakib al Hasan, Bangladesh finally shut India out of the match as they cantered home in the 49th over. 3

2. Zimbabwe beat Australia by 13 runs, World Cup 1983, Group Stage match, Trent Bridge

It’s the 1983 World Cup again and it’s yet another colossal upset and the main reasons why this one comes second is because the India v West Indies game was the tournament final and had a touch of drama to it. Zimbabwe were supposed to be the whipping boys of the World Cup and that seemed to be the case when Australia reduced them to 94-5 as batting first the Zimbabweans found the 4 pronged pace attack of Lillee, Thomson, Hogg and Lawson too hot to handle. However, their captain Duncan Fletcher (yes, you are right, he is  the same man who has coached both England and India) scored a defiant 69 and with the tail chipping in with some runs, Zimbabwe eventually reached a respectable 239. The Aussies started their reply with authority but lost their way and too many wickets in the middle overs, thanks to Fletcher who picked up 4 wickets. Rodney Marsh’s last ditch attempt of salvaging the cause with some desperate hitting also fell through as Zimbabwe kept their nerve and won the game by 13 runs to record a famous win.


1. India beat West Indies by 43 runs, World Cup final, 1983, Lord’s

The biggest upset ever in a World Cup in the biggest of stages- the World Cup final. The bookmakers in England were offering odds of 66:1 for an Indian win in the World Cup final of 1983, so you can imagine what chances they had when they went head to head against the all conquering West Indian team. Everything went to script in the first innings as India were bundled out for a meagre 183 with more than 5 overs of their full quota of 60 overs still to be bowled and quite honestly no one gave India chance considering the batting line up which the West Indies boasted of. However, India’s battery of swing bowlers had the number of batsmen like Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and others. Wickets fell like nine pins as West Indies were all out for a shocking 140 and the biggest upset ever was compete as India won the World Cup for the first time.



So these were the 10 most famous upsets in World Cup cricket which everyone will remember for a long time. Do share your views in the comments section below. conc 670x293

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