Specials – The very best of Richie Benaud’s playing career

  The legendary Richie Benaud, who passed away aged 84 on April 10, was one of the most influential figures in post-war cricket. He was a champion leg-spinner, an inspirational captain, an eminent writer and arguably the finest commentator of our time.

  Held in immense regard by cricket lovers across the world, Benaud, who was born in Penrith on October 6, 1930, became an indispensable part of the international game in his post-playing days through his delightful voice, which warmed our living rooms as the Australian and English cricket summers unfolded.

  The image of Benaud in the minds of recent generations had been ingrained as the affable, sliver-haired gentleman wishing viewers a good morning and welcoming them to join him for a marvellous day’s play, and this is a testament to the seamless transition he made from the cricket field into the world of broadcasting.

  Benaud himself once recalled an autograph-seeking 12-year-old boy at the SCG in 1982, who asked him whether he ever played cricket for Australia. Such was his distinctive charm in the commentary box that one often tends to overlook the fact that he was at one time an excellent all-round cricketer as well.

  In a Test career spanning from 1951-52 to 1963-64, he played 63 times for Australia, scoring 2201 runs at 24.45 and more importantly, taking 248 wickets at 27.03. Overall, the New South Welshman played played 259 first-class matches, scoring 11719 runs and taking 945 wickets.

  Benaud was the first man to achieve the double of 2000 runs and 200 wickets in Test cricket. As captain from 1958-59 to 1963-64, he led Australia in 28 Tests, winning 12 and losing four. He had the distinction of never losing a series, and was at the helm in the memorable Tied Test against the West Indies in 1960-61.

zzvb      A young Richie Benaud batting in the nets in 1952 (source – smh.com.au)

  As a tribute to Benaud’s on-field achievements, let us go back in time and revisit five of his most noteworthy and impactful Test match performances:-

5) 121 v West Indies at Kingston, 1954-55

  This was the first of Benaud’s three Test centuries. Australia had already secured the rubber 2-0 when the teams arrived at Sabina Park for the fifth and final Test.

  Clyde Walcott (155) and Keith Miller (6/107) were the stars of the first innings as the West Indies posted 357. In reply, Australia slumped to 7/2 before Colin McDonald (127) and Neil Harvey (204) added 295 for the third wicket.

  Miller (109) and Ron Archer (128) too reeled off hundreds and the score was 597/6 when Benaud came out to bat. After taking 15 minutes to open his account, Benaud proceeded to unleash an onslaught on the jaded West Indian attack.

  He brought his fifty in 38 minutes and went on to his maiden hundred in just 78 minutes – then the third fastest in Test cricket. Fast bowler Tom Dewdney came in for special treatment as Benaud at one point collected five consecutive fours off his bowling.

  He dominated a 137-run eighth-wicket stand with captain Ian Johnson, who contributed only 27. Johnson declared as soon as Benaud was dismissed for 121 in just 96 minutes. In all, he hit 18 fours and two sixes. Australia achieved their highest ever total of 758/8, and went on to win by an innings and 82 runs.

4) 7/72 v India at Madras, 1956-57

  This was Australia’s first ever Test in India. In the first innings itself, Benaud produced a mesmerising spell – his career-best innings analysis – to pave the way for an easy Australian win.

  After the Indians elected to bat, Benaud took advantage of an ultra-cautious approach adopted by the home batsmen. Drifting the ball sharply, he dented the top order after the opening stand had fetched 41. Openers Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy both fell victim within the space of three runs.

  With the score 97/2, Benaud provided another crucial breakthrough as he removed Indian captain Polly Umrigar. India crawled to 117/5 at the end of the first day, and Benaud’s three wickets had clearly handed the advantage to the visitors.

  The Indian lower order found his leg-breaks too hot to handle on the second day, as the score slumped from 134/5 to 161 all out. He claimed his fourth wicket in the form of innings top-scorer Vijay Manjrekar before wiping off the tail with another triple-strike. His final figures read 29.3-10-72-7.

  Australia replied with 319, which was enough to secure a victory by an innings and five runs. In the second innings, it was the pace of Ray Lindwall (7/43) that destroyed the Indian batting.

3) 6/70 v England at Old Trafford, 1961

  Benaud was on his third Ashes tour of England, this time as captain. Australia were the holders of the urn and the series was locked at 1-1 when the teams came to Old Trafford for the fourth Test.

  Brian Statham (5/53) help bowl out Australia for modest 190 in the first innings. The batsmen then gave England the upper hand as a strong showing from the middle order ensured a 177-run lead. Benaud disappointed, going wicket-less for 80 runs in his 35 overs.

  A century from opener Bill Lawry (102) and an unbeaten 77 from Alan Davidson lower down the order brought Australia back into the match as their second innings totalled 432. England’s target was 256 with a little less than four hours remaining on the final day.

  The hosts looked to be cruising along to victory at 150/1 with Raman Subba Row and Ted Dexter in the middle. The two shared a 110-run stand for the second wicket, with the latter looking in wonderful touch. Then Benaud, bowling round the wicket, had Dexter caught behind for 76 to open the floodgates.

zzbenu     Richie Benaud bowling at Old Trafford in the 1961 Ashes. He stunned England with a haul of 6/70 to guide Australia to victory (source – gettyimages/theage.com.au)

  Despite his shoulder trouble which restricted his wrist movement, Benaud made remarkable use of the rough and went on to change the complexion of the match with one of the famous spells in Ashes history. Just two balls after dismissing May, he bowled his opposite number Peter May round the legs for a duck.

  Brian Close was the next to fall, caught at backward short-leg by Norman O’Neill. Subba Row, who was looking set on 49, became Benaud’s fourth victim as he was bowled on the last ball before tea, leaving England at 163/5. The momentum had shifted completely and England caved in to a 54 run-defeat in the final session.

  Benaud added the wickets of John Murray and David Allen to finish with 6/70, his best figures against England. He had truly led from the front, and this win meant that Australia retained the urn with a match to spare.

2) 100 and 9/154 v South Africa at Johannesburg, 1957-58

  Benaud became the fourth – and remains the most recent – Australian to score a hundred and take a five-wicket haul in the same Test match. His superb all-round effort helped Australia to a series-clinching ten-wicket win in this fourth match of a five-Test series.

  Australia were leading 1-0 coming into this match, and Benaud had a big role to play in the second Test victory at Cape Town, claiming match figures of 9/144. Moreover, he had made a career-best of 122 in the opening Test, which was also played at Johannesburg.

  Coming back to the fourth Test – Australia, after electing to bat, had lost two quick wickets to be 52/2, at which stage a promoted Benaud walked out to join Jim Burke. With form on his side, he took the attack to the South African bowlers and was the dominating partner in a 158-run partnership with Burke (81). 

  He was the third batsman out, dismissed for exactly 100 when he miscued a hook off Peter Heine (6/96). He had brought life into the innings, and despite a slide from 213/2 to 234/7, the innings recovered to a total of 401 thanks mainly to Ken Mackay’s unbeaten 83.

  In reply, South Africa, after a poor start, were rebuilding well at 104/3 when Benaud trapped Hugh Tayfield leg-before. The innings subsided from thereon, with Benaud returning to claim the last three wickets to finish with 4/70 and thus consigning South Africa to 203.

  Following on, South African openers Jackie McGlew and Russell Endean put on 78. It was Benaud again who provided the impetus, as he snared Endean and Trevor Goddard in the same over, both caught by Bob Simpson in the slips.

  South Africa began the final day at 126/2, with the obdurate McGlew looking well settled and determined to save the Test for his side. But he too could not keep Benaud at bay. With the score reading 147/2, it was yet again Simpson who took a fine catch in the slips to remove McGlew for 70.

  This greatly jolted the South Africans, who lost their remaining wickets for 51 to get bowled out for 198, despite the best efforts of Ken Funston (64* to add to his 70 in the first dig).

   Benaud took the wickets of John Waite and Peter Heine to complete figures of 5/84 in the innings and 9/154 in the match. It was his most complete all-round performance in a single Test match. He scored 329 runs and took 30 wickets in the series.

1) 11/105 v India at Calcutta, 1956-57

zzzn      Benaud was Australia’s leading Test wicket-taker when he retired. His best match figures of 11/105 came at Calcutta in 1956-57 (source – gettyimages/telegraph.co.uk)

  Benaud’s finest bowling performance came on an Eden Gardens turner laid out for the third and final Test of Australia’s maiden series in India. The visitors were leading 1-0 thanks to the win in the first Test at Madras.

  Indian skipper Polly Umrigar inserted Australia in and almost immediately brought on his spinners. Off-spinner Ghulam Ahmed wrecked the top-order, reducing the score to 25/3. Peter Burge (58) atempted a middle-order revival, but Australia slumped from 141/5 to 177 with Ahmed taking 7/49. 

  India wobbled to 20/2 in reply, but Nari Contractor and Vijay Manjrekar shared 56 runs for the third wicket. Benaud, the man with the golden arm, struck for Australia as he turned one straight onto Contractor’s pads. Vinoo Mankad followed four runs later, also out LBW.

  Benaud was extracting the most out of the pitch, and when he had Gulabrai Ramchand stumped, the score had crashed to 82/5. With the bulk of their batting dismissed, the Indians folded for 136. Benaud scalped Manjrekar, AG Kripal Singh and Naren Tamhane as well en route to figures of 6/52.

  The 41-run lead on this pitch was worth its weight in gold. Australia’s second innings was a little better than the first, but every run counted as the pitch was fast deteriorating. Neil Harvey made a valuable 69, which propelled the total to 189/9 whereupon captain Ian Johnson declared.

  India were set 231 to win with more than two days left. Openers Contractor and Pankaj Roy began well by adding 44, but the Australian spinners soon put their team on top. Johnson dismissed Contractor while Jim Burke accounted for Roy.

  Umrigar and Manjrekar put on another 44 for the third wicket, but just like the first innings, Benaud produced the much-needed breakthrough. He removed both the set batsmen within the space of five runs to reduce India to 99/4 and give Australia the edge.

  With the off-spin of Burke (4/37) for support, he severely dented the middle-order with his variations and control and thus extinguished India’s victory hopes. Just as in the first innings, Mankad, Singh and Tamhane all succumbed to Benaud’s wiles. 

  India were again bowled out for 136 to give Australia a 94-run victory. Winning in the sub-continent has always been a massive task, but Australia managed to win their first series in India. Benaud took 5/53 in the second innings and his match figures of 11/105 by an Australian at this venue.

  He was by far the highest wicket-taker in the series, with 23 in three matches at 16.86. His overall record in India was outstanding – 52 wickets in eight Tests at 18.38.

  Rest in peace, Richie Benaud. Thank you for enriching the great game we love.

Watch Benaud’s leg-spin at its best – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zG4PU4aZmOk

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Guest Section – Myths of a ten-team ‘World Cup’ debunked

  The ICC, after successful 14-team World Cups in 2011 & 2015, seem to be taking a massively backward step with a ten-team round-robin format (as in 1992) slated for  2019 – a measure supposedly taken to create a ‘competitive’ tournament. Let us debunk a few myths surrounding this illogical decision:-

1. 1992 World Cup was successful due to the round-robin format and it brought a true champion

  If the 1992 World Cup was to give a true champion, it would have been New Zealand who topped the league stage with seven wins from eight matches. None of the other sides won more than five matches.

  Eventual winners Pakistan managed to go through due to a rained-off match against England where they were bowled out for 74, while South Africa missed out due to the vagaries of the rain-rule used at that time.

  Also, the success of the 1992 World Cup came due to the novelty factor. It was the first World Cup featuring coloured clothing and floodlights. The tournament signalled the end of the olden days of ODI cricket and in some ways kicked off the modern limited-overs game.

  We saw innovations such as taking advantage of the fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs and opening the bowling with spinners. Another factor for the success of  the 1992 World Cup was the emergence – or rather comeback – of a new team in the form of South Africa.

  South Africa had been banned from the sport from 1970 to 1991 due to the Apartheid regime, but with a change in the government, they got their ICC membership back and were included in the tournament. No one expected South Africa to be as strong as they happened to be as they went on to reach the final four.

  A similar surprise factor can be taken advantage of by striving to include teams like Ireland, Afghanistan, Scotland and Netherlands in the 2019 World Cup to be held in England. Both Ireland & Netherlands can only get better and should do well in conditions similar to home.

zireland    If given a fair chance of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup, Ireland and Scotland can create a big impact in suitable conditions (source – icc-cricket.com)

  Furthermore, Afghanistan have the pacers to take advantage of the swinging conditions in England and with the addition of more youngsters, will only improve from now. If these teams are given a fair chance, we can expect more surprises and possibly see one of them in the semifinals too. 

  Also, a good format does not mean a successful World Cup. 2011 was a successful World Cup, whereas 2007, despite a format believed to be perfect, was seen to be a failure. It is the competitive nature of the teams and the upsets which shape a tournament.

2. Having ten teams will mean a more evenly-matched and competitive World Cup

  This is a flawed belief. The gap between the top four to five teams and the four to five teams in the next rung was never as big as seen in the 2015 World Cup. Teams like England & West Indies failed to match up to the standards of the top four teams, i.e Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa.

  On the other hand, the Associate teams were by comparison more competitive against the lower-ranked full members in spite of limited opportunities in the lead-up to the tournament. There is no such thing as an ‘evenly-matched’ World Cup no matter how much the number of teams are reduced.

  The name says it all – it is a ‘World’ cup and the world has to be there in it in the truest sense possible. Cricket could do well to take inspiration from other sports. At the most 10-15 teams are genuinely capable of winning the football World Cup, yet FIFA have 32 teams and are planning to expand to as many as 48 teams in the future.

  Similarly, rugby union has 6-8 teams capable of winning the World Cup, but the tournament has 20 teams with plans to expand to 24. The ICC, by contrast, is cutting down from 14 teams to ten. In reality, the apt number of teams in the cricket World Cup should be between 14 and 16, whatever be the format.

3. Associates make the World Cup uncompetitive and drag it too long

  It is not the Associates that make the World Cup uncompetitive, but the poor performance of lower-ranked full members that do so. We saw this in the Super Eight stage in 2007, when we had a clear top four  – Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa & New Zealand.

  The remaining teams won just one match among them against top four teams and that win came from ninth-ranked Bangladesh. England & West Indies suffered heavy losses to the top four teams.

  It happened in 2015 as well as we got a clear top four in Australia, New Zealand, India & South Africa. The remaining teams won just one match among them against the top four, with Pakistan winning against South Africa. And just like 2007, England & West Indies suffered heavy losses to the top four teams.

zzzz    In a long-drawn round-robin format, there is the danger of having many one-sided matches such as the one between New Zealand and England in the 2015 edition (source – ndtv.com)

  The Associates have gave us some of the best World Cup moments in 2011. We saw Ireland chase down 327 against England in one of the great comebacks of all time. Kevin O’Brien scored a memorable 113 off 63 balls which saw him achieve the fastest World Cup century off just 50 balls.

  Then there was Canada bowling out Pakistan for 184 and being in control for the first 30 overs of the chase before the batting collapsed, Netherlands scoring 292 against England only to lose in the 49th over and Ireland running the West Indies close in a game where a controversial umpiring decision might have affected the outcome.

  2015 saw Ireland beat West Indies after chasing down 304 and Zimbaqbwe by five runs after making 331, Afghanistan coming very close to a win over Sri Lanka, Scotland scoring 318 against Bangladesh but losing despite Kyle Coetzer’s excellent knock of 156 and UAE scoring 285 against Zimbabwe before losing narrowly. 

  The notion that the Associates drag the length of the tournament too has fallen flat on its face. The proposed ten-team ‘World’ Cup in 2019 is scheduled to be three days longer than the 2015 edition, which underlines the hypocrisy of the ICC. Thus it is possible that it will feature a number of dead and inconsequential matches.

  The length of the tournament can be reduced considerably by having two matches in a day, each with a day and a day/night match. Also, the best World Cup format can be said to be 16 teams in four groups of four each, followed by knockouts – 31 matches and can be done in three to four weeks.

  But this format has a disadvantage of a team getting only three matches in the group phase. The group stage of the current format, used in 2011 and 2015, can be reduced to 21 days by having two matches a day, followed by about ten days for knockouts, thus lasting a total of about five weeks after adding a few rest days in between.

  It might seem hypothetical at this stage, but even if the cricket World Cup were to expand to 32 teams with the same format as the football World Cup, it will still take a shorter period than that proposed for 2019. So it is the scheduling and not the number of Associates that determines the long-drawn nature of the World Cup. 

4. A ten-team World Cup will generate more revenue

zpngp     Reducing the World Cup to just ten teams will cause serious damage to the future hopes of emerging nations such as Papua New Guinea (source – smh.com.au)

  The current format will work better than the proposed ten-team World Cup even in revenue terms. Firstly, India, the biggest revenue earner in cricket, will be guaranteed a minimum of seven matches including an expected quarterfinal match.

  The ten-team World Cup guarantees nine matches, but there is a chance of having meaningless matches towards the end of the round and suppose if India get knocked out after seven matches, the remaining two matches will not be of much interest to the huge Indian fan-base.

  With only top four teams from the ten-team league stage making it to the semis, there is a high possibility of dead rubbers which might kill the interest of viewers. The current format, at least keeps the interest going till the very end and in the 2015 World Cup, the quarter-finalists were not decided until the last group match.

  Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands are among the top Associate teams and are very likely to qualify if the 2019 World Cup is kept to 14-16 teams. Add to that these countries’ closeness to England, and it may lead to healthy viewership numbers and revenue. More teams will lead to more revenue – it is simple business logic.

  To conclude, it should be said that the theory of a ten-team World Cup being more successful and meaningful than a World Cup with at least 14 teams is a big myth. The ten-team ‘World’ Cup will end up doing more harm than good to cricket in the long run.

  This move can cause irreparable damage to cricket in emerging countries like Papua New Guinea and Nepal. If Ireland or Zimbabwe miss out, interest in the sport will gradually take a beating in these countries. We have already seen how Kenya faded away in recent times due to the apathy of the ICC as well as their ow board.

  Associates can become world beaters too – look no further than Sri Lanka, who were an Associate team in the 1975 and 1979 World Cups and went on to win the trophy in 1996. The cricket world needs more such fairy-tales and the sooner the ICC realises that, the better it will be for the development of the game.

Review – Looking back at the best matches and moments of the 2015 World Cup

  The eleventh edition of the cricket World Cup drew to a close with the two best teams of the tournament contesting the final in front of a record crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

  Michael Clarke’s Australians proved to be too strong for Brendon McCullum’s New Zealanders on the big day as they cruised to a comprehensive seven-wicket victory. Australia now have won five World Cup titles – each of them remarkably coming in a different continent.

  The last 44 days saw many memorable moments that shaped cricket’s premier limited-overs event. While it was undoubtedly a batting-oriented tournament, there was no dearth of quality bowling displays. Eventually, the teams with better bowling resources were the most successful.

  As yet another World Cup rolls into history, let us look back and relive the matches and moments that defined the tournament.

The six best matches

6) Bangladesh v England at Adelaide

  The Tigers roared into the quarterfinals with a determined performance which embarrassingly knocked out England with a match still to go.

  Bangladesh were rescued from a worrisome 99/4 by a fine maiden hundred from Mahmudullah, who scored 103 off 138 balls. He shared a fifth-wicket stand of 141 with Mushfiqur Rahim (89) to shift the momentum towards his team. The final total read a competitive 275/7.

  England were in the contest at 121/2 in 26 overs, but Rubel Hossain’s double-strike jolted them. Jos Buttler (65) tried his best but Bangladesh kept up the pressure with regular scalps. Rubel (4/53) ended it all by taking two wickets in three balls as England were bowled out for 260 in 48.3 overs.

5) Ireland v UAE at Brisbane

  Shaiman Anwar’s 106 from number six and his seventh-wicket partnership of 107 with Amjad Javed shepherded UAE from  131/6 to 278/9. The last 15 overs brought a massive 146 runs.

  Ireland made a cautious start and stuttered to 97/4 at the halfway stage. Gary Wilson put his hand up and shared partnerships of 74 with Andrew Balbirnie for the fifth wicket and 72 in just six overs with Kevin O’Brien (50 off 25 balls) for the sixth wicket.

  When Wilson was out for 80 from 69 balls, Ireland still needed 12 to win from 15 balls. The tail however held their nerve and ensured a tense two-wicket win with four balls to spare.

CRICKET-WC-2015-NZL-RSA      Daniel Vettori (left) and Grant Elliott exult after the latter hit the winning six to deliver New Zealand’s semifinal win against South Africa (source – ibtimes.co.uk)

4) Ireland v Zimbabwe at Hobart

  Ireland kept their cool to eke out a last-gasp five-run win with three balls remaining in a see-sawing high-scorer. This win enabled them to stay alive in the competition whereas Zimbabwe got knocked out.

  Ireland piled up 331/8 after batting first, with Ed Joyce (112) and Andrew Balbirnie (97) doing the bulk of the scoring through a 138-run third-wicket stand. Zimbabwe needed to chase down the highest total in World Cup history in order to win.

  Zimbabwe slipped to 74/4 in the 17th over, but Brendan Taylor (121) and Sean Williams (96) staged  gallant fightback through a 149-run stand for the fifth wicket. It all came down to seven runs needed off the last over, where Alex Cusack (4/32) took the last two wickets to break Zimbabwean hearts.

3) Afghanistan v Scotland at Dunedin

  Afghanistan won their first ever World Cup match with a thrilling one-wicket victory. After Afghanistan elected to field, pacemen Shapoor Zadran (4/38) and Dawlat Zadran (3/29) combined to bowl out Scotland for 210.

  In reply, Afghanistan were in control at 85/2 in the 19th over with Javed Ahmadi and Samiullah Shenwari in the middle, but the former’s dismissal for 51 triggered a sensational collapse of five for 12 in five overs as the score slid to 97/7.

  But Shenwari was still there and he added crucial runs with the tail. He was ninth out for 96 with 19 runs needed off 19 balls. The last pair of Hamid Hassan and Shapoor managed to hang on and complete the win with three balls left, leading to emotional scenes.

2) New Zealand v Australia at Auckland

  This was another low-scorer which ended in a classic finish. Australia were cruising along at 80/1 in the 13th over after batting first when Daniel Vettori removed Shane Watson to turn the game around.

  The middle-order then stunningly caved in to the pace and swing of Trent Boult (5/27) as the score went from 80/1 to 106/9 in just nine overs. Australia were eventually bowled out for 151 in 32.2 overs.

  In reply, Brendon McCullum’s quick 50 guided New Zealand to 79/2 in only eight overs. But Mitchell Starc (6/28) ripped through the batting to reduce the score from 131/4 to 146/9. It was left to Kane Williamson to strike the winning six and seal a relieved victory for the hosts with 26.5 overs unused.

1) New Zealand v South Africa at Auckland

  This first semifinal was arguably the best match of the tournament and will also go down as one of the best ODI matches ever played. New Zealand prevailed in an epic finish which enabled them to make their first World Cup final.

  South Africa were soon 31/2 after batting first, but recovered through an anchoring innings from Faf du Plessis (82). After a sluggish first 30 overs, du Plessis and skipper A.B de Villiers (65) began to explode. A rain interruption after the 38th over meant that the match was reduced to 43 overs-a-side.

  South Africa finished with 281/5, thereby setting New Zealand a revised target of 299. Brendon McCullum (59 off 26 balls) launched a stunning assault to lay the platform. His dismissal led to a mini wobble from 71/0 to 149/4. But Grant Elliott (84* off 73) and Corey Anderson put on 103 for the fifth wicket.

  When Anderson was out for 58, New Zealand needed 47 from the last five overs. South Africa began to wilt under the pressure as they committed several fielding lapses. The last over began with 12 needed. With five needed off two balls, Elliott struck Dale Steyn for a six to seal a four-wicket victory.

The six best moments

6) Ireland defeating the West Indies

  Ireland signalled their intent with an authoritative victory over the West Indies in their opening game at Nelson. The world’s leading Associate nation clinically chased down a total of 304/7 to throw open Group B.

  Paul Stirling (92), Ed Joyce (84) and Niall O’Brien (79*) ensured that the total was chased down with as many as 25 balls remaining. Most importantly, the win was not treated as an upset; in fact, many were expecting the Irishmen to win.

  With this win, Ireland reaffirmed their status as the torchbearers of the Associate world and sent a strong reminder to the hypocrites at the ICC who have decided for a ten-team ‘World Cup’ in 2019.

zzshapooor    Afghanistan’s Shapoor Zadran provided the most iconic moment of the World Cup with his celebration following his country’s first ever win in the tournament (source – edition.cnn.com)

5) Daniel Vettori’s one-handed catch

  The recently-retired Daniel Vettori had a highly satisfying tournament, in which he picked up 15 wickets at 20.46. But his personal highlight came not as a bowler, but as a fielder.

  New Zealand had amassed a mammoth 393/6 in the quarterfinal against the West Indies at Wellington, but the Windies batsmen had got off to a decent start and were placed at 80/2 after nine overs. Marlon Samuels was on strike as Trent Boult began the tenth over.

  Samuels clouted the first ball towards the stands and it did seem like it was going to sail over. But he had reckoned without Vettori, who leapt high and out of nowhere pulled off a one-handed screamer at deep point. The crowd roared and his team-mates were animated, but Vettori himself remained as calm as he could be.

4) Hamid Hassan’s unique celebration

  With his country’s colours painted on his face and on the headband around his forehead, Afghan fast bowler Hamid Hassan was one of the reasons why the World Cup was enjoyable to watch.

  In the group match against Sri Lanka at Dunedin, Hassan provided one of the most heartwarming moments of the tournament after he got the prized wicket of Kumar Sangakkara.

  Hassan crashed through Sangakkara’s defence to reduce Sri Lanka, who were chasing 232, to 18/3 and expressed his joy with a delightful cartwheel. While the cartwheel might not have been perfect, it signified how much it meant for Hassan and the Afghans.

3) Wahab Riaz v Shane Watson

  The stirring duel between Wahab Riaz and Shane Watson in the quarterfinal at Adelaide will remain one of the most talked-about points of the tournament.

  It all began when Watson, fielding in the slips, sledged Riaz by asking ‘are you holding a bat?’ when the latter came out to bat during Pakistan’s innings. A few minutes later, Riaz also had an exchange with Mitchell Starc who was trying to rub it in along with a few others.

  With Australia set a modest 214 to win, a fired-up Riaz gave it back to Watson in a hair-raising manner. In one of the most mesmerising spells seen in recent times, Riaz made Watson duck, sway and scamper for survival. Riaz was already on song – having got rid of David Warner and Michael Clarke – when Watson came out to bat.

  His very first ball to Watson was a short one and then followed it up with a barrage of snorters. However, Watson was lucky to be dropped when on 4, following which Wahab lost his intensity. He remained unbeaten on 64 to guide Australia to victory, but that little passage of play was certainly the highlight of the game.

2) Grant Elliott and the spirit of cricket

  In the epic semifinal at Auckland, New Zealand and South Africa were both gunning for a place in the summit clash,something which neither team had done before.

  After a hard-fought tussle, it was New Zealand who emerged on the winning side, holding out for a heart-stopping four-wicket triumph with a ball to spare. The star of the show was Grant Elliott, who scored 84* and struck the winning six off Dale Steyn.

  As a crestfallen Steyn slumped on the pitch, Elliott put his joy aside for a while and reached out his hand to the bowler in a touching show of commiseration. It was a wonderful moment that captured the very essence of sport.

1) Shapoor Zadran’s victory dash

  Qualifying for the World Cup was a fairy-tale in itself for the Afghans, who fought all odds to rise from refugee camps to the world’s biggest stage.

  The dream reached its zenith amidst the serene environs of Dunedin’s University Oval, where Afghanistan beat Scotland in a gripping finish to win their first World Cup match. When last man Shapoor Zadran strode out to bat, Afghanistan – chasing 210 – still needed 19 to win from as many balls.

  The long-haired Shapoor and fellow tailender Hamid Hassan managed to steadily whittle down the target and eventually it was Shapoor – who had earlier taken 4/38 – who hit the winning boundary in the final over.

  As soon as he realised it, he took off his helmet and made a dash to a corner of the ground. He knelt down and looked skywards, with his hands spread out wide, as his team-mates converged on him. There was emotion, there was delirium, there was gratitude. It was a moment for the ages.