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ICC tournament innings of the decade: Part 1

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Roar Guru
20th January, 2020
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ICC 50-over tournaments during the 2010s brought many great moments for cricket fans. Part 1 of this article will look at my favourite knocks in chronological order during the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Sehwag blitz starts India’s campaign off with a bang
It was the opening game of the World Cup. Co-hosts Bangladesh versus India in Dhaka. On a pitch expected to get harder to score on as the game progressed, Bangladesh surprisingly elected to field.

Four years prior, Virender Sehwag failed to get going as India were shocked by Bangladesh by five wickets. This time, it was another story. Sehwag caressed his first ball for four and he didn’t look back at all. Bangladesh’s experienced spinners and inexperienced seamers were smashed all over the park. No matter what Shakib Al Hasan tried, his bowlers (including himself) had no answers.

Sehwag formed 50-plus partnerships with Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir before combining with Virat Kohli (who scored an impressive 83-ball ton himself) for a whopping 203-run stand. Sehwag would finally depart for 175 at an impressive strike rate of 125 in the 48th over as India posted 4-370 in the end.

Bangladesh were in the hunt at 2-188 but the required run rate hovering over ten was too much for the inexperienced Tigers and they finished with 9-283. The defeat in Trinidad that led to a group stage exit for India had been avenged and Virender Sehwag ensured all nerves were gone within the Indian team and their fans.

Ten Doeschate gives England a scare in Nagpur
England had already felt the wrath of the Dutch in an ICC tournament. In the 2009 T20 World Cup, the Netherlands chased down 163 in a thriller at Lord’s. Two years on, they would face each other again in Nagpur where the Netherlands elected to bat first.

The Netherlands had a decent opening power play but England chipped in with wickets before things got out of hand. Twelve overs into the Dutch innings, all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate walked into the crease with his team 2-58.

A naturally aggressive batsman, Ten Doeschate took his time, taking 12 balls to get off the mark with a boundary. It wasn’t until after his first 30-odd balls that he started taking on the English part-time duo of Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen.

Ten Doeschate formed three 60-plus-run stands with Tom Cooper (yes, the South Australian and Renegades batsman), Tom de Grooth and captain Peter Borren as he scored an impressive 119 off just 110 balls before departing in the 49th over. As his innings progressed, he switched to more aggressive gears, showing no mercy against the English bowlers including James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

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The Netherlands ended up with 6-292 in their 50 overs and Ten Doeschate chipped in with the ball as well with 2-47 off ten overs. Unfortunately for the Netherlands, England kept holding on and won quite comfortably in the end – winning by six wickets and seven balls remaining in their innings.

But the Netherlands gave Andrew Strauss’ men an almighty fight just like they did at Lord’s two years earlier. This should’ve been a wake-up call for England after nearly being upset by an associates team but it seems like they just wouldn’t learn later on in the tournament.

Sachin Tendulkar’s 98th international ton
After Virender Sehwag led India to a flier in their World Cup campaign, they would face England in Bangalore. Known as a batsman’s paradise due to the nature of the surface and the short boundaries, MS Dhoni had no hesitation batting first.

Sehwag once again started off the Indian innings with a boundary, but fell in the eighth over for 35. Fellow opener Sachin Tendulkar just played his way, taking his time before taking on the bowlers once set. It took the master blaster 66 balls to reach his half-century, slogging Paul Collingwood over midwicket. His second 50 took only 37 balls and it wasn’t by pure slogging – he had played proper genuine shots and rotated the strike when he was struggling to find the rope.

There's a lot of love for Sachin Tendulkar in India

Indian cricket fans adored Sachin Tendulkar. (AP Photo/Aman Sharma)

Tendulkar was dismissed at cover for 120 in the 39th over. His innings provided India the perfect platform for a total close to 350. Half-centuries from Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh helped India accelerate their innings but they would lose five for 11 in the last two overs as India were bowled out for 338. But there was a twist in the tail…

Strauss masterclass headlines thriller in Bangalore
Before this match, the highest total chased down in a World Cup match was 313 in 1992. So chasing 339 in a World Cup game in front of 40,000 Indians must’ve been daunting. But Andrew Strauss showed no fear.

From ball one he attacked India’s bowlers, including their main man Zaheer Khan. His fearless approach led him to score a run-a-ball 50. But in a chase of 340, 50s aren’t enough. You need hundreds to win a game like this. And that’s exactly what he did. He kept on scoring at a run a ball, reaching triple figures in 99 balls. England were 2-182 after 28 overs.

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He shared a whopping 170-run stand for the third wicket alongside Ian Bell and reached 150 off 135 balls in the process. England would need 59 in eight overs and the game was in their hands. Bell departed for a well made 69 trying to loft over mid-off before Strauss’s masterclass came to a halt a ball later.

Despite Strauss scoring 158, the Poms managed to really screw themselves over, needing 29 off the last two overs. Fortunately for them, Graeme Swann, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad swung at everything. The result? A tie. The crowd, commentators and players were stunned. After 599 balls of quality cricket, only a point apiece at the end.

Strauss never gave up and that mindset helped after their 3-1 Ashes win on Australian soil a month earlier. Yes, the format was different but playing like that against India in India during a World Cup is not easy. In the history of ICC World Cups, this was only the fourth time a game had been tied.

Kevin O’Brien’s fastest World Cup ton
The outcome of this match was extremely unexpected. England elected to bat first and put up 8-327 after their 50 overs. Ireland started poorly, losing captain William Porterfield in the first ball of their run chase. However, they built solid partnerships and were in a formidable position at 2-102 after 20 overs.

Then Graeme Swann changed the whole complexion of the game. The off-spinner ripped through the Irish middle order, leaving the Irish reeling at 5-111 a mere 27 balls later. The required run rate was close to 8.5 and with only five wickets left in the shed, the odds were stacked against Ireland.

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All-rounder Kevin O’Brien had seen enough and decided it was time to take it back to the English bowlers. He slogged the English spin duo of Swann and Michael Yardy to a 30-ball 50 – the fastest in Irish ODI history. Andrew Strauss brought on his seamers to control the innings but the opposite happened. The faster Jimmy Anderson and co bowled, the further the ball went into the stands. From 5-111 in the 25th over, Ireland reached 5-263 after 40 overs thanks to O’Brien’s onslaught. An over later, O’Brien reached his hundred in just 50 balls – beating Matthew Hayden’s record for the fastest World Cup century by 16 balls.

Alex Cusack sacrificed himself in the 42nd over and Kevin O’Brien needed the support of John Mooney and the tail if the unthinkable were to be achieved. And he did. In fact, Mooney scored most of the runs while O’Brien played second fiddle. Kevin O’Brien’s counter-attacking innings came to an end when he was run out in the 49th over for 113. His innings didn’t go to waste, though, as Ireland won by three wickets and five balls remaining. To date, 328 is the highest total chased down in the ICC World Cup.

Ten Doeschate’s knock should’ve been a wake-up call for England to not take associate nations lightly during the World Cup. They didn’t pay the price in Nagpur, but they sure did in Bangalore. Kevin O’Brien’s knock will be remembered for decades to come, as it showed associate nations players can take on the big boys if given the chance.

Birthday boy steals the show in Pallekele
New Zealand had a good start to the World Cup with two wins in their first three games. They would face an undefeated Pakistan and on a typical Sri Lankan pitch where it would get harder to score as the ball got older, New Zealand elected to bat first. While Martin Guptill raced off the blocks, New Zealand were still in a spot of bother at 2-55 after 12.3 overs. Enter Ross Taylor.

Ross Taylor of New Zealand plays a shot

(Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

The birthday boy should’ve gone in his fifth ball. He nicked it right between keeper Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan at slip. The result? A boundary. Looking back on the vision, I just find it hilarious as to why a keeper wouldn’t dive for a catch.

After scoring two boundaries in his first six balls, Taylor struggled after that. He had to grind it out against Pakistan’s spinner but he always held his composure. Not once did he let his aggressive nature get the better of him. Taylor reached his 50 in 78 balls. Even after facing over 100 balls, things didn’t seem right for the Kiwi batsman. He seemed to have lost his touch. After facing 111 balls, Taylor ground to 76 not out. New Zealand were 6-210 and it looked like Pakistan were in the box seat. What happened next was breathtaking.

He smashed Shoaib Akhtar for 26 in the 47th over as the birthday boy reached his ton in 117 balls. He would proceed to tonk Abdul Razzaq for 29 in the 49th over. Jacob Oram supported Taylor with a nine-ball 25. Taylor’s first 111 balls consisted of a hard grind for 76 runs. His last 13 balls brought another 55 runs. His 124-ball 131* helped New Zealand achieve 7-302 after 50 overs – probably around 50 runs above par. His innings proved to be the real difference as no Pakistan batsman looked settled to challenge the Kiwis as they won by 110 runs.

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Yuvraj’s all-round day
Before the World Cup, Yuvraj Singh’s form was a worry for the Indian team. But those worries faded soon as he scored three half-centuries in five games. On a rank turner in Chennai, India elected to bat first. With Virender Sehwag rested, Singh walked out at number four with India 2-51 in the ninth over.

The West Indies seamers tested Yuvraj with a few short ones but he passed the test. Soon after the bouncer barrage, he was dropped twice by Darren Sammy. He took his time before hammering spinners Devendra Bishoo and Sulieman Benn on both sides of the wicket. He built a 122-run stand with Virat Kohli before Ravi Rampaul removed Kohli in the 33rd over. MS Dhoni continued the momentum with Singh and he reached his ton in the 41st over – his first ODI ton since 2009 against West Indies. His knock would come to an end in the 45th over for 113, caught and bowled by Kieron Pollard.

India would be bowled out for 268 in the 50th over. West Indies were cruising at 2-154 but they channelled their inner Brisbane Heat and lost 8-34. Yuvraj played a key role in the Windies’ collapse, taking two wickets in the process. His knock on a pitch where you needed to bat long to get set was the difference and gave India some much-needed momentum before their quarter-final clash against rivals Australia.

Punter’s last hurrah
A World Cup quarter-final between India and Australia in Ahmedabad. Both skippers were out of form. On a pitch expected to get slower as was the norm throughout the tournament, Australia elected to bat first. India attacked the Aussie openers with spin and succeeded when Ravi Ashwin had bowled Shane Watson through the gate in the last ball of the power play. In came Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.

ricky ponting plays a sweep

(Photo by Nagesh Ohal/India Today Group/Getty Images)

Ponting bided his time at the crease before unleashing on Yuvraj Singh as he steadily scored 20 in his first 25 balls. Brad Haddin’s counter-attack allowed Punter to just keep the scoreboard ticking as they built a 70-run stand before Haddin departed after scoring a half-century.

Ponting steadily reached his 50 in 67 balls but lost Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey before long. A lack of intent from Cameron White led to Ponting taking on India’s spinners to gain some momentum in Australia’s innings. But India struck again just when they seemed to have built a partnership.

Ponting finally got some support in David Hussey as they motored along and Ponting reached his century in 113 balls. He would finally depart for 104 in the 49th over, dismissed by his nemesis Harbhajan Singh trying to reverse sweep him in the search for quick runs. Ponting was terribly out of form before the quarter-final but had stepped up when he needed to. His century led to Australia posting a competitive 6-260 after their 50 overs. But was it enough against a hungry Indian side?

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Yuvraj’s golden run continues
India started their chase well and was doing well at 2-143. But just as they seemed to have booked their flights to Mohali, David Hussey removed Virat Kohli with a full toss. Yuvraj Singh came in and suddenly India were under pressure. Yuvraj took on Hussey and Jason Krejza to wrestle back some momentum but a brain fade led to him running out Gautam Gambhir in the 34th over.

He reined himself in to hold one end of the innings but MS Dhoni perished to Brett Lee in the 38th over. India needed 74 off 75 balls, and after Suresh Raina at seven, the tail was all that was left in the sheds. Singh decided enough was enough and attacked Brett Lee in the 40th over and the crowd in Ahmedabad found their voice again.

Yuvraj’s counter-attack led to him scoring his 50 within 52 balls, with every run coming under massive pressure. Suresh Raina started finding the boundary soon after that on a consistent basis but Singh hit the winning runs, smashing Lee through cover for four. An emotional Yuvraj looked up to the sky and waved his bat in the air while the Ahmedabad crowd went nuts.

He had ended Australia’s World Cup dominance and India had booked a ticket to the semis against arch-rivals Pakistan. Despite Ricky Ponting’s heroics, it was Yuvraj Singh who had led India to victory.

Yuvraj Singh

(AFP PHOTO/MANAN VATSYAYANA)

Ryder’s day out in Dhaka
New Zealand versus South Africa was the quarter-final clash in Dhaka. New Zealand elected to bat first but it seemed to have backfired when they lost openers Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill in the first six overs.

Jesse Ryder played himself in and attacked any ball with width on both sides of the wicket. After racing off to 33 off 40 balls on a very hard wicket for stroke-making, he just kept on grinding it out with Ross Taylor to set up a platform. Ryder reached his half-century in 71 balls and looked set for a hundred. Boundaries were hard to come by but he never looked to slog his way out and his 114-run stand with Taylor would’ve been 150-plus if the Kiwi number four didn’t look to hoick Imran Tahir back to Pretoria. Scott Styris came out with an attacking mindset but perished for 16 and Ryder would follow him soon after for 83.

Luckily for Ryder, his hard work didn’t go to waste as Kane Williamson ensured the Kiwis got a respectable score of 8-221. South Africa were cruising at 2-108 but then they choked in a knockout game again. New Zealand won by 49 runs but Jacob Oram’s four wickets trumped Ryder’s 83 when it came to determining the player of the match. Nonetheless, Jesse Ryder played an instrumental part in the Kiwis’ victory in the quarter-final clash. He fought hard against a world-class South African bowling attack and scored heavily under pressure.

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Jayawardene shows his class in Mumbai
Scoring an important innings for your country in a World Cup final is the dream for every cricketer. And that’s exactly what Mahela Jayawardene did. Sri Lanka didn’t start too well, scoring at less than a run rate of four in the first 15 overs. They were struggling at 2-60 in the 17th over.

Jayawardene found his groove at the Wankhede pretty quickly and kept on spotting gaps the Sri Lankan openers failed to. He built a 62-run stand with Kumar Sangakkara before Yuvraj Singh removed Sangakkara in the 28th over. Jayawardene didn’t flutter after the wicket and kept on scoring at a brisk pace – his half-century came in 49 balls. He continued striking it at over a hundred, forming two more 50-plus stands with Thilan Samaraweera and Nuwan Kulasekara. In the process, the Sri Lankan star batsman reached a very impressive hundred in just 85 balls. Number eight Thisara Perera provided Sri Lanka with an important nine-ball 22 to push their total to 6-274, Jayawardene ending with 105 not out.

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Gambhir’s greatest white-ball knock
In 2009, Gautam Gambhir batted a whopping ten hours and 159.4 overs to save a Test match in New Zealand, which was regarded as his greatest knock in Test cricket. Two years later he would play his greatest knock in white-ball cricket. Two balls into India’s innings in the World Cup final, he entered the middle after Lasith Malinga trapped Virender Sehwag LBW.

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Things wouldn’t get much better as the Wankhede was silenced when Sachin Tendulkar nicked it to Sangakkara six overs later and the Sri Lankan players were celebrating as if they had won the World Cup already. Gambhir and Virat Kohli soaked up a lot of pressure for the next five overs to keep the Indian players and fans to keep believing.

Gambhir and Kohli started attacking the Sri Lankan bowlers but Gambhir got a lucky life. An excellent player of spin, he misjudged the lack of turn and nearly spooned an attempted shot over cover straight to the hands of long-off only for it to be dropped. Gambhir would make the most of his luck and scored his 50 in 56 balls. Kohli was caught and bowled by an absolute blinder, done by none other than Tillakaratne Dilshan.

But Kohli’s job had been done and now Gambhir needed the support of MS Dhoni to ensure a collapse didn’t occur. Gambhir kept on finding the boundary just when it looked like the Sri Lankan bowlers had him figured out. With 52 required in nine overs, Gambhir’s marathon had seemed to have seen India home.

But the nervous 90s does weird things to cricketers’ brains. An attempted slog to reach his century saw his stumps clattered three runs short of what would’ve been a deserving World Cup final century. Nonetheless, India won quite comfortably but Gambhir was very unlucky not to be adjudged man of the match. He came in the first over, soaked in a lot of pressure and departed when the game was practically over. Gambhir will be remembered as the man who won India the T20 World Cup in 2007 and the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup.