Wednesday, 11 February 2015

With less than a week until Sri Lanka and New Zealand kick off the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Christchurch, excitement is building for the biggest tournament in the 50 over calendar. The carnival of cricket will see 14 teams battle it out over more than six weeks to eventually be crowned world champions in Melbourne on 29th March. Amongst the competitors are Australia (currently 2/1 with Betfair), South Africa and New Zealand but current holders India will not give up their title without a fight. As the anticipation grows, we look back on the two most recent World Cups, recapping the routes that the finalists took to the final, how they performed on the big day and remembering the big stars of the tournament. By looking back we hope to give cricket fans and punters an idea of what to expect over the coming weeks and whet their appetites ahead of the tournament.

2011 World Cup - Star Performers

The 2011 World Cup was staged between India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, with the final being held in Mumbai. Going in to the tournament expectations were high that the Asian teams could make the most of home advantage and play to their strengths in the batsman and spin-friendly conditions. As the tournament progressed it became clear that the host nations would not disappoint their fans, and their star players really made the most of the familiar pitches. The top three run scorers in the tournament were all from India or Sri Lanka (1. Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2. Sachin Tendulkar and 3. Kumar Sangakkara). In terms of wickets, India's Zaheer Khan finished joint top of the charts with Pakistan's Shahid Afridi (both men recorded 21 victims).

Routes to the Final

Much to the delight of the home fans, the tournament's final was contested by India and Sri Lanka. India's route to the final saw them finish second in Group B, recording four wins (over the Netherlands, Ireland, Bangladesh and the West Indies), a remarkable tie with England and a defeat to South Africa. The quarter finals saw India take on Australia, where an unbeaten 57 by Yuvraj Singh was enough to see them through by five wickets. In the semi-final India met their arch-rivals Pakistan (who had been due to jointly host the tournament before the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore). India batted first and were put in the driving seat by Sachin Tendulkar, whose 85 helped them to 260/9. Pakistan started well in their reply but they eventually collapsed to 231 all out with each of India's five front line bowlers taking two wickets. 

Sri Lanka's route to the final was not dissimilar from India's, with Kumar Sangakkara's team finishing second in Group A after recording four wins (over Canada, Kenya, Zimbabwe and New Zealand) and one narrow defeat to Pakistan. Their other game against Australia was abandoned. In their quarter-final Sri Lanka recorded the most emphatic victory of the tournament, knocking off England's total of 230 with 10 wickets in the bank and more than 10 overs to spare. Both Upul Tharanga and Dilshan recorded famous centuries. Sri Lanka's semi-final against New Zealand was a much tighter affair, with the hosts reaching their target of 217 having lost five wickets and with just two overs left.

2011 World Cup Final - India v Sri Lanka

After such an impressive build-up, the World Cup final had much to live up to. With both teams finding their best form at the right time, it did not fail to deliver. Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat but were put on the back foot early when opener Tharanga was dismissed for just two. Dilshan (33) and Sangakkara (48) helped to steady the ship but their innings did not really come to life until Mahela Jayawardene came to the crease. His unbeaten 103 from 88 balls gave the innings impetus and saw Sri Lanka post a competitive looking 274/6.

The total was Sri Lanka's highest in the knockout stage. In most situations it would have been enough to regain the World Cup but, with the power in the Indian batting line-up and the weight of the home crowd behind the Indian team, it proved to be far too small. The Indian openers struggled and were both quickly dismissed, but number three Gautam Gambhir was in inspired form and his knock of 97 held the innings together. Gambhir's partnership of 109 with MS Dhoni (91) turned the tide in the hosts’ favour and, to the delight of their fanatical support, India passed the Sri Lankan total with six wickets in the bank and 10 balls to spare. The victory saw India lift the World Cup for the first time in 28 years.

2007 World Cup - Star Performers

The 2007 World Cup took place in the West Indies and saw 16 team taking part. Teams were initially divided into four groups before the top two from each group formed a 'Super 8' league. The top four teams from this league then qualified for the semi-finals. The drawn out structure drew criticism from some quarters but it did not prevent some famous performances and outstanding individual displays. Tournament finalists Australia and Sri Lanka dominated the batting and bowling statistics, with Matthew Hayden scoring 659 runs in his 11 games (100 more than second placed Mahela Jayawardene) and notching three centuries and one half century. Three of the four highest wicket-takers in the tournament were Australians (1. Glenn McGrath, 3. Shaun Tait, 4. Brad Hogg), Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan came second with 23 wickets.

Routes to the Final

Australia found themselves drawn in Group A alongside South Africa, Scotland and the Netherlands, and were barely challenged as they emerged from the group with a 100% record, including defeating South Africa by 83 runs after recording a first innings total of 377/6 at Warner Park Stadium. 

Australian dominance continued in the Super 8 stage, as Ricky Ponting's men recorded a further seven wins to extend their unbeaten run. Amongst the most notable of these victories was a 10 wicket demolition of Bangladesh, a 215 run win over New Zealand and a seven wicket victory over Sri Lanka. Australia finished top of the Super 8 and found themselves meeting fourth-placed South Africa in the semi-finals. They duly secured their place in the final with a seven wicket win over Graeme Smith's men. 

Sri Lanka also enjoyed an unbeaten run to the Super 8 stage, recording victories over Bermuda, Bangladesh and India. Their Group B win over India was enough to ensure that Rahul Dravid's team did not progress beyond the first stage of the tournament. In the Super 8 stage, Sri Lanka suffered a narrow one wicket defeat to South Africa, as well as their defeat to Australia, but managed to secure their place in the semi-finals with five further wins. In the semi-finals Jayawardene's men came up against New Zealand, over whom they recorded an eight wicket victory.

2007 World Cup final - Australia v Sri Lanka

Australia were clear favourites heading in to the final and few expected them to sacrifice their unbeaten tournament record against Sri Lanka. Despite this, Ponting and his men will have been wary of Muralitharan's genius and will have known that anything can happen in a one-off game. As events unfolded at the Kensington Oval it became clear that Australia were in no mood to let their efforts go to waste and they were keen to make amends for their defeat to Sri Lanka in the 1996 final. The Aussies won the toss and batted first in a game which had been reduced to 38 overs a side. Wicket-keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist played one of the great World Cup final innings to score 149 from 104 balls as Australia posted 281/4. The total was always going to prove a challenge for Sri Lanka to reach but a second wicket stand of 116 between Kumar Sangakkara and Sanath Jayasuriya gave them hope. Unfortunately a middle order collapse followed by further rain and then bad light put paid to the Sri Lankans' chances of victory and Australia won their third World Cup in a row by 53 runs.

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