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Willow wonders: strokes of genius

cricket Updated: Jan 21, 2011 00:37 IST

Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Batmen and Runs Innovation and convention have added up to some spectacular World Cup knocks. Here's a look at 10 unforgettable gems. Best of the best

Big cat and the Run raceBig cat and the Run race

The Inaugural World Cup was a time to explore. The one-day format was still in the nascent stage and feats like Sunil Gavaskar carrying his bat through the 60 overs for a measly 36 not out did not seem as out of place then as it would now. Against such a backdrop, West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd's murderous 82-ball ton in the 1975 Cup final was an innings far ahead of its time and set the tone for the way One-day cricket was to be played. In fact, with the presence of Richards, Kallicharan and Greenidge, Lloyd leading the charge was least expected. Until Lloyd arrived at 50 for three, Australia could still count their chances with Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Gary Gilmour stomping their way to the bowling crease. Then came Lloyd who quickly adapted to the situation. He hooked Lillee in majestic style for a six, and then punched Max Walker off the backfoot past cover with disdain. That set him off. Kap’s the word Kap's the word

It was one innings that inspired an entire nation to believe that they could finally break the shorter format code. Pity though, it was never televised since the BBC had gone on a strike on June 18, 1983. When Kapil Dev walked in, the scoreboard read nine for four. Soon it was 17 for five and Zimbabwe, who had defeated Australia in their very first ODI, were sniffing another upset. But the 22-year-old Indian skipper went on to produce one of the greatest knocks in One-day Internationals. The spectacular 175 not out that he came up with, comprised 16 fours and six sixes. It set the tone for India. As Kapil has said quite often, the knock instilled self-belief in a team that was never given a chance of reaching the final, let alone winning it. Since then, India gradually moved forward and now stands as a powerhouse.

Viv's the way, any dayViv's the way, any day

Armed with a befitting devil-may-care attitude, Vivian Richards was one of the first and finest exponents of one-day batsmanship. Against England in the 1979 final, he scored 138 off 157 balls. He had to subdue his natural instincts often. But when he did not, some unconventional but breathtaking shots came out of his unmatchable repertoire. Richards remained unbeaten that evening as he signed off with a last-ball six over mid-wicket off Mike Hendrick. It was perhaps the most memorable shot in that match. "I left the field thinking, 'That shot is my invention'," Richards was later quoted as saying.

Davison's dash to glory Davidson's dash to glory

Usually, Test nations go for a killing if they are facing Associate nations in the World Cup. Rarely does it happen the other way round. Canada's John Davison fits in the latter slot. He will be remembered for scoring the fastest century (67 balls) in a World Cup match. Although Canada lost that game against the West Indies, Davison's batting took everyone by surprise. What made his effort stunning was his first-class record that was abysmal to say the least. In the 37 first-class matches he had played in Australia till then, he averaged under 11. The West Indians chased the leather. By the time he was dismissed, Davison had made 111 from 76 balls, hitting six sixes and eight fours. Pity that his effort was upstaged by Brian Lara, who got the World Cup's fastest 50 when his turn came.

Adam bomb explosion Adam bomb explosion

Ever heard of a batsman improving his hitting prowess using a squash ball? Adam Gilchrist was never one to conform to tradition. And thank god, because without his swashbuckling innings, the 2007 final would have been an ordinary match. In 30 previous World Cup innings, Gilchrist had never reached the three-figure mark. But he rectified that, scoring the highest individual score (149) in a Cup final and setting up Australia for a hat-trick of World Cup triumphs. On a true Kensington Oval pitch, Gilchrist needed precisely six balls to gauge the pace and bounce, before hitting Sri Lankan medium pacer Chaminda Vaas for two fours and a six. That set the trend for the rest of the innings. This was Gilchrist's third successive fifty-plus score in a World Cup final. He had scored 54 against Pakistan at Lord's in 1999 and 57 against India at Johannesburg in 2003. All three of those came in a manner that left the bowlers rattled.



Mumbai marauder Mumbai marauder

India's batting was pitted against Pakistan's pace bowling comprising Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. India came up trumps, thanks to Sachin Tendulkar's majestic 98. He warmed up with a stand-up punching drive off Akram. He then picked Akhtar for special treatment, hitting him for a six over third-man and following it up with two boundaries. Skipper Waqar too wasn't spared as Tendulkar played shots all around the wicket. Tendulkar missed out on a well-deserved century when Akhtar banged in a short one that popped off the edge and went straight to the fielder. India's way for victory, however, had been laid by then. Just like Kapil's 175, it inspired India to reach the final bend of the event.

Punter's choicest

Punter's choicest

It was a brutal onslaught from the word go. Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden had laid the foundation with some lusty blows. It served as an appetiser before Ricky Ponting dished out the main course. A nervous Indian pace attack comprising Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra sprayed the ball around and conceded 23 runs in wides and no balls. Ponting, never to lose an opportunity, just took them to the cleaners. Together with Damien Martyn, Punter batted India out of the game with a 234-run partnership that powered Australia to a mammoth 359/2, the highest-ever score in a World Cup final. He hit eight sixes and four fours in a 121-ball 140.

Cooking their Gooch Cooking their Gooch

'If you can't hit them, sweep them.' That was Graham Gooch's mantra when he swept India aside in the 1987 World Cup semifinal in Mumbai. After scalping openers Tim Robinson and Bill Athey, India stepped on the gas by bringing their strength, the spinners, into play. But Gooch used the sweep shot to great effect, nullifying the left-arm spin of both Maninder Singh and Ravi Shastri. Gooch made 115 from 136 balls, helping England move into a commanding position. The Indians were so ruffled that they leaked 32 runs to Allan Lamb towards the end, pushing England beyond 250.

New kid on the block New kid on the block

chasing a target of 263 against the Kiwis, Pakistan's chances of making the 1992 final were almost up in smoke when they were 140 for 4. Enter a largely unknown Inzamam-ul-Haq. He took just 37 balls to turn things around. When Inzamam was run out, Pakistan's target had been trimmed to 36 off 30 balls. Some of his shots came out of the exuberance of youth and were free of fear. They were audacious and improvised strokes that left the Kiwis shocked.

The hosts and their fans simply couldn't believe that the game had slipped out of their hands.

Mad Max & his dash to glory Mad Max

The Sri Lankans in the 1996 edition were gritty. And 'Mad Max' Aravinda de Silva was the grittiest of them. His 66 against India in the semifinal at Eden was a precursor to a bigger knock which came in the final against the powerful Aussies. Mark Taylor's side had set a modest 242-run target but Sri Lanka were pushed on the backfoot after the loss of openers, Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana. But de Silva remained unfazed and went for his strokes putting the pressure back on Australia. He got his hundred eventually to become the third batsman to score a ton in a Cup final.

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