When it comes to defeats, nobody does heartbreak quite like English sporting teams. Be it the footballers’ endless supply of losses on penalties, Tim Henman’s defeats in Grand Slam semi-finals or a men’s relay team dropping the baton at the crucial moment, a promising start which ends in tears is never too far away.
The past few years have been a bit odd for English and British sport; lots of teams and individuals have been winning things. However, the usual suspects have been doing their best to restore order either by going far in tournaments and falling catastrophically at the final hurdle or not clearing any hurdles in the first place. The football team will always be a bastion of disappointment, but the cricketers have done a respectable job of souring the mood every now and then.
That last sentence may be a tad harsh. Over the last fifteen years, English cricket has had much to shout about. Multiple Ashes victories, impressive away Test series wins, a rise to the number one spot in all three forms of the game and even a World Twenty20 win in 2010 have made it an enjoyable time to be an England fan. However, they have not been loath to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the most bathetic (and pathetic) way possible.
The England cricket team’s defeats in major finals have ranged from the humbling to the farcical. In the seven finals they have played in the three main ICC tournaments—the World Cup, the Champions Trophy and the World Twenty20—they have won just one; a comfortable win over Australia in the 2010 World T20. The six defeats make for eventful reading.
1979 World Cup Final: England vs West Indies—Lord’s
The holders played the hosts in what was a highly-anticipated final. On the morning of the match Bob Willis declared himself unfit to play, but instead of replacing him with a fifth bowler, England risked using Geoff Boycott, Wayne Larkins and Graham Gooch to bowl 12 overs between them.
The West Indies won the toss and chose to bat, but found themselves struggling on 99-4. However, Viv Richards, ever the man for the big occasion, and Collis King hit 138 off 157 and 86 off 66 respectively as their side reached 286-9 off their 60 overs.
The total was a competitive one, but it was not impossible to chase. England’s openers, Mike Brearley and Boycott, decided it was best if they stayed in for a long time and accelerated towards the end of the innings. The tactic did not work. It took Boycott a staggering 17 overs to reach double figures, and although the two put on 129 for the first wicket, it took them until the 39th over to do so, meaning that the batting side required around eight an over to win.
In the middle of his innings, Boycott hit a seemingly easy catch to Clive Lloyd, known for his ability as a fielder, which was dropped. Though Lloyd himself denies these claims, it is thought that he might have dropped the catch on purpose so as to keep Boycott in and the run-rate low.
After the openers were gone, Gooch and Derek Randall tried to continue to build the innings, but once the former was dismissed with the score at 183-3 England’s sterile chase fell to pieces as they lost seven wickets for eleven runs and fell 92 short of their target.
1987 World Cup Final: England vs Australia—Eden Gardens, Kolkata
England’s second World Cup final was a closer affair. Playing their great rivals, Australia, in front of 100,000 people at Eden Gardens, they could so easily have won their first major limited overs tournament had it not been for a few key moments.
Australia won the toss and batted first. David Boon’s 75 and Mike Veletta’s quickfire 45 off 31 balls were the key innings as they reached 253-5 off their 50 overs. England’s economical but largely defensive bowling allowed the Aussies to accelerate towards the end of the innings and set a much larger target than looked likely.
England’s innings started brilliantly. Cruising along at 135-2 with Mike Gatting, accompanied by Bill Athey, who scored 58 off 103, going at nearly a run a ball, it looked like England were going to win relatively comfortably. However, when Allan Border brought himself on to bowl his left-arm orthodox, something possessed Gatting to attempt a reverse-sweep, and he was caught behind by Greg Dyer.
Allan Lamb’s 45 off 55 kept England in the game, but as wickets began to fall and the run-rate began to rise, the trophy started to slip away from them. In the last over, they required 17 runs to win, and only scored nine. A loss by seven runs from such a commanding position can only be considered a “choke”.
1992 World Cup Final: England vs Pakistan—Melbourne
Yet another final where England found themselves in a promising position and failed to capitalise, it is unlikely that Pakistan will produce a performance as special as the one in 1992 ever again. Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram all sealed their places in cricket folklore as they led their nation to its first and only World Cup win to date.
Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat, but were in a disastrous position at 24-2, with both their openers back in the pavilion. A partnership of 139 between Khan, who was dropped by Graham Gooch on nine, and Miandad, followed by Inzamam-ul-Haq’s 42 off 35 and Wasim Akram’s 33 off 18, allowed Pakistan to score 249-6 and set England exactly five runs an over to win.
England stuttered to 69-4, but Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb helped put their team back in a competitive position. However, with England closing in on the required run-rate with plenty of wickets in hand, Imran Khan brought Wasim Akram back into the attack in the 35th over. In that one over he sent down two sensational deliveries to clean bowl both Lamb and Chris Lewis and peg the score back to 141-6.
At that point, the game was almost as good as over, but Fairbrother led something of a recovery. Once he was dismissed for 62 off 70 with the score at 180-7, England’s fate was sealed and they were eventually bowled out for 227; 22 runs short of their target. The result may have been a foregone conclusion for quite a while, but things could have been very different had it not been for Khan’s lucky escape early in his innings and Wasim’s fairytale over.
2004 Champions Trophy Final: England vs West Indies—the Oval, London
England have a nasty habit of letting opposition teams’ tailenders score runs, and this final was a classic example.
The West Indies won the toss and chose to field first. Had Marcus Trescothick received some more support from the rest of the England batsmen, they could have set an unassailable total. As it happened, the English innings was something of a one-man show.
With wickets falling all around him, Trescothick continued to bat brilliantly, scoring 104 off 124. Eventually, he got some support from Ashley Giles, who scored 31 runs off 37 balls. When those two were dismissed, the score was 212-8, and England stumbled to a disappointing 217 all out. Aside from those two, not only did the batsmen fail to score runs, their small scores took ages to complete, with Andrew Strauss the only batsmen to go at a rate of more than three runs per over. Had someone else been able to match Trescothick and Giles, the match could have already been over.
England bowled brilliantly and took regular wickets. Flintoff was the pick of the bowlers, ending with figures of 3-38 off his ten overs. When Shivnarine Chanderpaul was dismissed for 47 with the score at 147-8 off 33.4 overs, the West Indies’ fate seemed to be sealed. They needed 71 runs with just two wickets in hand.
However, Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw had other ideas. The two averaged under 30 in One Day Internationals between them, but they batted with great maturity, cruising along at approximately four an over, and rarely looked like getting out.
The England bowlers could not get rid of them, and the match began to slip away from the team who had the trophy in their sights. Browne and Bradshaw ended on 35 and 34 respectively, and their unbeaten partnership of 71 gave the West Indies victory by two wickets and the trophy. Considering the fact that they were 147-8, the 2004 Champions Trophy really should have been won by England.
2013 Champions Trophy: England vs India—Edgbaston
Due to rain delays, the match was shortened to 20 overs a side. India batted first and struggled to get going. A brilliant bowling performance from Ravi Bopara, who ended with figures of 3-20, was the key to England restricting their opponents to a meagre 129-7.
England’s target of 130 was a seemingly easy one to chase, and they had little trouble in the first 17 overs or so. Calm innings from Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara, who scored 33 off 30 and 30 off 25 respectively, led the batting side to 110-4 off 17.2 overs. Needing 17 to win off 16 overs with six wickets remaining, England’s task was an incredibly simple one. All they needed to do was keep taking singles and, when the opportunity presented itself, go after the hittable deliveries.
Scoring 17 runs with six wickets in hand and sixteen balls remaining was all too easy, right? Not for England. Morgan’s dismissal after 17.3 overs was the start of a staggering collapse. Bopara was dismissed the very next ball, and the score was 110-6 with fourteen balls remaining. There was still no need to panic. Jos Buttler and Tim Bresnan were at the crease, both accomplished batsmen, and were only a few boundaries and singles away from victory.
Again, things didn’t go to plan. In the penultimate over, Buttler and Bresnan were both dismissed as England slumped to 113-8 after 18.4 overs. All hope was not quite lost. Stuart Broad and James Tredwell had to get 17 runs off eight balls. Boundaries were needed, and no more stupid wickets could be afforded.
Broad and Tredwell were not able to reach the target. Eventually needing a six off the last ball, Tredwell could not connect with the delivery and England lost by five runs. The match was lost in that bizarre period where they managed to lose four wickets for just three runs. Any other country would have struggled to throw away the match in such spectacular fashion.
2016 World Twenty20 Final: England vs West Indies—Eden Gardens, Kolkata
This match is still fresh in the memory of depressed England fans, so let’s relive it. Neither England nor the West Indies had been particularly fancied going into the tournament, but both largely performed well throughout the tournament and deserved their places in the final.
The West Indies won the toss and chose to field, and got off to a brilliant start as Jason Roy was bowled by Samuel Badree for a second-ball duck. England slumped to 23-3 off 4.4 overs, but Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler managed to help their team recover. When Buttler was dismissed for 36 off 22 after 11.2 overs, they were 84-4 and still on course for a promising total.
Root was all set for another heroic innings, and England found themselves a respectable 110-4 going into the back end of the innings; 180 or even higher was not out of the question. However, a bizarre spell in which they lost three wickets in four balls for just one run (sound familiar?) saw them stumble to 111-7 and into a very difficult position.
David Willey led a minor recovery, scoring 21 off 14 balls, and eventually England ended the innings 155-9. The score was a tad disappointing given their promising position before the last few overs, but it was something to bowl at nevertheless, provided the West Indies’ big-hitters didn’t get going.
England couldn’t have wished for a better start. Willey conceded just one run off the opening over, and when Joe Root dismissed Johnson Charles and Chris Gayle in his first three balls and Lendl Simmons, the match-winner in the semi-final, was dismissed for a golden duck, the match swung right back in their favour with the West Indies languishing on 11-3. England had a great chance to win their second World T20 title.
Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo rebuilt the innings, with the former surviving an early scare as he was initially given out caught behind but was allowed to continue batting as video replays suggested that the ball touched the ground before Buttler caught it, and their partnership reached 75. But when Bravo was caught by Root off Rashid’s bowling on the final ball of the 14th over, the match was England’s to lose. The West Indies needed 75 off just six overs.
Samuels continued to dominate the English attack, but when Andre Russell and Darren Sammy were dismissed in quick succession, the West Indies needed 54 off 24 balls with only four wickets in hand. With Samuels at the crease England still had work to do, but they were firmly in pole position to win the trophy.
Some strong bowling from Chris Jordan and Liam Plunkett meant that the West Indies needed 19 runs off the final over. Ben Stokes, whose death bowling had won him plaudits earlier in the tournament, bowled the first ball of the over to no.9 Carlos Brathwaite, who promptly smashed it for six, and the following three balls ended in the same result. The West Indies won the match by four wickets and with it came a second World T20 title.
They did very well to reach the final, but the way England got themselves back into a winning position after setting such a disappointing target, only to throw it away in such a distressing fashion meant that this was one of their worst final defeats to date.
These six defeats have all been disappointing for different reasons, and they could continue to haunt England in future tournaments. The next time they reach a major final, they’d be best off trying to forget these bad memories.