A disappointing 2011 tournament, where Australia were forced to exit at the quarterfinal stage – almost unheard of in that they had been finalists in 4 consecutive tournaments leading up to 2011, winning 3 consecutive titles – meant that 2015 was time to restore dominance once again.
Australia did just that, led by Michael Clarke, did just that, going on to claim another World Title – this at home, in front of 90,000 at the MCG. They dispatched a shambolic England lineup by 111 runs in their opening fixture and never looked back. Apart from a hiccup against co-hosts New Zealand in the group stage, the tournament saw the green and gold return to the top of the cricketing food chain.
14 teams including debutants Afghanistan played 49 matches in 14 venues, with Australia staging 26 games while New Zealand hosted 23 games. The format was the same as the 2011 edition: 14 teams take part in the initial stages, divided into two groups of seven; the seven teams play each other once before the top four teams from each group qualify for the quarter-finals.
The opening fixture saw hosts New Zealand take on Sri Lanka on valentine’s day at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch. Sri Lanka won the toss and sent the Kiwis into bat – a decision they would come to rue as they went on to post 331/6. Sri Lanka fell comfortably short of the target, giving New Zealand their first win in what would turn out to be a remarkable tournament. Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson going past the 50-run mark – the latter scoring at a strike-rate of 160+ – to headline New Zealand’s 98-run win.
Minnows no more
When the Irish jigged past Pakistan in 2007, there was an air of disbelief around. When a pink haired Kevin O’Brien mauled the English on his way to the fastest World Cup 100 in 2011, the Cricketing community watched in awe. But when the same men, ‘giantkillers’ as they were known, chased down West Indies’ 304 with more than 4 overs to spare, there was almost a sense of normalcy about it. The Windies did well to post a competitive score, after being reduced to 87/5, thanks to some incredible hitting from Lendl Simmons and Darren Sammy. But the confidence with which they went through with the chase proved that they were ‘minnows’ no more and truly belonged in the marquee tournament.
Debutants make history
When newcomers to the World Cup Afghanistan faced off against Scotland on the 26th of February at the University Oval, Dunedin, both teams were looking for their maiden World Cup win.
Scotland had been around for a while and despite not reaching the heights of Ireland at World events, they came in as favorites in the game. But Afghanistan’s growth was unprecedented.
The game would end with Sharpoor Zadran on his knees, his hands in the air, Afghanistan triumphant. It took them just three games to register their 1st World Cup win, dare we say they will build on it in 2019?
Ice-man Williamson hands Australia defeat
The hosts came together to put on arguably the best game of the tournament, producing a nail-biter in their first-round clash at Eden Park, Auckland. The show belonged to the left armers as both Trent Boult and Mitchell Starc produced mesmerizing spells for their respective teams.
Bowling first, New Zealand humbled their neighbors, as Boult (5/27) ran through the power-packed Aussie line-up, restricting them to 151.
Cruising at 78/1 inside 8 overs, the game was all but done but it was brought back to life by another leftie, Starc. He triggered an eye-popping collapse as the hosts found themselves fighting to stay alive on 146/9, with No. 11 Boult having to survive 2 deliveries from a fiery Starc.
It took perhaps the calmest man at the venue to take the Kiwis home and when the ‘Ice Man’ Kane Williamson lofted Pat Cummins over his head for 6, the whole ground erupted!
Legends make their mark
Despite disappointing campaigns for both South Africa and Sri Lanka, AB De Villiers and Kumar Sangakkara made sure their presence was felt in the tournament which will not see their likes again. AB smashed 162 in just 66 deliveries, as South Africa managed 261 in the last 20 overs in their game against West Indies on their way to the tournament’s only 400+ score. A thumping win followed for the Proteas, as they made their way into the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Sri Lanka had a pretty decent 1st round of action despite losing their opening game to New Zealand but were carried through by stalwart Sangakkara, who became the 1st man to make 4 consecutive 100s in ODI cricket, belting tons against Bangladesh, England, Australia and Scotland.
England was the biggest team to fall at the first hurdle, missing out on a quarterfinal spot after losing to Bangladesh. Their only wins came against non-Test teams at the time, Afghanistan and Scotland.
Bangladesh scraped through as a result, alongside Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia from Group A, while India, South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies went through from Pool B. Both New Zealand and India went through undefeated.
The 4 quarterfinals turned out to be disappointing, with the 4 top teams from the group stage dominating proceedings. South Africa cruised past a listless Sri Lanka, India humbled the high-riding Tigers, while the hosts hardly broke a sweat as they did away with Pakistan and West Indies.
A contest for the ages – Superman’s day
The 1st semi-final produced the game of the tournament – a match that would have made a fitting finale to the showpiece event. New Zealand, ever the dark horse, came in undefeated, hardly troubled through the month gone by. South Africa were riding high on their 1st knockout win in World Cups which came against Sri Lanka a few days earlier. At the end of the day, it came down to who held their nerve – it turned out to be the understated grant Elliot.
South Africa would have thought half their job was done when they make a defendable 281 in 43 overs, after rain came mid-way through their innings. Needing 298 in 43 overs, Brendon McCullum set the pace for the Kiwis in their last home game of the tournament with a blistering 59 off 26 balls but the experienced South African bowling line-up, headlined by Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir pulled things back.
The game swung from one end to the other, but Elliot stood tall through it all, sealing South Africa’s exit with a six over long-on – finishing with 84 off 73 deliveries.
The 2nd semi-final produced considerably less drama as Australia galloped to a 95-run win over defending champions India, on the back of a ton by Steve Smith.
Supremacy restored in dominant fashion
Now the only unbeaten team left in the competition and riding on the scintillating win in the semis, New Zealand really looked like they may upset world order by taking the world title. It was a head vs heart argument for all neutral fans, with many favoring the sporting Kiwis over the ruthless Aussies. The teams had produced a thriller in the first round, but sadly, they could not muster enough drama for the Final.
Mc Cullum, who had seared through many an opposition bowling attack in the tournament, fell for 0 – a bad omen if ever there was one. Elliot mustered 83 but New Zealand finished with a well below par 183.
The Aussies lived up to their ruthless reputation, almost mechanically seeing off the target in 33.1 overs to seal their 5th World Cup title.