Saturday, December 31, 2011


Just a few hours remain for 2011 to end in my part of the world, and as I looks back at it, the biggest and the most lasting memory remains that of the World Cup 2011 hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from 19th February to 2nd April.

I was planning to write a post on my sporting memories of 2011... but since so many of them were coming from this one particular event, I thought I should first compile my World Cup memories, and then proceed to the sporting memories of 2011. So here are my top 10 memories from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011:

1. Six And The Celebrations

The obvious first - the six that finished the World Cup! MS Dhoni's strike to win the World Cup finals and the celebrations that followed that hit shall remain memories to last a lifetime... and not just till the end of the year! Those images were magical and I can still recall them vividly - Yuvraj Singh was sobbing uncontrollably, Sachin Tendulkar was being carried around the ground on his teammates' shoulders, Virat Kohli's quote, and the celebrations once MS Dhoni received the trophy from ICC President Sharad Pawar! Cricket had never before been so emotional!

2. Ponting's Last Masterpiece

It was an eagerly anticipated match - the 2nd Quarterfinal between India and Australia at Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad. And though it came for a losing cause, Ricky Ponting played an innings befitting his calibre! It was virtually a risk-free masterclass century that guided Australia to a competitive first innings score of 259. There were other moments in this match that still remain fresh in my memory - the winning hit by Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina's first major contribution in the World Cup, Zaheer Khan's knuckle ball to bowl Michael Hussey, et cetera. But it was that Ponting hundred, eventually his last innings as the captain of Australia, that stands out... for it could scarcely have been any better!

3. Purple-Headed Destroyer

Yes, that is what he did - he destroyed them! Kevin O'Brien came to the crease in Ireland's match against England when his team was 106 for 4 in the 23rd over, and then saw them slump to 111 for 5 in the 25th over. Chasing a target of 328 to win at Bangalore, Ireland had no chance. But no one told this to Kevin O'Brien! He needed just 50 balls to reach his 100... the fastest ever in World Cup history! From the time he came to bat till the time he reached his 100, Ireland scored more than 6 runs in all but 3 overs. And when he got out on a 63-ball 113 with 6 sixes and 13 fours, they were well on their way to cause what was the biggest upset of the event. The Irish veteran Trent Johnston came at the fall of O'Brien's wicket and was present at the end when the win was sealed... just as he'd been there to hit the winning runs against Pakistan four years ago to cause their other big upset in World Cups!

4. #MOAG - Mother Of All Games

When India beat West Indies in the last league match, everyone knew that there was a chance of an India-Pakistan semi-finals at Mohali. And when India beat Australia at Ahmedabad, it was confirmed... a good 6 days before the match! A scramble for tickets, an excited build-up, cricket diplomacy in action, and the day finally arrived! The quality of cricket was not the best, but the occasion and the crowd more than made up for it. Virender Sehwag's attack on Umar Gul, the chances to Sachin Tendulkar en route to 85, Wahab Roaz's ball to get Yuvraj Singh for a golden duck, Suresh Raina's finish, Umar Akmal's attack before getting bowled out to Harbhajan Singh, and then the finish when Misbah-ul-Haq skied a catch to Virat Kohli off Zaheer Khan - some of the moments that still linger from the Mother Of All Games.

5. Muralitharan's Last Match In Sri Lanka

He was carried on his teammates' shoulders around the ground after the semi-finals had been won by Sri Lanka against New Zealand. Arguably Sri Lanka's greatest cricketer ever, Muttiah Muralitharan played his part in the World Cup for Sri Lanka. His final over in international cricket in Sri Lanka was a treat to watch too. Starting from around the wicket, he switched to over the wicket for the last few balls... and on his very last delivery, trapped Scott Styris plumb in front with a massively-turning off-break to finish off his home career in style. What a cricketer!

6. Tied At 338

The match should have been held at Kolkata, but had to be shifted to Bangalore. After a scramble for tickets where a few fans got hurt, the match began and the crowd loved it. Sachin Tendulkar hit a sublime century, which included 5 sixes - 2 of those came off consecutive Graeme Swann deliveries as he started a new spell. It was a message to the English skipper Andrew Strauss that his best bowler means nothing to him! Strauss took that message to heart as he produced his own masterclass innings of 158 after Tim Bresnan had cleaned the Indian tail with a 5-for. It took a beauty from Zaheer Khan to remove Strauss and bring India back into the match with 2 other wickets. Apart from the last ball single that resulted in a tie, there was another moment to remember from this World Cup - Munaf Patel's blinder (no pun intended) to remove Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell's LBW that wasn't! The infamous 2.50 meter rule denied Yuvraj Singh the wicket of Ian Bell after the field umpire Billy Bowden decided not to overturn his original not out call.

7. Ross Taylor Massacre

He was reprieved - twice! Both times by Kamran Akmal off Shoaib Akhtar's bowling. He made them pay! Ross Taylor, who was not in the best of form, capitalised on those errors by Kamran Akmal (which earned him a lot of jokes on Twitter) and smashed a brilliant century against Pakistan that included some violent hitting at the end. His ferocious hitting resulted in 28 runs being leaked off Shoaib Akhtar's last over and 30 runs off Abdul Razzaq's. Helped by Jacob Oram at the other end, Taylor was ferocious as they compiled an 80-odd run partnership at the speed of light! When Kamran Akmal's turn came to bat, he edged one to Ross Taylor at slip... and the Kiwi was in no mood to return Akmal's favours earlier that day! He grabbed the ball in his hands and the Black Caps celebrated.

8. The Whirlwind Start

It was arguably the best bowling line-up of the World Cup they were facing. The best fast bowler of the present era was to start the proceedings. None of that mattered! Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar began in a hurry... sprinting away to a 100 in just the 12th over. Tendulkar pulled South Africa's best bowler Dale Steyn for a six behind square leg after Sehwag had typically started the innings with a first-ball boundary. Sehwag scored a 73, Tendulkar 111 and Gautam Gambhir too compiled a 69 before the middle and lower order just gave away, as 9 wickets fell for 29 runs. The fact that India did not even manage to bat the entire 50 overs, falling short by 8 balls, eventually proved to be decisive as South Africa managed to seal a win thanks to Robin Peterson's cameo at the end!

9. Pakistan End Australia's Streak

Pakistan was the last team that had beaten Australia in a World Cup match. That had happened way back in 1999. Since then Australia had been triple World Champions and were looking to continue that streak when they faced Pakistan in their Group A match at Colombo. Umar Gul bowled beautifully and Kamran Akmal managed 3 catches as Australia was bowled out for 176. Then a young Pakistani batsman Asad Shafiq played a mature hand aided by the veteran Younis Khan, followed by another youngster Umar Akmal providing the finishing touches. A big performance was needed to finish off Australia's big unbeaten run in the World Cup... and that is just what Pakistan delivered!

10. England Keep Us Entertained

First, they almost goofed up against the Netherlands. Then they did the inconceivable against India as the match ended in a tie. Then they actually goofed up against the Irish, followed by snatching a win from the jaws of defeat against South Africa. Not satisfied, they then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Bangladesh before winning their most convincing win against West Indies - by 18 big runs! Lots of flashes of memory come to mind from England's World Cup campaign - Ryan ten Doeschate's magnificent hundred at Nagpur, some stuff already mentioned above from the India and Ireland matches at Bangalore, Robin Peterson's opening over and Stuart Broad's finish at Chennai, and of course the celebrations after Mahmudullah's and Shafiul Islam's rescue act at Chittagong... England single-handedly kept Group B alive!

There were lots of other moments to remember... Sehwag deciding to bat through the innings and almost doing so in his 175 at the World Cup opener, Chris Mpofu's rocket throw to run out Ricky Ponting that infuriated him to break a TV, Pakistan's tight win over Sri Lanka, Kemar Roach's and Lasith Malinga's hat-tricks against the Netherlands and Kenya respectively, West Indies skittle out Bangladesh for 58, an unknown Canadian teenager Hiral Patel's attack on the Australian pace trio as Canada scored 62 in their first 6 overs, Zimbabweans applauding and shaking hands with Steve Tikolo after the Kenyan legend was dismissed in his final match, and South Africa's choke against New Zealand amongst others.