We’re down to the final four in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. And while it has produced some dazzling individual performances during the league stage, it is safe to say this year’s edition hasn’t really managed to live up to the hype. The big four, as always, have outpowered the rest of the opponents and the fans haven’t really been a bystander of major upsets; of course, barring Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s victories over the tournament favourites, England.
However tedious the tenure has been thus far; history is evident that semi-finals have always managed to get the spectators on the edge of their seat. That being said, we take a drive back through the years and look back at some of the most engaging semi-final battles of all time.
India vs Sri Lanka (Riots erupt)
Coming on the back of a convincing victory over arch-rivals Pakistan, India had a gruelling task of facing another Asian powerhouse in Sri Lanka in the first semi-final of the 1996 World Cup. With the venue being Kolkata, fans set the stage on fire with their booming cheer.
Mohammad Azharuddin’s men got off to a dreamy start, dismissing Sri Lanka’s top order of Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Asanka Gurusinha within 35 runs. The middle-order, however, stood their ground to establish a firm substructure on the back of which the Islanders posted a decent 251/8 at the end of 50 overs.
Considering how brilliant India’s batting was throughout the tournament, it was supposed to be an easy route for the team. Soon after Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket though, the rest of the order crumbled to an extent that India went from 98/2 to 120/8. And the crowd, which was blazing right from the start, turned fierce to a point that they started throwing bottles, cans, plastic bags or whatever they could on the field. And once the match referee Clive Lyold had enough, he awarded the Islanders a win by default.
For all right reasons, Anil Kumble and Vinod Kambli (who were at the crease) were left utterly disappointed by the reaction before the latter burst into tears on the field.
Australia vs South Africa (The final-over drama)
South Africa’s unfortunate fate in ICC events remains a well-known equity. And this particular game in Leeds, England, remains a perfect specimen of it. The Proteas, having won the toss and electing to field, managed to restrict the eventual champions Australia to a mere 213. And as their top order collapsed with the bat, the likes of Jonty Rhoades and Jacques Kallis gave their side a glaring hope of making it into the final. Following the duo, Lance Klusener steadied the ship to an extent that his team needed just nine runs from the final over with one wicket in hand.
Damien Fleming was given the nod and the pacer was hit for two consecutive boundaries by Klusener. With just one run to win, Australian captain, Steve Waugh decided to bring his fielders inside the circle. As the game progressed, the momentum shifted. The fourth ball in, Klusener miss-hit the shot and still went for a run. Allan Donald, standing at the non-striker’s end, kept his eyes on the ball and stayed within his line. A muddle between the two South Africans was eventually concluded by Donald getting run-out on a diamond duck.
India vs Pakistan (A tale of Pakistan misery)
Unlike this year, arch-rivals India and Pakistan played a nervy game in 2011 in Mohali. Electing to bat, India posted 260 in 50 overs, which would have been a lot less if the Men in Green had managed to be firm with their fielding. Sachin Tendulkar, who scored a man-of-the-match knock of 85, was dropped four times by the fielders and was considered lucky after an LBW call was overturned while playing on 23.
A match, which was spectated by the Indian celebrities likes Victory Venkatesh, Aamir Khan and Preity Zinta, saw Pakistan failing to maintain the consistency before losing the game by 29 runs.
New Zealand vs South Africa (Elliott grants the way)
A game which required a final over drama had all the ingredients to make it one for the savers. Chasing a rain-adjusted 298 in 43 overs, for a moment it was deemed as New Zealand would fall way short. And although Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson's 103-run stand turned the tie, New Zealand still required a way to glory. The turning point came when Elliott was dropped in the penultimate over off Morkel’s delivery. With Dale Steyn coming in for the final over, the pressure was eased with Daniel Vettori smacking the pacer for a boundary. The game was eventually brought to a point that New Zealand required five of the final two deliveries. And a length ball was perfectly capitalized, as Elliott hit Steyn for a six over long-on.
"Grant Elliot: Superman!"#OnThisDay in 2015 New Zealand beat South Africa in the @CricketWorldCup semi-final, one of the most exciting ODIs of all time.— ICC (@ICC) March 24, 2018
Watch the highlights of Grant Elliott's incredible knock. pic.twitter.com/2PlCcC3efK
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Manan Vatsyayana