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A history of the most iconic Cricket World Cup finals

Jeremy Blackmore

BY Jeremy Blackmore

17th Nov 2023 Sport

8 min read

A history of the most iconic Cricket World Cup finals
Ahead of the final of this year’s ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad, India, on November 19, we take a look back at some of the most iconic finals in the tournament’s 48-year history

1975: West Indies 291-8 beat Australia 274 by 17 runs (Lord’s, London)

Played across 60 overs, limited overs international cricket was still in its infancy in 1975 but a memorable inaugural world tournament ensured the format was here to stay. It followed the very first women’s World Cup played in England two years previously, when Rachael Heyhoe-Flint lifted the trophy for the home side.
Clive Lloyd
Australia came into the tournament as favourites but West Indies, under an inspirational new captain Clive Lloyd, put a string of defeats in Test Matches behind them to emerge as the new cricketing superpower. They survived an early scare to come back from certain defeat against Pakistan, giving them confidence they could win the tournament.
With a team of exciting youngsters such as Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge, mixed with the experience of players like Rohan Kanhai and boasting a fearsome pace quartet, they beat eventual finalists Australia comfortably early in the competition before eliminating New Zealand in the semifinal.
Hosts England meanwhile were knocked out by Australia in the other semi-final thanks to an astonishing bowling performance by left-arm quick bowler Gary Gilmour.
Lloyd dominated the final. Dropped early in his innings after West Indies had lost three early wickets, he played a commanding knock of 102 off just 85 balls in a partnership of 149 with Kanhai. He memorably hooked Dennis Lillee for six, but his innings was notable for flowing strokeplay all around the famous old ground.
Sharp runouts by Richards arrested Australia’s pursuit of 292 and despite captain Ian Chappell’s 62 they slumped to 233-9. A spirited last-wicket stand of 41 threatened to cause a last-minute upset before Jeff Thomson was run out in the penultimate over, sparking scenes of jubilation among the West Indies’ passionate supporters.

1983: India 183 beat West Indies 140 by 43 runs (Lord’s, London)

Kapil Dev
Lloyd’s West Indies had beaten England comprehensively to win the 1979 World Cup and began the 1983 instalment as firm favourites to add a third title. India, meanwhile, arrived as rank outsiders, having won just one game in the previous two tournaments.
India beat West Indies in their opening group game, but after two defeats including a heavy loss to Australia, their World Cup seemed over when the slumped to 17-5 against minnows Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. Step forward their captain and talisman, all-rounder Kapil Dev whose incredible unbeaten innings of 175 from just 138 balls propelled them to a remarkable victory. It proved a major turning point in their campaign and self-belief.
"The ball seemed destined to race away for four only for Kapil Dev to take a stunning catch running back towards the boundary"
The final was a low-scoring affair. India batted first against the West Indies formidable pace attack and while Krishnamachari Srikkanth took on the short-pitching bowling to top-score with 38, they were ultimately dispatched for just 183 with more than five overs of their innings unused.
The result seemed a formality. India’s mix of medium pace swing bowlers could not match the sheer pace made of their opponents, but found plenty of movement on a green wicket to undo several of the West Indies’ batters. The key moment though was when the imperious Viv Richards (33) played a pull shot against Madan Lal. The ball seemed destined to race away for four only for Kapil Dev to take a stunning catch running back towards the boundary.
Pace legend Michael Holding later admitted that with such a low target, complacency had set in, and no-one had taken it upon themselves to get the runs themselves.
The game is notable not just because of the shock result, but because it raised the profile of one-day cricket in India and inspired a new generation of players like Sachin Tendulkar as the country became a powerhouse in the limited overs formats.

1987: Australia 253 for five beat England 246 for eight by seven runs (Eden Gardens, Kolkata)

Cricket’s oldest international rivals squared up in the final of the first World Cup to be held outside England, a tournament staged jointly by India and Pakistan in front of huge, passionate crowds.
Almost 100,000 fans packed out Eden Gardens and while the majority were expecting an India v Pakistan final, they were treated to a close contest with underdogs Australia emerging victorious by just seven runs.
The Australians were in transition with Allan Border leading a largely inexperienced squad from the front. Border gave his young charges responsibility and expected them to work hard in return.
Opener David Boon set the tone with a gutsy 75 but Australia lost three quick wickets. The unsung Mike Veletta enjoyed a relatively brief international career, but this was his finest hour. He scored a pivotal unbeaten 45 and combined in a stand of 73 with Border as Australia set a challenging 254 to win.
Tim Robinson fell to the fourth ball of England’s run chase, but Graham Gooch (35) and Bill Athey (58) steadied the ship. Skipper Mike Gatting looked set to take the game away from Australia with an aggressive 41, enjoying himself against the off-spin of Tim May and a moment of luck when Steve Waugh caught him on the boundary only to step over the rope and concede a six.
With the game slipping away, Border took the inspired decision to bowl his own part-time spin. Gatting attempted to reverse sweep a legside wide ball, only to deflect it onto his shoulder, the ball bouncing up to give keeper Greg Dyer a catch. It was the turning point in the game.
Waugh had taken on a key role, bowling the closing overs and proved the perfect man for the job. He bowled the dangerous Allan Lamb for a well-made 45 as England slumped to 220-7 still requiring 34 to win. Phil DeFreitas attacked to keep England’s dreams alive but when he fell to Waugh, attempting another big shot, the match was as good as over.
Victory ultimately served as the catalyst for Australia’s domination over the next decade.

1992: Pakistan 249-6 beat England 227 by 22 runs (Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia)

Imran Khan in 2019
Legendary all-rounder Imran Khan had retired after Pakistan’s 1987 semi-final defeat in Lahore but was asked to reconsider by the country’s President and returned to the captaincy the following year. His career ended on a high with victory over England in Australia—the first World Cup to be played in coloured clothing.
After Pakistan lost both openers cheaply, Derek Pringle and Chris Lewis troubled Imran and fellow veteran Javed Miandad early on, but the pair combined in an imposing partnership of 139 which laid the foundation for a sizeable Pakistan total. Miandad (58) passed a major landmark, becoming the first man to reach 1,000 World Cup runs.
Imran (72) left the field after his final international innings to a standing ovation, while Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Akram blazed useful runs in the closing overs.
"Imran Khan (72) left the field after his final international innings to a standing ovation"
Pakistan contained scoring well early in the run chase with leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed tying England up in knots as they slumped to 69-4 before Neil Fairbrother rebuilt in partnership of 72 with Allan Lamb to put England back on track.
Imran turned to left-arm pace bowler Akram to make the breakthrough. He struck immediately, dealing England a double blow with two wickets in two balls, bowling Lamb before Lewis played the next delivery onto his stumps.
Fairbrother was batting with a runner due to injury which restricted his movement, but he kept England in the hunt, moving onto 62 before he departed.
England were seven wickets down, still needing 70 off the last seven overs and while their all-rounders were all capable of adding runs, in the end the task proved too great. England were dismissed with four balls remaining, Imran fittingly taking the winning wicket.

1996–2007

Sri Lanka beat Australia in Lahore by seven wickets to win the 1996 final before a hattrick of wins for Australia, who comfortably beat Pakistan at Lord’s in 1999, India in Johannesburg in 2003 and Sri Lanka in Barbados in 2007. They would later go on to add a fifth title at home in Melbourne in 2015.

2011: Sri Lanka 274-6 lost to India 277-4 by 6 wickets (Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, India)

Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored a brilliant unbeaten 91 off just 79 balls to lead India to victory, the first country to win the World Cup in their own country, defeating Sri Lanka by six wickets with 10 balls to spare.
Dhoni soaked up the pressure to lead India home after sharing a partnership of 109 with Gautam Gambhir (97). He shepherded India towards their target, the crowd chanting his name as he sealed victory by smashing a huge straight six to ensure India’s first World Cup triumph in 28 years.
It was a masterclass from the Indian skipper who had managed just 150 runs in his previous seven innings. His bat speed and power were staggering. He hit eight fours and two sixes in total as he passed 6,000 runs in one-day internationals.
India dedicated their victory to legendary batsman, "little master" Sachin Tendulkar who won the tournament at his sixth attempt and declared it the proudest moment of his life. The team carried Tendulkar around his home ground in a lap of honour. Said Virat Kohli: “Sachin carried the burden of a nation for 21 years, so he deserves it.”
Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene gained the unwanted distinction of becoming the first man to hit a century in a World Cup final in a losing cause. He was the mainstay of his side’s innings, playing a classy, wristy knock, caressing the ball to the boundary.

2019: New Zealand 241-8 v England 241—Super Over: England 15-0 v New Zealand 15-1—England won on superior boundary count (Lord’s, London)

England endured a dismal World Cup in 2015, their approach to limited overs cricket hopelessly outdated. Cue a major reset in the English game with a laser focus on improving white ball skills and targeting a home World Cup final in July 2019, their first final in 27 years. Such was the extent of the turnaround under inspirational skipper Eoin Morgan, they began the tournament as the world’s top ranked side, one with clear roles and real unity.
New Zealand batted first but no-one posted a decisive total as England’s bowlers did an excellent job. The hosts were happy at the halfway stage, New Zealand’s total of 255 well under par.
However, in reply, England’s powerhouse top-order slumped to 86-4. If Ben Stokes (84*) and Jos Buttler (59) were fazed by the situation it didn’t show. They rebuilt and then pressed the accelerator, setting England on course for victory in a commanding partnership of 110.
The seeds for a dramatic, tense finish were sown when Lockie Ferguson tempted Buttler with a wide, slower ball which he could only carve straight to the boundary fielder. When allrounder Chris Woakes fell to Ferguson shortly afterwards, England were six wickets down, still needing 39 from 23 balls.
"Not for the only time that summer, the lion-hearted Ben Stokes shouldered the responsibility to see England home"
Not for the only time that summer, the lion-hearted Stokes shouldered the responsibility to see England home. Liam Plunkett kept him company for a while before he was caught by Trent Boult on the boundary.
The match then swung on two extraordinary moments of fate. First Stokes hit the very next ball down the ground straight to Boult. This time though, while the Kiwi fast bowler again took the catch, the momentum carried him back onto the boundary rope, conceding six precious runs.
England needed 15 off the final over, bowled by Boult. Stokes could not force a run off the first two deliveries, but slog swept the next for six.
Then that second moment of fate. Stokes hit the ball into the outfield, ran two and dived to ground his bat in his crease, but the throw from the boundary fielder somehow struck his outstretched bat and ricocheted away for four.
Stokes took a single off the next delivery and while running back for a second run, his partner Adil Rashid was run out.
One ball left. If New Zealand could prevent England scoring, they would win the World Cup for the first time. England needed two runs to do likewise. Stokes ran another single but coming back for a second Mark Wood was run out.

The super over

England captain Eoin Morgan carries the Cricket World Cup
The match was tied so the World Cup would be decided in a super over. If that too ended in a tie, the tournament would be decided by which side had hit the most boundaries.
Buttler and Stokes were England’s obvious choice to face the crucial super over from Boult and accumulated 15 runs.
Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill faced the final over for New Zealand with Morgan entrusting young pace bowler Jofra Archer with the ball.
New Zealand were left needing to score two off the final ball to win.
Guptill clipped the ball out towards the boundary, ran a single and came back for a second. Cue some brilliant fielding from Jason Roy who threw the ball into Buttler who whipped off the bails, running out Guptill.
New Zealand had tied the super over, but England’s superior boundary count meant they won World Cup. As Ian Smith said on his now iconic commentary: “England have won the World Cup by the barest of margins. Absolute ecstasy for England, agony for New Zealand.”
Banner photo: India and Australia will play in the Cricket World Cup final (credit: ICC)

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