ICC World Cup 2019: Matches That Deserve To Be Rewatched
Despite fears of the ICC World Cup 2019 being a washout, the event delivered some absolute thrillers that will be remembered for years to come
For all the initial talk and fear of the 2019 ICC World Cup being a damp squib (rain, one-sided matches, etc.), the event delivered on the biggest match on them all. The final, between England and New Zealand, became an instant classic featuring unprecedented scenarios that even the most gifted of dramatists would have a tough time cooking up. In retrospect though, it seems rather cruel that the winner (England) was decided on the basis of boundaries scored, after the game remained a tie after the normal course and (the never-held-before) Super Over.
As the dust settles on what’s been a very long league, and before the talk inevitably veers towards the deteriorating quality of the bowling and batting in the game, we would do well to remember that there were moments in the World Cup which literally had us struggling to hold on to our seats and chewing our nails in sheer nervousness.
Here, a recap of five of the most exciting matches the ICC World Cup 2019 had to offer, excluding the final:
New Zealand vs Bangladesh
Chasing a somewhat low target of 244 at the Oval, New Zealand were comfortably placed at 160/2, when they lost the wicket of their skipper Kane Williamson. What followed next clearly showed why modern-day cricket is oh-so-unpredictable and why crowd support still plays such a vital role in the proceedings of the game. Buoyed at having scalped a valuable wicket and egged on by their vociferous fans, Bangladesh clawed back and nearly managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. New Zealand no longer looked like the self-assured and composed team they had seemed earlier in the day—and though they won the game in the end, the margin of the victory (by a mere two wickets) ironically highlighted the spirit Bangladesh displayed in their fightback.
Sri Lanka vs England
Sri Lanka went into this match with their backs against the wall. Not only had they lost their games against Australia and New Zealand very badly, their matches against Pakistan and Bangladesh had also been washed out due to rain. But whether it be a cornered rat or a cricket team, there’s probably no better entity that quite has the potential to turn the tables as they do. Sri Lanka surely showed plenty evidence of that on this day.
Batting first, they made a scrappy 232 in 50 overs, riding largely on all-rounder Angelo Mathews’s gritty and valiant 85. By the end of their innings, surely many had written them out of the contest. But, by the time England lost their ninth wicket at the score of 186, the odds had completely changed. The wily veteran Lasith Malinga conjured a vintage spell, picking up four wickets, while Dhananjaya de Silva spun his way around, picking up three wickets. The famed English batting order collapsed and they were dismissed for 212, in what was one of the early upsets of the ICC World Cup 2019.
Afghanistan vs India
Minnows Afghanistan threatened to pull off a sensational victory over the mighty India on 22 June 2019. On a slowish track, India huffed and puffed their way to 224, losing eight wickets. This was largely due to a disciplined, superlative bowling effort by the Afghanistan bowlers, especially their spinners, who were able to put on the brakes whenever the Indians threatened to break loose. Chasing 225, Afghanistan lost wickets at regular intervals, but were still in contention till the 50th over. Mohammad Nabi hit a boundary off the first ball of the last over and the equation had boiled down to 12 runs off five balls. It was only Mohammed Shami’s hat-trick off the next three balls that allowed India to eke out a thrilling, nerve-wracking victory in a match which many had thought to be a foregone conclusion at the start.
Afghanistan vs Pakistan
After Afghanistan’s performance against India, Pakistan would have been well aware of the threat Afghanistan posed. Yet, with a semi-final place at stake, it was expected that Pakistan would go hammer and tongs against their opposition and defeat them handsomely in an effort to improve their net run rate. The match unfolded very differently, though. On a tricky pitch, Pakistan’s bowlers performed their job admirably, restricting Afghanistan to 227. In reply, however, Afghanistan’s bowlers put up a very spirited fight, and with the pitch getting progressively worse, Pakistan was staring down the barrel, before their tail-enders bailed them out with some resolute batting in the final five overs of the game. Pakistan did win the game by three wickets and two balls to spare, but for Afghanistan, this was yet another heartbreak after coming so close to a win again.
New Zealand vs West Indies
New Zealand won this game by five runs, but even the small margin doesn’t tell the whole story. In terms of the level of drama, especially at the end, this was second only to what transpired in the final.
Earlier that day, New Zealand had posted 291, riding on Kane Williamson’s 148. In reply, the Windies had been reduced to 164 for 7, when their wicketkeeper-batsman Carlos Brathwaite mounted a vicious counter-attacking assault. Even though he lost two more partners, Brathwaite continued on his rampage, and brought the team within sniffing distance of a memorable victory.
He could not finish the job though, despite completing his century. With a mere six runs needed for a win, Brathwaite decided to go for glory and rescue the game for his team. He nearly pulled it off too, but Trent Boult held on to a tough catch by leaning over the boundary, his feet, mere inches away from the boundary rope!
As the New Zealand team celebrated, Brathwaite sunk to his knees, not quite able to believe what had just happened. The image of Brathwaite, the tragic would-be hero, on his knees, surrounded by New Zealand players trying to console him is certainly one of the most iconic to emerge from this year’s edition, and is one that reinforces the spirit in which the game continues to be played.