As we all know, cricket is a game of partnerships; batting, bowling, even fielding with a throw to the keeper for a runout.
When a lower ranked team beats one of the bigger boys, it’s usually termed as an upset.
Then the upset gets talked about by the cricketing world for years to come, especially if those who caused the upset continue to make progress.
But what about all the times teams were so close to causing an upset? In this five-part series, I’ll be looking at my favourite near upsets that have occurred in the past decade. Part 1 will be looking at my favourite near upsets of international cricket between 2010-11, in no particular order.
England versus Ireland – Providence, 2010
With both sides losing to the West Indies, the neighbours locked horns to take second place and qualify for the Super 8 in the T20 World Cup. Having elected to field, the decision paid dividends as England slumped to 3-32 in the power play. Kevin Pietersen fell for nine as England were in deep trouble at 4-49 at the halfway stage. Even after a 41-run stand between Eoin Morgan (45 off 37) and Luke Wright (20 off 24), England sluggishly scrapped their way to 8-120.
Ireland had bowled and fielded exceptionally well, but the job wasn’t done yet. Eight balls into Ireland’s innings, rain interrupted play for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, but the break didn’t shorten the game. The break in play seemed to work for England as the big-hitting Paul Stirling fell for a six-ball duck. Niall O’Brien came in and played his shots as he raced off to nine off five. But then the heavens opened up for a second time. And this time, there was no coming back. Ireland were 1-14 after 3.3 overs, and the match was declared a no result.
Five overs constitutes a T20 match for Duckworth Lewis method to come into play, and Ireland needed 27 in five overs. England went through to the Super 8 based on the superior net run rate, but they knew the rain had saved them. In tournaments, you need a slice of luck to go your way to win. That was the slice of luck for England as they ended up winning the championship.
Bangladesh versus Australia – Bridgetown, 2010
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Bangladesh faced Australia in Bridgetown in the T20 World Cup. Despite a poor first over from Shafiul Islam, Bangladesh had a brilliant power play with the dangerous David Warner gone for 16 and Australia 2-35.
Australia were struggling against the spin trio of Abdur Razzak, Shakib Al Hasan and Mohammad Ashraful as they slumped to 6-65 in the 13th over.
But Australia had Michael Hussey at the crease, and Hussey tends to score crucial runs in precarious situations. Hussey (47 off 29) and Steve Smith (27 off 18) put on 74 off 42 for the seventh wicket before Smith was run out in the second last ball of the innings as Australia posted 7-141 in their 20 overs. If the Tigers chased it under 14.4 overs, Australia would be knocked out as Pakistan and Bangladesh would go to the Super 8 on net run rate. If Bangladesh chased it down between 14.4 and 19 overs, they would go through alongside Australia to the Super 8.
Bangladesh started miserably with the bat. The pace of Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait seemed to trouble the batsmen as Bangladesh were in serious strife at 4-15 in the fourth over. A 48-run stand between Shakib Al Hasan (28 off 28) and Mushfiqur Rahim (24 off 25) kept Bangladesh in the hunt, but the pair’s dismissals saw them practically down and out at 7-81. A few lusty blows by Jahurul Islam and Shafiul Islam gave Bangladesh fans something to smile about before they were bowled out for 114.
It was a massive chance blown by the Tigers. Sure, inexperience played a part, but that was some horrendous batting by their top order. Rather than consolidating against the pace duo of Nannes and Tait, they decided to take the risky option, and it backfired massively. For Australia, this was the wake-up call they needed before the Super 8 as they ended up being runners-up of the tournament.
Ireland versus Australia – Dublin, 2010
In their first meeting outside an ICC tournament, Ireland hosted Australia in Dublin in the biggest game in their cricketing history. Having been sent out to field first, Ireland were very disciplined with the ball. The new ball pair of Boyd Rankin and Trent Johnston gave no width as Australia were 1-40 at the end of the first power play. Despite a 65-run stand between Ricky Ponting (33 off 54) and Tim Paine (81 off 122), Ireland kept the run rate in check as Australia were in trouble at 3-86 in the 23rd over.
Cameron White joined Paine at the crease as he tried to shift the momentum towards Australia’s favour, but the Irishmen were very sharp on the field. White scored a handy 42 before he was dismissed as Paine started to up the ante. Ireland remained very committed throughout the innings as Paine finally departed and a few overs later, Michael Hussey was gone for a sluggish eight off 17.
Bowling all-rounders James Hopes and Nathan Hauritz scored a few quick runs as Australia scraped their way to 9-231 in their quota of 50 overs. Ireland had bowled and fielded very well, but they would have to fight hard for their runs when it was their turn to bat.
Ireland’s openers were excellent with the bat. Peter Stirling (36 off 36) and William Porterfield (39 off 42) signalled their intentions very quickly as Ireland raced off to 42 for no loss after four overs. The Aussie pace trio of Doug Bollinger, Ryan Harris and Clint McKay were shown no mercy with Ireland 0-76 at the end of the first power play. Ryan Harris finally gave the breakthrough Australia needed, taking Stirling’s leg stump out for a cartwheel. Keeper Gary Wilson fell to Harris for four and Porterfield fell to Hauritz as Ireland went from 0-80 to 3-86. Australia were back in the game, but Ireland were still ahead.
Alex Cusack and Niall O’Brien began to rebuild the Irish innings as Ireland made slow but steady progress in the game. The pair rotated the strike well and took advantage of anything dished up with width by the Australian bowlers. After 24 overs, Ireland were well and truly ahead at 3-136. But James Hopes had other ideas. He bowled a magnificent spell as Ireland collapsed to 9-156 in the 35th over with Hopes taking five wickets in the process. All-rounder John Mooney battled with number 11 Boyd Rankin but Shane Watson dismissed Mooney for 38 as Australia won by 39 runs.
The run rate was never an issue for Ireland. Not once did the required run rate go anywhere out of hand, let alone over six. Some poor batting by the middle order and a quality spell by James Hopes (5-14 off nine overs) bailed Australia out of jail. Despite the loss, Ireland had shown the strides they had made in international cricket. In the 2007 World Cup, they were bowled out for 91 and lost by nine wickets. Albeit against a weaker Australian side, they had nearly pulled off the greatest upset by an association team against the reigning World Cup champions.
Netherlands versus England – Nagpur, 2011
In the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, the two sides faced each other to kick off their World Cup campaign. Winning the toss on a flat pitch, the Dutch elected to bat first. Netherlands started pretty well with both the openers getting a start but neither of them converted it to more significant scores. Ryan ten Doeschate walked in at four, and the Netherlands started to get in a groove again.
Alongside Tom Cooper (47 off 73), the pair put on 78 for the third wicket before the Dutch lost two quick wickets. Ten Doeschate built two more 50-plus stands with Tom de Grooth (28 off 31) and skipper Peter Borren (35 off 24) before he was dismissed for a well made 119 off 110 balls. Mudassar Bukhari and Borren combined for an 18-run stand in the last two overs as the Netherlands posted an impressive 6-292.
English openers Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss signalled their intentions very early as the pair played risk-free cricket and kept up with the run rate. The Dutch had to wait for 18 overs before Pieter Seelaar gave them the breakthrough they desperately needed. Jonathan Trott came in and kept the scoreboard ticking as England kept the required run rate in check. After Strauss’s dismissal (88 off 83), Trott combined with Ian Bell for a 58-run stand before Ten Doeschate dismissed both batsmen in the space of a few overs. England needed 52 off 42, and the Netherlands were still right in the hunt. Paul Collingwood (30 off 23) and Ravi Bopara (30 off 20) hit singles and hit the odd boundary until Bopara cut loose in the 49th over and took England home comfortably in the end.
Despite Ten Doeschate’s heroics with both bat and ball, Netherlands fell just short. Despite being miserable with the ball, England held their nerve and avoided a repeat of the Dutch upsetting the English as they had done at Lord’s two years ago.
Pakistan versus Canada – Colombo, 2011
Another 2011 World Cup classic, where a bunch of semi-professional cricketers representing Canada took on a Shahid Afridi-led Pakistan in Colombo.
Despite a few positive shots by Mohammad Hafeez, Canada’s bowlers kept things tight with Pakistan 2-44 after ten overs. Pakistan continued to struggle as they were in trouble at 4-67. A 73-run stand between Umar Akmal (48 off 68) and Misbah-ul-Haq (37 off 68) resumed some normalcy in Pakistan’s innings. But that was the only positive to come out of Pakistan’s batting as they went from 5-165 to 184 all out in the 43rd over.
Pakistan started strongly with the ball, removing both Canadian openers within five overs. The Pakistan bowlers kept things very quiet as Canada were 3-44 in the 18th over. Jimmy Hansra joined Zubin Surkari as the pair tried to shift the momentum the Canadians’ way.
Despite a few quiet overs at first, the pair started to find the boundary here and there as Canada passed the 100 mark in the 33rd over. But that’s where the fairy tale began to end. Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi made crucial breakthroughs as Canada slumped to 7-114 with both the set batsmen gone. Tyson Gordon came out swinging, but Afridi took his fifth wicket of the game to ensure the damage came to a premature end before Canada were bowled out for 138.
Pakistan has this knack of defending small totals with ease. Despite Canada fighting hard with bat and ball, they were stopped from causing one of the biggest upsets in international cricket due to some brilliance by Shahid Afridi.
Zimbabwe versus New Zealand – Bulawayo, 2011
On a slow Bulawayo pitch, Zimbabwe hosted New Zealand in a one-off Test match. A century by Martin Guptill (109) alongside half-centuries by skipper Ross Taylor (76) and Dean Brownlie (63) propelled New Zealand to post 426. In reply, Zimbabwe batted well, but none of their batsmen got the big hundred needed to match 426 as they were bowled out for 313. Despite a few hiccups, New Zealand batted more aggressively to get a result as Zimbabwe were tasked with chasing 366 for victory.
Zimbabwe’s top three got starts, but no one kicked on as they were 3-157. A 108-run partnership for the fourth wicket by Brendan Taylor (117) and Tatenda Taibu (63) not only kept Zimbabwe in with a chance to draw, but they were in the box seat to win. With one session of play left, Zimbabwe needed 101 runs for victory with seven wickets in hand.
Taylor was dismissed on the second ball after tea, and Taibu fell soon after. Zimbabwe kept on fighting. With 12 overs of play left, they required 48 for victory with four wickets in hand. Doug Bracewell bagged a five-for, but Malcolm Waller was still there to keep Zimbabwe in the hunt. The experienced Daniel Vettori trapped Waller leg before for 29 before taking the last wicket as New Zealand won a thriller by 34 runs.
Zimbabwe had been readmitted into Test cricket a few months before this game and had nearly pulled off the unthinkable. They were in the driving seat and batted for the win. Unfortunately, it didn’t come off, but it was a glimpse of what this Zimbabwean side could do in Test cricket at their full potential.