Top Five Cricket World Cup Shocks

It is one of the great shames in the modern game that cricket’s governing body, the ICC, is set to reduce the Cricket World Cup to a ten-team affair. Whilst it may rid the tournament of the supposedly ‘dead games’, which attract little media attention and are often watch by few spectators, it also hugely diminishes the likelihood of a shock result, which is one of the few bits of romance left in international cricket.

Top Five Cricket World Cup Shocks

Whilst there will still be a qualifying pre-tournament for the 2019 event, there is a real possibility that no associate nations will feature in that tournament, which would be a travesty for the majority of fans.

In June last year, an Associate official told ESPNCricinfo “there is a genuine risk of associate nations abandoning ODI cricket because there was such a small chance to qualify for the World Cup. Consequently, we might turn towards T20,” which would surely be a negative step. If the main format of the game played by associate nations is T20, how can they expect to develop players ready for Test Match cricket in the future?

However, regardless of the future, the associates have already proven in previous tournaments that they are capable of shocking the world with their performances. Here, we take a look at the best five shock results.

5. Zimbabwe beat Australia by 13 runs, 1983

An Australian side featuring the likes of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Allan Border and Kepler Wessels, entered the 1983 World Cup as one of the stronger teams; West Indies were expected to retain their crown, but the Aussies were by no means a weak side. By contrast, Zimbabwe, despite having a fairly strong team on paper, were playing in their first official one-day international, and some bookmakers reportedly offered odds of 200/1 on them winning when 94-5 after being asked to bat. However, future England and India coach Duncan Fletcher made a gritty 69* to help them reach 239-6 in 60 overs, before his miserly eleven-over spell of 4-42 helped the underdogs secure a surprise win, scraping over the line by just thirteen runs.

Zimbabwe celebrate
Zimbabwe’s players celebrate the win at Trent Bridge

4. Ireland beat Pakistan by 3 wickets, 2007

Whilst Ireland are now considered the strongest associate nation, they only made their first World Cup appearance in 2007. After achieving an unlikely tie against Zimbabwe in their opening fixture, the Irish went to Kingston, Jamaica on St Patrick’s Day on a green wicket, and after winning the toss and choosing to bowl, they were ruthless with the ball. Andre Botha’s spell of eight overs, four maidens, two wickets for five runs remains the most economical by an associate player against a full member, and 222 of the 274 balls bowled by Ireland were dots, showing their miserly nature. Pakistan crumbled to 132 all out, and despite sliding from 108-4 to 113-7 after the loss of Niall O’Brien, who made 72, Ireland stumbled over the line.


Ireland, including Eoin Morgan (front row, third from left) celebrate their historic win

3. Kenya beat Sri Lanka by 53 runs, 2003

Sri Lanka’s side at the 2003 World Cup was fantastic; it included star names like Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Russell Arnold, Chaminda Vaas and Muralitharan, and after winning their first three pool games, they headed to Nairobi expecting to beat Kenya, who had beaten Canada at lost to South Africa in their opening fixtures. Kenya’s mediocre batting display, in which they managed just 210-9 in their 50 overs, was largely thanks to Murali, who bowled a ten over spell of 4-28. However, Sri Lanka’s chase never got going; thanks to an excellent fielding display and Collins Obuya’s 5-24, the best ever figures by a Kenyan, they were bowled out for just 157.

Kenya celebrate
Kenya celebrate a famous victory


2. Ireland beat England by 3 wickets, 2011

After winning the toss and choosing to bat, England looked to be in complete control against Ireland half-way through the run-chase. After posting 327-8 in 50 overs, thanks to Jonathan Trott’s run-a-ball 92 and fifties from Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, three wickets from Graeme Swann and one each for James Anderson and Tim Bresnan had reduced the men in green to 111-5. However, in one of the most famous World Cup innings of all-time, all-rounder Kevin O’Brien smashed the fastest World Cup century from just fifty balls, and despite his dismissal towards the end of the game, John Mooney (33*) hung on to secure a dramatic win.

Kevin O’Brien celebrates his brutal hundred

1. Kenya beat West Indies by 73 runs, 1996

With only one professional in their squad, serial giant-killers Kenya came up against a strong West Indies side in 1996 with minimal expectations.

“We were going out for a picnic. It was only when they started losing wickets that we began to get serious.”

– Kenyan captain Maurice Odumbe

And after Roger Harper’s 3-15 and Curtly Ambrose’s 2-21, it looked as if the West Indies would cruise the run-chase, requiring around three runs-per-over at the start of the chase; but for extras top-scoring with 37, Kenya’s 166 all out could have been much lower. But the West Indies’ top order, which included Brian Lara and Shiv Chanderpaul, could not get started, and a gradual slide of wickets was never halted, with the highest partnership of the innings just twenty. Kenya were in dreamland, with Odumbe taking 3-15 and Rajat Ali 3-17, and the celebrations continued long into the Pune night. Despite the result, West Indies progressed to the semi-finals, but that could not take away the game’s status as the biggest shock in World Cup history.

Kenya celebrate the dismissal of Brian Lara


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