It ain’t over till it’s over

Matches where teams have fought back from a seemingly no-win situation to emerge winners, and games where teams have ended up on the losing side despite their counter-offensives... Cricket no doubt is a game of glorious uncertainties.

Electrifying knock: India’s captain Kapil Dev plays a lofted shot during his brilliant innings of 175 not out, against Zimbabwe in a Group B match of the 1983 Prudential World Cup. India, 17 for 5 at one stage, not only prospered through Kapil’s blitzkrieg but also turned the tables on Zimbabwe, winning by 31 runs.   -  THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Recently, in a One-Day International in Adelaide, the spectators had barely settled down in their seats when England slumped and was staring down the barrel at 8 for 5. That England slid to 28 for 9 a few months later in a Test match is another story.

In Adelaide, the lowest total in ODIs — Zimbabwe’s 35 — seemed like being rewritten until England recovered somewhat and made a match of it.

My mind then went back 35 years, to a lovely village in Kent. There was no television, no cricket scores online, and no online social media updates. For this match, there was only the trusted radio. A similar slump, a magnificent recovery and a win had occurred there. No one could predict then that exactly a week later, India would have the greatest day ever in its cricket history.

This column deals with such situations, if for no reason other than that I can talk about one of the most famous ODI innings ever.

The selection criteria are very simple. A score of sub-25 for 5, or sub-30 for 6 has to be followed by a recovery to at least 149 (why 149 and not 150, you will know later). It does not matter if this happens in the first or second innings. All matches, irrespective of the result, have been selected and featured in chronological order. Out of 13 such matches, three were won despite horrendous collapses.

ODI #216: India v Zimbabwe, Tunbridge Wells, 1983

What an innings and what a match! India was in danger of an early exit from the World Cup, just as it had happened in 1975 and 1979. The match was in a quaint little town in Kent, far away from the glamorous spots of London and Manchester. India, batting first, could not have started worse. Sunil Gavaskar, Krish Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath and Sandeep Patil were back in the pavilion with just 9 runs on the board. Captain Kapil Dev walked in. Soon Yashpal Sharma was dismissed for 9, making the score a pitiable 17 for 5.

There must have been visions of the match being completed well before lunch, and some of the Indians must have ruefully contemplated the long trip back home. Kapil and Roger Binny played slowly at first, intent on not losing a wicket. A partial recovery ensued, but at 77 Binny was out, followed immediately by Ravi Shastri, and India’s score read a pathetic 78 for 7. In strode Madan Lal, an all-rounder in the ‘useful bat, good for 20 runs’ class. He scored an invaluable 17. Madan then departed at 140, but not before injecting a level of respectability to the innings.

Syed Kirmani, a fighter, came in next. Then Kapil orchestrated the finale to one of the greatest ever ODI innings to this day. He and Kirmani added 126 for the ninth wicket.

Kirmani’s 24 not out will put a few centuries scored in easier circumstances in the shade. Kapil remained unbeaten on 175. The statistical details of this innings will never convey the majestic grandeur of the knock. In my opinion, in terms of value and context, only Vivian Richards’ 189 not out in Manchester a year later, stands above Kapil’s masterpiece.

It would have been a travesty of justice if Zimbabwe had won the match. Kevin Curran’s brilliant 73 was not enough to take Zimbabwe home. India won by 31 runs and went on to lift the 1983 World Cup.

However, when anyone looks back at that great triumph on June 25, his mind would hark back to the crucial match played the week before.

ODI #1560: South Africa v England, Tri-Nation Cup Final, 2000

Proteas’ hero: In the final of the 2000 Tri-Nation Cup against England in Johannesburg, South Africa remarkably defended a measly total of 149. Shaun Pollock’s 5-20 baulked England 38 runs short of the target.   -  Getty Images

South Africa, batting first, lost Herschelle Gibbs, Neil McKenzie, Jacques Kallis, Jonty Rhodes and Shaun Pollock for 21. Then skipper Hansie Cronje, in the company of the doughty Mark Boucher, moved the score to 96 when the latter fell for an adventurous but invaluable 36. Lance Klusener helped Cronje add a few runs. Then wickets fell steadily and only a last wicket stand of 15 helped South Africa reach 149. Cronje top scored with a patient 56.

Any notion that the target of 150 would be easy went out of the window, with Pollock’s magnificent seam bowling at the top. He captured the first five wickets for nothing, and England had lost all its leading batsmen to be at the edge at 45 for 5. There was a mild recovery before wickets fell steadily again. The last wicket partnership of 24 between Chris Read and Alan Mullally helped England reach 111, but was still short by 38 runs. This was indeed a huge win for South Africa based on its score of 149. Pollock had figures of 9.0-1-20-5 and duly won the Man of the Match award.

Now readers will know why 149 was the cut-off and not 150.

ODI #2794: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Mirpur, 2009

Bangladesh slumped to 54 for 5 and thereafter some late middle-order fightback saw the team post 152. It was not a great total against a very strong Sri Lankan batting line-up, led by the famous trio — S. Jayasuriya, K. Sangakkara and M. Jayawardene. However, the match entered the ‘Twilight Zone’. Upul Tharanga dismissed for 2, Jayasuriya for 0, Jayawardene for 0, Chamara Kapugedera for 1 and Thilan Thushara for 1 meant that Sri Lanka’s five top-order batsmen had scored a combined total of 4. The run-out of Jayasuriya without facing a ball, off the very first ball, started the huge slide. However, the classy Sangakkara scored a Test-type innings of 59 off 133 balls to shore up the innings. After 51 for 6, the seventh wicket, Sangakkara, fell at 114. Nuwan Kulasekara followed soon at the same score, and Bangladesh looked certain to win. Muttiah Muralitharan then played the best ODI innings of his career, scoring a whirlwind 33 (off 17 balls) to take Sri Lanka home. It was indeed a surprise that Muralitharan did not get the Man of the Match award, which went to Sangakkara.

Now let us take a look at the 10 ODIs that were lost by teams making recoveries. The miracles that happened in the three matches featured above did not happen here.

ODI #1453: Scotland v Pakistan, Chester-Le-Street, 1999

Pakistan scored an impressive 261 after being 92 for 5 at one stage. Mohammad Yousuf (81 not out) was Pakistan’s saviour. Facing a huge target, Scotland seemed to be in a deadly hurry. Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar had destroyed better batting line-ups than Scotland’s emerging one. Soon the score was 19 for 5 and that was that. Gavin Hamilton, with the only innings of merit amongst the Scots, scored 76, and with some support from the bowlers, took Scotland to 167. Akram and Akhtar captured three wickets each. This match was part of the 1999 World Cup.

ODI #1612: Pakistan v South Africa, SSC-Colombo, 2000

Pakistan, despite having a strong batting line-up, collapsed inexplicably. The top six batsmen scored 12 runs between them and Pakistan’s total was a scary 19 for 6. Azhar Mahmood, Moin Khan and Shoaib Malik then took the score to 98 for 9, before the last wicket partnership between Malik and Mushtaq Ahmad added over 50 runs to take their team’s score to a respectable 153.

South Africa overtook Pakistan’s score with ease, winning by seven wickets.

ODI #2069: Zimbabwe v West Indies, Harare, 2003

Fiery spell: Fidel Edwards, making his ODI debut for West Indies, gutted Zimbabwe with his career-best figures of 6-22 in Harare in 2003.   -  Getty Images

With a strong batting line-up led by Brian Lara and Chris Gayle, West Indies scored 256 for 3 in 45 overs. Although Fidel Edwards was making his debut for West Indies, he was devastating and captured the first five Zimbabwe wickets for next to nothing in five overs. Zimbabwe had lost half its side for 22. Edwards captured a wicket with his first ball in ODI cricket. After the fall of the sixth wicket at 47, Tatenda Taibu and Sean Irvine added nearly hundred runs, but Zimbabwe could only finish at 150 for 7, losing by 72 runs. Edwards finished with career-best figures of 6 for 22.

ODI #2951: Bangladesh v New Zealand, Dunedin, 2010

Bangladesh, batting first on a difficult pitch, was reduced to 25 for 5 and 46 for 6. However, Mushfiqur Rahim played a terrific innings of 86 to take the score to 183 for 8. It was a great achievement to reach a somewhat competitive total. New Zealand, with a strong batting line-up, overhauled Bangladesh’s total with over 20 overs to spare.

ODI #2976: Zimbabwe v West Indies, St. Vincent, 2010

We see a familiar sight: Zimbabwe again in trouble.

Ravi Rampaul and Darren Sammy reduced Zimbabwe to 25 for 5, and after 63 for 6 the visiting team recovered to finish at 161. West Indies reached this low target in 27 overs but not without some wobbles on the way.

ODI #3058: New Zealand v Bangladesh, Mirpur, 2010

Bangladesh could score only 174 against New Zealand, and none of its batsmen reached 40. However, Bangladesh’s bowlers were devastating, as they reduced the strong Kiwi batting to 20 for 5. Grant Elliott and Daniel Vettori brought some stability to the New Zealand innings, but Vettori’s fall (106 for six) followed by Nathan McCullum’s dismissal (119 for 7) meant the target was still far away. Elliott continued to fight with Kyle Mills. However, with the fall of two wickets at 145, New Zealand still needed 30 runs to win the match. Mills played brilliantly and took New Zealand to within four runs of the target. However, at 171, Mills was dismissed by Rubel Hossain and Bangladesh won a thriller by 3 runs.

ODI #3506: Zimbabwe v Afghanistan, Bulawayo, 2014

Afghanistan reached a good total of 259. Zimbabwe lost six wickets for 29. Richmond Mutumbami scored an attractive 64 but Zimbabwe fell short of the target by hundred runs. This was Mutumbami’s debut match.

ODI #3608: Pakistan v West Indies, Christchurch, 2015

Splendid burst: Chasing 311 for victory in a 2015 World Cup match against West Indies in Christchurch, Pakistan hurtled to a 150-run defeat. The man who broke Pakistan’s back was Jerome Taylor, who dismissed the first three batsmen for 0.   -  Getty Images

West Indies, batting first, put up a huge total of 310. Pakistan began the chase as if it was batting blindfolded. The top five batsmen scored just 9 runs between them. In fact, at one stage, it was 1 for 4, but ‘recovered’ to 25 for 5. Further recovery followed, and with fifties from Sohaib Maqsood and Umar Akmal, and a cameo from the evergreen Shahid Afridi, Pakistan managed to reach 160 — still a huge defeat by 150 runs. Jerome Taylor dismissed the first three batsmen for 0. This match was part of the recent World Cup.

ODI #3874: England v South Africa, Lord’s, London, 2017

England suffered an unbelievable collapse and slid to 20 for 6. Imagine Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid scoring just 19 runs between them! Jonny Bairstow helped England recover, first through a useful stand with David Willey, and next with Roland-Jones, making his debut. Finally, England reached 153. This was nowhere near enough and South Africa ran out comfortable winner by seven wickets.

ODI #3966: England v Australia, Adelaide, 2018

Gutsy knock: Set 197 to win by England in an ODI match in Adelaide in January this year, Australia was in a precarious position at 136 for five before Travis Head steered the team to a hard-fought three-wicket win. Head, however, was unlucky to miss the three-figure mark, falling short by four runs. Gutsy knock: Set 197 to win by England in an ODI match in Adelaide in January this year, Australia was in a precarious position at 136 for five before Travis Head steered the team to a hard-fought three-wicket win. Head, however, was unlucky to miss the three-figure mark, falling short by four runs.   -  AFP

This is the match mentioned at the start of this column. Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins reduced England to 8 for 5 — a scoreline highlighted by four zeroes. Then Morgan and Moeen Ali added 53 runs, after which Morgan and Chris Woakes added 51. Finally, Woakes and Tom Curran added 60 for the ninth wicket and England reached a somewhat respectable 196. England fought hard, as it reduced Australia to 136 for 5. However, Travis Head steered Australia to a hard-fought three-wicket win.

A summary of the other matches

In order to complete the analysis, I have summarised the other occasions when teams went sub-25 for 5 and did not reach 149. There are 34 such matches, and it is not surprising that in all these games, the teams recovering from a dire situation lost.

West Indies managed to pull back from 9 for 5 to 99 for 9. The late-order batsmen of India helped the team move from 29 for 7 to 112 all out. Papua New Guinea recovered from 10 for 5 to 147. West Indies added 66 runs to a 25 for 7 start, to reach 91. England converted a 25 for 7 start to make it 81 for 9. However, these recoveries were all in vain.