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3 Closest Encounters At The World Cup In 21st Century

West Indies vs England, Bridgetown, (Super 8s 2007)

The 2007 edition in the Caribbean isles did have its fair share of close games, though. Lasith Malinga skinning South Africa’s lower order with 4 wickets in 4 balls, Paul Nixon and Ravi Bopara stumbling just short of their target against the Lankan lions, it all happened in the West Indies.

In this particular game, the hosts were involved. They set a target of 301 for England. The English chase got off to a sloppy bad start as they lost the opener, Andrew Strauss, in the second over. Thanks to some atrocious running between the wickets, England were reduced to 189/6, with three of their batsmen, including Michael Vaughan (79 off 68), succumbing to run-outs.

Needing 80 runs off the last 9 overs, England found respite in their young batsman Kevin Pietersen. Unperturbed by the middle order collapse, Pietersen scored freely and picked up a half-century along the way. West Indies, however, did have a chance to put the game to bed when 43 runs were needed off 28 balls. Paul Nixon pushed the ball straight to the short mid-on fielder. The running between the wickets had been nothing short of disastrous all day as Nixon and Pietersen were caught in two minds.

Nixon froze seeing the fielder close in on the ball but Pietersen was three-quarters down the track. Luckily for England, the fielder fumbled and Nixon gassed himself out while trying to complete the single. Pietersen, however, was watching if Nixon would make the crease and completely lost track of his own position. The throw came at Pietersen’s end and he had to make a last-ditch dive to get in the crease.

For all the goof-ups, Pietersen made amends by smashing the ball over deep mid-wicket to bring up his 5th ODI century. On the very next ball, however, he tried to go big and lost his leg-stump to Jerome Taylor. Pietersen left the field with England needed 32 off 22. Jerome Taylor struck again in the same over when Liam Plunkett played an ill-advised lofted shot straight to long-on. Three overs to go, 29 runs to get, and two wickets remained. But Paul Nixon was still at the crease.

Nixon smashed three fours and got four byes as the 48th over yielded 17 runs. The equation was now run-a-ball. Jerome Taylor kept things tight but Nixon managed to sneak a boundary through the fine leg as England came within four runs of a win in the last over.

Stuart Broad took a single to get Nixon back on strike. Dwayne Bravo then bowled a perfect slower ball to clean up Nixon’s stumps. Three runs to get off four balls and the last man was set to face the music. Bravo went with the slower ball again but there were no fielders close by to stop the single.

Another slower ball followed which forced Broad to defend. Off the penultimate ball of the over, Broad’s hit over the infield brought about a tense one-wicket win for England.

West Indies had the game in control at various points but Kevin Pietersen and Paul Nixon fought back to keep England in contention. If Nixon had been run-out, things could have panned out differently.

New Zealand vs Australia, Eden Park (2015)

Before the intense high-scoring semi-final at Eden Park, New Zealand and Australia met in the group stages of the 2015 World Cup to play an enthralling low-scoring encounter. Trent Boult and Mitchell Starc were the protagonists of the game.

First, it was Boult who ran through the Australian middle-order. Glenn Maxwell became Boult’s first victim when the batsman dragged the ball onto his stumps.

Mitchell Marsh suffered a similar fate by playing on in the same over. Michael Clarke was caught at short cover-point by Williamson before Mitchell Johnson also fell playing a similar shot. Boult completed his fifer with a peach of a swing delivery to Starc as Australia were bundled out for 151 in 32 overs. New Zealand seemed to be in a hurry to finish things off as was evident by McCullum’s quick start. Now it was Mitchell Starc’s turn to make the ball dance to his tunes. Guptill chipped one to Pat Cummins at mid-off.

The hosts rode on with Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum though as Starc was taken off the attack. Once McCullum was dismissed, Starc was brought back into the attack and the left-arm began to wreck New Zealand.

Starc brought a sharp full delivery back in to clean up Ross Taylor’s stumps. He delivered another sharp inswinging yorker to Grant Elliot as the batsman was bowled first ball.

With New Zealand needing just six runs to win with three wickets in hand, Starc cleaned Adam Milne up with full delivery on the middle stump. On the very next ball, he rattled the off stump of Tim Southee with a vicious swinging delivery.

Boult had cleaned Starc up when the former was bowling earlier in the game. Now Boult had to see off two balls from Starc before Williamson could get on strike. The Australian pacer targetted middle and leg but not quite find the yorker as Boult watchfully defended.

Starc went yorker-length with dangerous swing again. The ball, however, missed the off stump by a whisker as Boult survived. Back on strike in the next over, Williamson smashed a six to end a highly intense game of cricket. The crowd came to see good cricket and boy was it some game they witnessed!

England vs New Zealand, Final (2019)

The home of cricket in Lord’s saw the best ever World Cup final played between hosts England and New Zealand. In overcast conditions, the Kiwis found useful contributions from Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson, and Tom Latham to put up 241 runs on the board. England lost Jason Roy and Joe Root cheaply. Lockie Ferguson and James Neesham then struck a twin blow to send back Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan as England slumped to 86/4 in the 23rd over.

Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes put up a 100-run partnership to get the English chase back on track. But Lockie Ferguson again came to torment England by dismissing Jos Buttler as Tim Southee took a good catch at deep point.

The equation came down to 24 runs off the last two overs. Jimmy Neesham started the penultimate over with two singles and the wicket of Liam Plunkett. In the fourth ball of the over, Ben Stokes skied one to deep mid-wicket. Trent Boult took the catch but stepped over the ropes.

It was a lucky escape for England as six runs got added to their total instead of losing Stokes. England then lost their eighth wicket as Jofra Archer headed back to the pavilion.

It was now Trent Boult vs Ben Stokes, with England needing 15 runs to win. The Kiwi pacer started with two dots. Stokes dragged the third ball from outside off stump to the deep mid-wicket boundary for a six. 9 of 3. Then came a bizarre moment.

Stokes worked the ball to mid-wicket and ran for the second. But Martin Guptill’s throw hit Stokes’ bat and ricocheted to the boundary. The batting side was awarded six runs.

Needing three to win off two balls, Stokes ran to get a couple of runs as there were two run-outs at the other end. The game was tied and a super over ensued. New Zealand required 15 runs to win. Jimmy Neesham left two to get from one ball for Martin Guptill.

It was Guptill’s first ball of the over and he could only manage a single, getting run-out while going for the second. The scores were tied again and England won by a controversial maximum-boundary rule.

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