All events need Top 10 lists. They reduce a long event to 10 tiny manageable portions that are sorted and listed to allow us to experience the thrills of the event, without dealing with the boring parts.
The ICC Cricket World Cup this time around was pretty darn eventful, compared to the snooze-fests we saw the last few times. There have been exciting matches and individual moments of brilliance. Here are 10 of my favourite individual performances for this World Cup:
- India’s Virendra Sehwag’s 175 off 140 balls, against Bangladesh
Sehwag declared before the match that he would endeavor to bat through the entire innings, and nearly accomplished it. It was a glimpse into a world where Sehwag would crush the hopes of nations by adding just one extra act to his game, the act of staying alive for 50 long overs. Because we all know that no record is safe, if he ever does manage to do so.
For a batsman, who can score at unimaginable rates for long periods of time in Test matches, One Day matches are where he’s failed. Out here, he has often made a conscious attempt to actually play every ball and force the runs which lead to much shorter innings. This one inning showed that Sehwag is capable, if not willing.
- Netherland’s Ryan Ten Doeschate’s 119 off 110 balls and 2-47, against England
The Associate countries were under pressure throughout the tournament. Every loss was one nail deeper into the coffin of a forced hiatus from the big tournaments. But thanks to a scintillating century by Tendo, a point was made that the Associate countries do have talent, and that talent needs to be nurtured.
Tendo’s innings was of the classical mould, be steady and then accelerate as you reach the end. There were no ugly slogs, no power shots, just some very patient play that preyed on the mistakes of the bowler and some sweet sweet timing. Netherlands reached a competitive total of 292 for 6. They did go on to lose the match, but Ryan had announced himself to the world, as the greatest non-Test playing cricketer at the moment.
- Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien’s 113 off 63 balls, against England
This was the innings of the World Cup. It would be remembered as amongst the greatest knocks in World Cup history. And it was scored by a purple-haired Irishman against a country that many Irish hope to play for one day. This was the first (and only) victory in the World Cup of an Associate country against a Full member nation. But it wasn’t just about the victory, it was the way it had been won. Most upsets in the past depended on the giants tripping over their own tied shoe-laces of complacency and over-confidence, but this one was different. KOB took on the English bowlers, in one of the most aggressive assaults the game has ever seen. He came into the game with Ireland struggling to survive at 106 for 4. At 111 for 5, the game seemed all but over, but he chose that match to play his greatest innings off all times.
The rest of the team rallied around him, and he went on to score the fastest century at a World Cup off 50 balls, and by the time he was out, the match was all but in Ireland’s court.
- Canada’s Hiral Patel’s 54 off 45 balls, against Australia
It was a half century off 37 balls, and will probably go into the books as a minor footnote in a rather inconsequential match. Canada had been outclassed and destroyed in almost every game they played. But in their last game, a 19-year-old took on Australia, and while he was there, we didn’t know what to expect. The most lethal pace attack in the world was dismantled by the youngster, who had the alacrity to hook the great Lee for a 6. He swung and he missed, he swung again and the ball went for a boundary. It was entertaining, it was cavalier, it was the perfect start to last the match the Canadians would play at the World Cup.
When he was out, the run rate was a 7 per over. 84 off 12 overs. Canada managed just 211 and easily lost the game. But for the fans of the game, the need to let the Associate countries remain in these tournaments had just been reinforced. It certainly was for moments like this one.
- West Indies’ Kemar Roach’s 6 for 27, against Netherlands
It might be against the minnows, but this was a reminder that West Indies still had some traces of the the lethal pace bowling gene-pool. He bowled straight, he bowled fast, and he got his wickets. This was against a team who’s batting had almost pushed England to the edge some days ago.
But the 6th hat trick in World Cup history, and West Indies were back to their resurgent ways.
- Brendan Taylor’s 80 off 72 balls, against Sri Lanka
Ever since we saw KOB take apart the English team, we hoped for a similar performance by any of the other ‘minnows’. Didn’t happen, but the closest we got to that was this performance by the rather inconsistent Brendan Taylor who decided that he was going to take on the Sri Lankan team, and while he was there the match was alive. He hit some sweetly timed boundaries, he played some strange cuts over the keeper’s head and he kept a perfect balance between agression and beauty. It was a sight to behold, and for a few moments we hoped for an upset. It wasn’t to be thought, but Taylor’s cover drives and cuts shall remain special memories against those who had the pleasure of watching them.
- New Zealand’s Ross Taylor’s 131 off 127 balls, against Pakistan
This was a massacre so brutal, its echoes can still be heard in some corner of the universe. Prior to his rampage, he was dropped as many times as he wished for. He somehow poked his way to an average 69 off 108 balls, but he doubled that score over the next 19 deliveries. Seven sixes and 4 fours came off the last 16 deliveries as the Kiwis piled 114 runs in 6 overs, a World Cup record.
Pakistan never really recovered, and was duly defeated.
- Shahid Afridi’s 4 for 34, against Sri Lanka
Pakistan went into the World Cup in disarray, with a captain who didn’t seem like like captaincy material to many. But he laid all doubts to rest with this bowling performance. There were deliveries that went fast, skidding past the defences and then there were far more flighted leg spinners that undid the batsmen. He was the difference between a close victory and close defeat, in more ways than one. When Afridi stood, with his hands aloft, the country knew that they had a leader, someone they could rally around. And they did.
This was one of the many 4-wicket hauls Afridi would conjure on his way to leading his team to a great World Cup run.
- New Zealand team, against South Africa in the Quarterfinals
This was a moment that might come to define two teams for a long time. South Africa were all over New Zealand for most of the match, when suddenly something gave way. New Zealand watched as Du Plessis ran out the in-form De Villiers, and they sniffed a chance. And they were all over the South Africans, sledging and pressurizing the fragile South Africans until they cracked under the many tonnes . Mental disintegration never looked so easy, as the Kiwis made it seem
It might not be a pretty sight, but to watch an average team use mental strength to defeat a good team is inspiring. Almost.
- Sri Lanka’s Jayawardhene’s 103 off 88 balls, against India
This was easily the most sublime century of the many we have seen in this World Cup. That it came in the Finals when the team needed it the most, does make it even more spectacular. He batted with grace, he accelerated when he wished to, he slowed the game when he wished to. This was his innings, his masterpiece and he controlled it unlike no other.
Riding on this work of brilliance, Sri Lanka managed to put on a competitive score against a confident Indian side.
So these were my favourite performances of the World Cup. There were many more, including Pointing’s century and Shoaib Aktar’s wicket of Jayawardhane. There might be some more articles in the near future about other great performances and moments from the World Cup.