Luckiest and unluckiest World Cup moments

Lady Luck can either be a kind or cruel mistress, depending on the day, and cricket certainly hasn’t avoided her intervention over the years.

Lady Luck can either be a kind or cruel mistress, depending on the day, and cricket certainly hasn’t avoided her intervention over the years.

Countless moments of brilliance have lit up the ICC Cricket World Cup during its more than four decades of existence but there have also been plenty of instances where luck played a crucial part.

Before the 2019 edition gets underway, and the latest generation of stars will either be thanking or cursing their luck, we look back at three times that players and countries prospered and three times they faltered in unusual circumstances.

The lucky trio

Australia win 1999 nail-biter

Australia had lost two of its first three matches in 1999 but made it to the Super Six stage, where captain Steve Waugh’s unbeaten century against South Africa saw his side into the semi-finals.

Once again, Waugh’s men met South Africa with a place in the final on the line and they would need plenty of luck to reach the showpiece.

Put in to bat, Australia lost its final four wickets for six runs and set a meagre target of 213, lower than anything Geoff Marsh’s players had previously posted.

South Africa eased to 48 without loss before falling to 61 for four but recovered with runs from Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes.


When both batsmen fell, another mini-collapse followed and with eight balls left, the last-wicket pairing of Lance Klusener and Allan Donald needed 16.

Powerhouse Klusener struck a six, retained the strike and began the final over with consecutive boundaries to leave the scores level with four balls remaining.

South Africa needed to win to reach the final as a tie would see Australia qualify after finishing above it in the Super Six stage. Cue, one of the most fortunate moments in Australian cricketing history.

Waugh packed the in-field and from the ante-penultimate ball, Klusener set off for a run.

Donald – who had nearly been run out the previous ball after backing up too far – was slow to react and, when he did, subsequently dropped his bat, allowing Damien Fleming and Adam Gilchrist to run him out at the keeper’s end, leaving the Proteas one run short.

Australia reached the final in dramatic, but undeniably fortunate, circumstances and took full advantage by beating Pakistan in the final to win its second ICC Cricket World Cup.

England benefit from unreachable target

South Africa’s first ICC Cricket World Cup appearance in 1992 ended in heartbreak thanks to one of the most infamous rain interruptions in history.

In the semi-final against England, South Africa needed 22 from 13 deliveries when the umpires took the players of the field due to increasingly heavy rain.

The delay lasted just 10 minutes but with television coverage dictating that the match end that day, two overs were lost and the target was reduced.

Luckily for England, this was in the days before the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method, with the Most Productive Overs rule being used instead – which only removed the runs scored by England in their two lowest-scoring overs.

That left the Proteas with the impossible task of still needing 21 but only having one delivery to get it – which Brian McMillan hit for a single.

England won by 20 runs but batsman Allan Lamb, playing against the country of his birth, later said he believed South Africa would have won if not for the rain delay. Lucky indeed!

Lloyd’s favourable drop

West Indies won the inaugural ICC Cricket World Cup in 1975 and four years later found themselves in the final again – facing hosts England.

They racked up a competitive score of 286 for nine – thanks to Viv Richards’s majestic unbeaten 138 and Collis King’s quickfire 86 – before a second-innings drop ultimately proved Lady Luck was also aiding its cause.

England were making steady progress by reaching 79 for no loss at tea but unfortunately, that was after 25 overs – openers Geoffrey Boycott and Mike Brearley nurdling the gentle off-spin of Richards for singles instead of taking the game to its visitors at Lord’s.

Boycott had taken 17 overs to reach double figures and shortly after tea he spooned the ball to wide mid-on where Clive Lloyd, normally an excellent fielder, contrived to drop it.

That gave the Windies more overs of England’s sluggish openers taking the game away from their own team as although the Boycott-Brearley partnership was eventually broken with the score on 129 in the 39th over, the damage was done.


England’s bigger hitters down the order didn’t have enough time to chase the target down and from 183 for two, they lost eight wickets for 11 runs with a series of desperate hoicks and heaves as West Indies clinched a second World Cup by 92 runs.

“I could have watched them [Boycott and Brearley] all day because I knew every over they batted was another nail in their coffin,” Lloyd later noted.

“A lot of people suggested I put [the catch] down purposefully just to keep him in. It’s not true, but it wouldn’t have been a bad tactic.”

The unfortunate Triumvirate

James Taylor strode to the crease at Melbourne in England’s first ICC Cricket World Cup match in 2015 having never made an international century. He would soon come agonisingly close but be left unable to get over the line.

England were 66 for four, chasing 343 against Australia, when Taylor entered the fray. Wickets continued to fall around him and only a 92-run, seventh-wicket partnership with Chris Woakes threatened to keep his side in the contest.

But another collapse left him with No.11 James Anderson coming to the middle, the match all but gone and the diminutive batsman needing 24 more runs for a maiden ton.

Anderson proved a surprisingly useful partner and Taylor added 22 from 16 deliveries to move to the brink of a milestone.

Josh Hazlewood then rapped him on the pad and umpire Aleem Dar gave him out on the field, only for Taylor to be reprieved when his review reversed the decision.

The 25-year-old’s relief was short-lived however as Anderson had been run out in the confusion, leaving Taylor stranded two short of a magnificent hundred.

To his credit, he would eventually go on to get three figures against Australia in an ODI later that year but with retirement forced upon him aged 26 when he was diagnosed with an incurable heart condition, Taylor would never celebrate a century at a World Cup.

Scotland narrowly miss out

Sometimes, the misfortune comes before the tournament and stops you even reaching the ICC Cricket World Cup.

Scotland came within touching distance of a spot at the 2019 edition of the tournament during the qualifying phase, but narrowly missed out after rain ended a contest with the West Indies.

Set a target of 198, with the winner securing a place in England and Wales this summer, Scotland recovered from an early wobble and needed a very gettable 94 from 111 balls with six wickets still in hand.


But it quickly went downhill as Richie Berrington was given out LBW and Scotland fell behind on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern par score – slipping to 125 for five, with rain in Harare soon ending the match prematurely.

The target was readjusted to 131 and Scotland were heartbreakingly left six runs short – missing out on reaching back-to-back World Cups for the first time.

Had Berrington just survived until the interruption, his side would have been three runs ahead of the target but instead it was the Windies who progressed to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

England denied by politics

The 2003 World Cup was jointly hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya but social and political unrest in Zimbabwe lent a slightly strange atmosphere to the tournament.

Following their first game, Henry Olonga and Andy Flower spoke out about Robert Mugabe’s oppressive regime by releasing a statement to journalists denouncing the “death of democracy” in their homeland and took to the field wearing black armbands.

The duo’s courageous actions spelt the end of their international careers and subjected them to a life in exile but the team benefitted from some good fortune that denied England a place in the knockout stages.

England’s first group game was supposed to be against the Chevrons in Harare but death threats in the days leading up to the match saw the ECB refuse to fulfil the fixture, citing safety concerns, and Zimbabwe were awarded a walkover.

Nasser Hussain’s men went on to beat the Netherlands, Namibia and Pakistan but the four points awarded to Zimbabwe saw them qualify for the Super Sixes ahead of England by two points – an unfortunate situation for this year’s hosts.

First Published:
May 24, 2019 17:56 IST

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