Written by Bella Dalima
05 Feb, 2015 | 4:12 pm
From era-defining upsets to record-breaking feats, via a political protest, drug scandal and murder hunt, the Cricket World Cup has provided the backdrop to some startling storylines both on and off the field.
So, if the 10 previous tournaments are anything to go by, the 2015 World Cup is bound to throw up a jaw-dropping incident or two when it gets under way in Australia and New Zealand on 14 February.
Here, are 10 moments that shocked the Cricket World Cup, with insights from those who were there.
1. England floored by pink-haired Irishman (2011)
Kevin O’Brien, a club cricketer for Railway Union in his native Ireland, sent England careering off the tracks with the fastest century in World Cup history. With his hair dyed pink in the name of charity, O’Brien threw everything at an attack featuring James Anderson and Stuart Broad to help his side recover from 111-5 and overhaul England’s imposing total of 327-8 with five balls to spare.
He struck six sixes and 13 fours, reaching his century in 50 balls, 16 fewer than the previous tournament record set by former Australia opener Matthew Hayden.
2. Twenty-two runs off one ball (1992)
Appearing at the tournament for the first time following the apartheid ban, South Africa beat Australia, West Indies, Pakistan and India en route to the semi-finals. Their contest against England was bubbling up to boiling point when the rain – and the controversial rules – combined to produce the ultimate damp squib.
After a 12-minute rain delay, South Africa’s target was adjusted from 22 runs off 13 balls to an impossible 22 off one, leaving the Proteas incensed and England embarrassed as they limped into the final.
3. The Fredalo affair (2007)
England’s 2005 Ashes hero Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff dished up a textbook tabloid tale when he had a drunken run-in with a pedalo during the 2007 World Cup.
Following an eight-hour drinking spree with team-mates in St Lucia after England lost their opening match, Flintoff had to be helped by staff at a five-star hotel when he fell into the rough waters of the Caribbean Sea. As the term ‘Fredalo’ entered everyday parlance, he was stripped of the vice-captaincy and banned for one match.
4. Kapil’s catch (1983)
The first two World Cups went to form with West Indies, the dominant team of the era, winning the trophy at Lord’s. Clive Lloyd’s Caribbean kings were expected to make it a hat-trick at the same venue when unfancied India made it through to the 1983 final, but in one single moment the destiny of the match was transformed.
Viv Richards mistimed a hook over mid-wicket and sent the ball soaring into the sky. India captain Kapil Dev darted back from mid-on, trained his eye on the ball as it fell from the London sky and clasped it in his palms as it dropped over his shoulder. The Windies collapsed, India rejoiced and the country’s love affair with one-day cricket was born.
5. Shane Warne fails drug test (2003)
6. Bob Woolmer’s death (2007)
The World Cup became an international news story when Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his Jamaican hotel room the day after his team’s shock defeat by Ireland. When local police launched a murder investigation, conspiracy theories abounded and fingers were pointed at players, fans and betting syndicates.
Three months later, Jamaican police announced that Woolmer had in fact died of natural causes, bringing the disturbing episode to a conclusion.
7. ‘The choke of the century’ (1999)
South Africa had already let Australia off the hook once in the Super Six phase when Herschelle Gibbs famously “dropped the World Cup”, but that lapse paled into insignificance alongside their shambolic handling of a semi-final run chase. With South Africa nine wickets down and needing nine runs off the final over at Edgbaston, Lance Klusener smashed fours off the first two balls to level the scores, only for disaster to strike two deliveries later.
Klusener set off for a single, partner Allan Donald did not respond and was stranded in the middle when Adam Gilchrist whipped off the bails. As Australia advanced courtesy of their superior record in the group stage, South Africa’s reputation for “choking” was well and truly established.
8.’The death of democracy’ (2003)
Andy Flower, Zimbabwe’s most successful player, and Henry Olonga, the country’s first black cricketer, made a courageous protest against President Robert Mugabe’s oppressive regime at their team’s opening World Cup match in Harare. They released a statement to journalists in which they denounced the “death of democracy” in their homeland and took to the field wearing black armbands.
While the players’ actions drew the attention of the world to what they saw as human rights abuses taking place in their country, it also spelt the end of their international careers and condemned Flower and Olonga to a life in exile.
9. De Silva lining for Sri Lanka (1996)
The Sri Lankans had only won four of their 22 matches in World Cups before co-hosting the tournament in 1996 but the decision by West Indies and Australia to boycott their group matches in the country on safety grounds assisted their surprise run to the final. Few gave them much hope against an Australia side featuring the Waugh twins, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in Lahore.
However, an inspirational all-round performance from a 5ft 3in batsman shocked the favourites and brought unbridled joy to a war-torn nation. Aravinda de Silva prised out Mark Taylor, Ponting and Ian Healy with his off-spin before stroking an unbeaten 107 to secure the trophy.
10. And finally… Leverock’s lunge (2007)
Bermudian jail officer Dwayne Leverock shocked – and shook – the World Cup when he threw his 20-stone frame to the right and plucked a one-handed catch out of the air to dismiss India’s Robin Uthappa in the second over of their group match in Trinidad. Leverock wheeled away in celebration before collapsing in tears as his equally emotional team-mates piled on top of him.
Leverock, who also dismissed England’s Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood with his left-arm spin in a warm-up match, was named Sports Personality of the Year and Athlete of the Year on his return to Bermuda.
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