England have a dominant recent record against Australia, having beaten them in nine of their past 10 ODI encounters. Now, circumstances have changed.
Now to the final episode, climaxing with the World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand in 2015. Call it a finale.
Shenwari’s sixes lead to Afghanistan’s one-wicket win
The match between two minor cricketing nations, Afghanistan and Scotland, turned out to be an epic encounter.
Scotland started poorly, losing 8-144, but Majid Haq and Alasdair Evans added 62 for the ninth wicket to total 210.
Tall Afghani fast-medium bowler Shapoor Zadran, with a long run-up and longer hair, captured 4-38 and was supported by medium pacer Dawlat Zadran (3-29).
Opener Javed Ahmadi started off with a run-a-ball 51 enriched with eight fours but Afghanistan were soon 7-97. However, they recovered to reach 9-211 and win with a wicket and three balls to spare.
The player behind the recovery and victory was man of the match Samiullah Shenwari, who hit 96.
Six-maniac Shenwari belted seven fours and five sixes, three of the maximums coming in the 47th over, with the third landing near the Afghan supporters chanting “Mighty, mighty Afghans.”
Boult from the blue as Kiwis win by one wicket
Nineteen wickets fell in only 55.3 overs, the scheduled 100-over match finishing in almost half that time, but the home crowd of Kiwis were delighted – a win against Australia makes them ecstatic.
Australia was swung out, crashing from 1-80 in 13th over to 9-106 in the 22nd and all out for 151 in 32.2. The destroyer of the Aussie castle was seamer Trent Boult.
New Zealand captain and opening batsman Brendon McCullum played an aggressive innings of 50 at a run rate of over 200, smashing the two Mitchells – Johnson and Starc. In all, he hit seven fours and two sixes. But his dismissal led to a collapse.
Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott fell off successive deliveries from Starc on either side of the break. New Zealand lost three wickets for one run and was 4-79 in the ninth over. Cool and classy batsman Kane Williamson propped up the slide.
Corey Anderson attacked lustily, adding 52 runs with Williamson and took New Zealand to 131, now only 21 runs needed for an upset win. Then the match took a further twist as three wickets tumbled in successive overs and they were 7-145, needing seven runs to win with plenty of overs remaining.
Williamson was batting faultlessly but he erred in taking a single in the 23rd over from Starc, exposing the tail-enders Adam Milne and Tim Southee who were bowled. Wisely, Boult left the last two balls from Starc alone.
It came down to six runs to win with only number 11 batsman Boult remaining. Amid ear-splitting appalause, Williamson hit the first ball from Cummins for a six.
The home crowd exploded, cheering their heroes and booing the Aussies as New Zealand won by one wicket.
Guptill’s ton behind Kiwis’ sixth successive win
Bangladesh’s Mahmudullah was at his prolific best, smashing an unbeaten 128 runs off 123 deliveries. He added 90 runs for the third wicket with Soumya Sarkar (51) and 78 with Sabbir Rahman (40 off 23) for the sixth wicket.
Bangladesh totalled a competitive 7-288. Skipper and slow left-arm orthodox bowler Shakib Al Hasan opened the attack and took 4-55.
New Zealand opener Martin Guptill batted confidently and struck 105 runs off 100 balls to add 131 runs for the third wicket with Ross Taylor (56 runs).
Later, Corey Anderson hit three fours and three sixes in his 26-ball blitz of 39 runs. Tail-ender Southee smashed a six and a four in the 49th over as his team reached the win target with three wickets and seven balls remaining.
Guptill was man of the match in New Zealand’s sixth win in a row.
South Africa chokes
In a rain-interrupted semi-final, South Africa made 5-281 in 43 overs, with Faf du Plessis scoring 82 and AB de Villiers 65 not out. Then came rains and the match was reduced to 43 overs. David Miller smashed 49 off 18 balls, while Corey Anderson took the most wickets but was expensive.
Chasing a revised target of 298 runs, New Zealand received given a blistering start, as McCullum scored 59. With 94 runs needed off 70 deliveries, de Villiers squandered a run-out chance, then with only 14 required off seven balls, Grant Elliott was almost caught by substitute fielder Farhaan Berhardien but there was a collision and Elliott survived.
Needing 12 runs in the final over, Elliott drove the penultimate ball from Dale Steyn over long-on for a six and New Zealand won by four wickets to enter a World Cup final for the first time.
Another Aussie victory
Oozing confidence, New Zealand met Australia in the final on the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the home side exacted revenge, winning by seven wickets as 90,000 Aussie spectators chanted “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; oi, oi, oi!”
It was a convincing victory but not a thriller.
I hope you have been enjoying my 11-part series on World Cup heart-stoppers. These thrillers – spanning 40 years on five continents – gave me joy to watch either live or on television.
Which is your favourite World Cup cliffhanger, Roarers?