Our writers and reporters pick their most memorable moments of a manic World Cup
What did you most enjoy?
George Dobell: The spirit. Cricket has become a little more gentle, a little more decent, a little nicer since the last World Cup. It was demonstrated in the gracious manner in which New Zealand reacted to their misfortune in the final. Other teams would have taken to the courts; New Zealand shrugged it off with a phlegmatic smile and warm praise for England.
We saw it when Virat Kohli asked the Indian supporters to applaud Steven Smith too. Oh, and for all the rubbishness of British weather, I’m not sure another nation could have produced the multi-ethnic crowds supporting every team and at every venue without need for segregation or concern. In that way, at least, it was a great World Cup.
Osman Samiuddin: The fact that it stayed alive until pretty much the last few games of the group stages. It could’ve gone so wrong had Sri Lanka lost to England that day – and England’s own tortured run to the semis was immensely enjoyable.
Andrew Fidel Fernando: The bowling. I, like everyone else, thought it would be a batting World Cup. It wasn’t. The yorkers were wonderful.
Melinda Farrell: Perhaps it’s self-indulgent, but it’s seeing lovely people from all around the world, people you might not have seen for a few years. The friends and colleagues who inspire you and keep you smiling when you’re running on empty.
Alagappan Muthu: Kane Williamson – Every run he made was under pressure. But look back at the replays and it feels like he was having a net. Only thing missing was a straight drive while he was yawning.
Sharda Ugra: For being Skills Inc. Before it began, the lament arose: 400! 500! The end of bowling! The end of contests! Fortunately, it was a World Cup of bowlers, merchants of pace and sultans of swing, with their magic variations. And yet it was marked by generous passages of high-quality batting and outright biffing. What’s not to enjoy?
Andrew Miller: Full houses for pretty much every group-stage match – a tribute to multicultural Britain and a clue as to where the future of the sport in this country needs to lie as it builds on the interest generated this summer. Bangladesh’s fans deserve a special mention in this regard – from The Oval to Lord’s to Southampton to Cardiff, they were legion. The toy-tiger industry alone could prop up the economy post-Brexit.
Karthik Krishnaswamy: The pitches. The England-Pakistan series before the World Cup made 500 seem like a real possibility, but we ended up with lots of 240-meets-240 matches instead.
Mohammad Isam: Having the best of both worlds as a reporter. I sat with the crowd for some of the matches, which not only ensured that I hardly missed a ball, but also gave me fresh perspective. At the same time, one of the great privileges of my profession is to witness up close how a cricket team prepares and deals with high-pressure situations.
Nagraj Gollapudi: Ball dominating bat. Fast men telling batsmen: give me respect.
Alan Gardner: Seeing players, fans (and colleagues) from all around the world descend on the UK and help take the World Cup carnival on the road, from Taunton all the way up to Chester-le-Street.
What was the biggest surprise?
Isam: India not making it to the final still surprises me, given their experience and overall skill level. All they had to do was negotiate a strong opening spell from Trent Boult and Matt Henry. They weren’t chasing a big total too.
Farrell: That the expectation of sexy legspin turning teams on their heads was not fulfilled.
Gardner: India not making the final. New Zealand knocking them out, having lost their previous three games, was more surprising than the fact they ran England so close.
Krishnaswamy: The lack of spinners among the top wicket-takers. The four years between 2015 and this World Cup were the years of the wristspinner, but Imran Tahir apart, none of them had a particularly memorable tournament, with Rashid Khan enduring a poor one by his standards.
Samiuddin: South Africa. I didn’t think they were among the very top favourites but I didn’t foresee that they’d struggle so badly and be one of the first teams to be knocked out of contention for the semis.
Miller: The pitches were far less conducive to murderous strokeplay than had been predicted in the build-up to the tournament, and while that came close to sinking England’s tournament after their stumble against Sri Lanka, it also vindicated their eventual triumph as they took their licks, learned their lessons, and ground it out on another dog of a deck in that thrilling final. Elsewhere, Afghanistan’s failure to land a major scalp was the biggest surprise for me. Riven by politics, they were a shadow of their true selves.
Dobell: The pitches. The plan was for absolute belters where 350-plus was par, but we saw scores of 250 defended often. Whether it was the weather or the amount asked of the groundsmen, something went quite wrong there. It created several fun games, but that really was more by accident than design.
Ugra: The speed with which South Africa faded despite having so many gifted, world-class players in their ranks. It was mournful to watch them implode. There were no more jokes to be made about the C word, and Faf du Plessis’ graphic description of what defeat did to teams lingered as the event wore on.
Muthu: Pitches – almost forgot that England in the not-so-distant past was a bowler-friendly place.
Which match did you most enjoy?
Farrell: Impossible to go past the final, although “enjoy” might not be the right word. It was an experience unlike any I’ve ever had at a sporting event. Exhilarating, mind-blowing, nerve-jangling and utterly overwhelming.
Gollapudi: Let us leave the final aside, as it was the game of our lives. Outside of that, I’d pick the India-New Zealand semi-final.
Krishnaswamy: My enjoyment of some of the most thrilling games of the tournament – New Zealand-South Africa, New Zealand-West Indies, the final – was compromised by the frenetic activity of being on ball-by-ball or live-report duty. The games I enjoyed most, therefore, were probably those I simply watched. It was late at night when Australia were chasing 326 against South Africa, and I was lying in bed, watching on my phone, drifting off to sleep one moment and jolting awake the next. When it ended, my head was buzzing with everything that had happened, and falling asleep was suddenly a struggle.
Ugra: Pakistan v South Africa. Because it was prototype Pakistan, where the textbooks are tossed aside, the process bullshit is ignored, and the game is played with a focused intensity and urgency. To be at Lord’s as Pakistanis streamed in, chatting loudly, cursing the players and their performance against India, yet determined to be in one voice was to see one wave roll in outside the field. On it, the team’s cricket turned tidal and drowned South Africa.
Dobell: West Indies v New Zealand at Old Trafford. Partly because I was there as a spectator – a close finish is much less fun when you have to write about it – and partly simply as it was a wonderful advert for our great game.
Fernando: Of the ones I personally attended, New Zealand v South Africa was probably the best.
Muthu: New Zealand v West Indies – West Indies’ fire, New Zealand’s cool. If only it could have happened again in the final.
Isam: Bangladesh striking down South Africa in their first match, in front of a full house at The Oval, particularly with their very one-sided bilateral series in South Africa a year and a half ago in mind. It wasn’t a shock result but it was a surprise how Bangladesh were more disciplined than the South Africans.
Miller: West Indies v New Zealand at Old Trafford was the perfect neutral’s showdown. It had been a fine match in its own right throughout – Kane Williamson’s stunning century after two golden ducks for New Zealand’s openers was worth the admission alone. But for the match to then be lit up by that grandstand finish from Carlos Brathwaite was something else entirely.
Gardner: The second semi-final was a rare instance of England clinically dismantling the mighty World Cup-winning machine that is Australia. Having not won a knockout match in 27 years, they did it with ease and – shockingly – appeared to have fun doing so.
What was the biggest wow moment?
Dobell: Did you see the final?
Miller: Well, apart from the bleeding obvious… there’s Mitchell Starc’s yorker to Ben Stokes at Lord’s. Not only was it utterly sensational, it left the hosts and favourites on the brink of elimination, and set the group stage ablaze.
Fernando: James Neesham’s outrageous one-handed catch to dismiss Dinesh Karthik in the semi-final. I gasped so hard my breathing didn’t return to normal for several minutes.
Muthu: Starc v Stokes. The ball goes out as Mitchell Starc releases it. Then it swings in because of mad reverse. Physics can maybe explain that. But I still won’t get how it got the Player of the Final out on 89.
Gardner: There are a dozen instances from the climax of the final, but the one I’ll never get my head around is Trent Boult stepping on the rope at long-on. That was the game, right there.
Ugra: The two direct-hit run-outs in the India-New Zealand semi-final: Ravindra Jadeja getting Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill getting MS Dhoni. In a World Cup of outstanding catches and pieces of fielding, over two days we watched exact throws become the magic moments in the game.
Isam: When Jofra Archer burst through Soumya Sarkar, struck the bail and had the ball sailing over the ropes in Cardiff.
Farrell: That Martin Guptill catch at leg gully off a full-blooded Steve Smith pull. There were a lot of breathtaking catches in the tournament, but that one, for me, was the most incredible.
Samiuddin: Guptill’s catch to (help) dismiss Steven Smith at Lord’s. And then his direct-hit run-out of Dhoni as well. Actually, the latter probably wins.
Krishnaswamy: Ben Stokes’ Dive of God. There’s a Maradona-esque, Botham-esque quality to some players, where everything – even something as outlandish as an inadvertent deflection for four overthrows – seems possible, and fated to have happened. Stokes is exactly that kind of player.
What was the most gripping phase of play?
Miller: Until Sunday, I’d have said the implosion of India’s top order in the Old Trafford semi-final. It was a Bo(u)lt through the Blue, as 2015’s beaten finalists confirmed unequivocally that they were the real deal. But come on. Every detail of that final climax, from the 49th over of England’s chase onwards, will be tattooed on my retinas till I die.
Muthu: Last five overs of the final – I was on the live report and I was screaming every ball, and that’s why all of it is in capital letters.
Samiuddin: Jos Buttler’s counter against Pakistan, the last two overs Carlos Brathwaite played against New Zealand at Old Trafford, Shaheen Afridi’s opening burst against New Zealand. But also, in the final, Colin de Grandhomme’s entire spell against England. It was just so counterintuitive (and down to the pitch) that a bowler like him would be such a threat against a batting line-up like England’s. The pitch as the great leveller.
Ugra: Jasprit Bumrah’s tenth over against Afghanistan and the awesomeness of its inevitable efficiency. As Mohammad Nabi began to eat away at a modest total and India teetered, Bumrah was India’s insurance policy. It was duly encashed.
Dobell: England’s chase against Australia at Edgbaston. And the way they attacked the bowling, in particular. Mitchell Starc might be one of the greatest white-ball bowlers in history, but after five overs he had conceded 50. Nathan Lyon was hit for six first ball and Steven Smith conceded three sixes – one of them may not yet have landed – in his only over. This wasn’t the England any of us grew up watching. And it was all the better for it.
Isam: Kane Williamson’s captaincy when he brought on Colin de Grandhomme in the final. He was supposed to be New Zealand’s weakest bowler, but the in-and-out fields and lengths kept England guessing, and showed why Williamson is the rightful heir in a long line of great Kiwi thinkers that includes Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum.
Fernando: Angelo Mathews winning the match against West Indies with the ball, after he hadn’t bowled even in the nets for eight months, was unforgettable.
Krishnaswamy: Carlos Brathwaite against New Zealand. All the classic ingredients were there – a seemingly wrecked chase in a must-win game, no recognised batsmen at the other end – and when the realisation dawned that this was actually happening, everything slowed down, and every ball became an event. New Zealand invited (and eventually earned) fines and demerit points for their long deliberations between balls, but all those long gaps were filled with exquisite tension.
Gardner: Overs 49-50 (of England’s innings) and the two Super Overs in the final. They are seared on my cerebral cortex for eternity.
What was your favourite individual performance?
Dobell: Probably Chris Woakes’ against Australia at Edgbaston. I’ve known Chris quite a long time. Maybe there’s a more unassuming, humble international sportsperson, but I’ve not met them. To come through the injury setbacks he has had and enjoy a day like that on his home ground in a World Cup semi-final… yeah, that was a good day.
Samiuddin: Babar Azam’s hundred against New Zealand. Been watching him for a long time and he is so clearly so obviously such a good player who only needed one big match-winning innings to be acknowledged as more than just a very good player – but rather one who is potentially a great already.
Miller: Jonny Bairstow’s screw-you-all century against India. His wrath was ridiculous, but his response to those perceived slights in the media was both brilliant and utterly foreseeable.
Gollapudi: Two. Ravindra Jadeja’s cavalier half-century against New Zealand in the semi-final, when he batted on a different pitch to the rest of the batsmen. And Ben Stokes’ smart, patient, daring innings in the final, an innings that has the potential to inspire and create a generation of cricketers across the world.
Farrell: I’m going to throw Sheldon Cottrell in there. Not for a particular performance, although he had plenty, plus that catch, but for all of the times I saw kids imitating his salute. They say that performing is all about connecting with the audience and he nailed it.
Gardner: Since I was there and got to write about it, Lasith Malinga’s monstering of England at Headingley. It was also a performance that ensured the group stage would hold interest until pretty much the end.
Muthu: Brathwaite versus New Zealand. Those sixes. The courage to trust that he had the game to keep out the best bowling attack in the world and also clatter them for sixes to win the game for West Indies.
Isam: I am split between Shakib Al Hasan’s hundred against West Indies and his full quota of ten overs from the end with the shorter midwicket boundary against India at Edgbaston. Of course the performance in Taunton won Bangladesh the match, but his bowling is a testament to how effortless Shakib is as a cricketer, even when he takes on big challenges.
Ugra: Babar Azam’s century against New Zealand, which is a bit biased given that I wrote about his back story and knew that a breakout performance had yet to appear. Everybody loves a stylist, and when the stylist becomes a match-winner, it’s like the gods have given their approval.
Fernando: Malinga’s wobble-bellied four-for against England.
Krishnaswamy: Chris Woakes’ new-ball bowling was a joy to watch throughout, and his first spell in the semi-final at Edgbaston was outstanding. Australia had never lost a World Cup semi-final, and here they were, 14 for 3, with Woakes’ control, swing and seam doing the bulk of the damage.
Who was the player of the tournament for you?
Farrell: Look, I’m happy that Kane Williamson got the official nod, and he’s a worthy winner. I think it’s a toss-up between him and Shakib Al Hasan, who was brilliant as ever. Who hit the most boundaries?
Fernando: Shakib Al Hasan, whose runs and wickets in the tournament have confirmed him as the first all-time great cricketer from Bangladesh.
Ugra: Shakib – numbers and presence and impact. A big man for a big occasion. How Bangladesh will miss him when he’s gone.
Muthu: Shakib. Asking for what he wanted. Proving that he deserved it. And showing the entire world that he could get into a team on his batting alone.
Krishnaswamy: Shakib. He has always been a top allrounder, but at this World Cup his batting reached new heights. Great batsmen know their strengths and weaknesses intimately, and at one point work out a method by which they can churn out fifties on autopilot. We see Virat Kohli bat like that all the time, and Shakib raised his game to that level.
Gollapudi: Jofra Archer.
Isam: Shakib, the third highest run getter, with 606 runs, at the tournament’s highest average, 86.57. He was the joint second-highest wicket-taker among spinners with 11 wickets. Nobody in the World Cup’s history has ever taken more than ten wickets and scored 400-plus runs. He delivered at a level never before seen by any allrounder in this tournament.
Dobell: Nobody could argue with the choice of Shakib, for his all-round excellence, or Williamson for his grace and cool under pressure. But I’d have given it to Stokes: that’s what redemption looks like.
Gardner: Ben Stokes. Colossal.
Samiuddin: Jofra Archer. Quite simply because he transformed the England bowling attack.
Miller: Shakib was stunning. With bat or ball in hand, he was in total control of his game at all times, and as a consequence no contest ever seemed entirely out of Bangladesh’s reach. Thanks to his guiding hand, they were by a distance the best of the non-semi-finalists, no matter what the World Cup table tells you. But Kane Williamson was a hugely worthy winner, for his class in every innings and his grace in (non-)defeat.
Who was the breakout star?
Gollapudi: Archer, but also Rishabh Pant.
Gardner: You can’t get away from Jofra Archer. Literally – he will hunt you down, bounce you at 90mph and then bamboozle you with a knuckleball. The kid is fi-yah.
Ugra: Nicholas Pooran, whose heady chase with Fabian Allen in a dead rubber against Sri Lanka became the promise of tomorrow for West Indies cricket, besides their dynamo power batting and explosive bowling. Now if only the three could meet every time in every game.
Krishnaswamy: Liton Das. He has been around for a few years, and it’s hard to call his tournament a breakthrough, since he only played one real innings of substance – 94 not out against West Indies – but what an innings it was, filled with the most sublime strokeplay. With the ability he has, he surely will blossom into a mainstay across formats and rewrite some of Bangladesh’s batting records.
Miller: Jofra Archer has been everything we were promised, and more. Viciously quick but extraordinarily cunning as well. That knuckleball to Glenn Maxwell in the semi-final was pure witchcraft.
Fernando: Jofra Archer and Lockie Ferguson were incredible to watch right through the tournament. Let’s hope they stay injury-free.
Isam: Archer will become one of the brightest stars in world cricket. His languid action spewing high pace has batsmen jumping around already, and like Brett Lee, he is a fast bowler who smiles more than he snarls. A crowd favourite, and a legend in the making.
Farrell: Jofra Archer has still only played a handful of ODIs. How crazy is that? Looking forward to seeing a lot more of Shaheen Afridi and Nicholas Pooran too.
What was the biggest disappointment?
Muthu: Laws. Yeah, don’t make me talk about this. I’ll use bad words.
Dobell: The finish. It feels untidy. It doesn’t feel fair to New Zealand, who were simply unlucky, or England, who deserve unstinting praise but may now not receive it because of the manner in which their victory was achieved. I’d have been happy to see the trophy shared. Might it not have set quite a good precedent? Might it not have shown that, however hard sides play, it’s not all about winning and losing?
Samiuddin: Not that much, though I guess that rain had such an effect on some sides – good or bad – is probably one thing. The controversies around the final, to a degree, but, personally, the drama of such a great game, a great game as the final of the game’s showpiece event, overshadows those.
Farrell: Not seeing as many teams as we did in the last World Cup. Also, the outrageous amount of plastic and needless waste at venues. We need to be better.
Krishnaswamy: Ireland, Zimbabwe, Scotland and Netherlands were playing extremely competitive ODI cricket in the lead-up to the World Cup and during the tournament too. At least two of them should have been at the World Cup.
Miller: The lack of free-to-air coverage. It’s old-hat, I know, and we’ve dealt with it in our very English manner for the past 15 years. But the incredulity of my colleagues from overseas brought it home to me, just how isolated and irrelevant English cricket has allowed itself to become in the past generation. The euphoria around the final confirmed that the latent fans are still out there somewhere.
Isam: Forget free-to-air for a minute. The real culprit for a World Cup was the organisers’ lack of effort to make more people aware about the event in the host cities. A few posters with a trophy and a sponsor’s name at the bottom hardly suggested that a World Cup was happening in the neighbourhood.
Ugra: West Indies’ tailspin in the event after a Sheldon Cottrell-like statement of arrival with beating Pakistan.
Gardner: Afghanistan were much poorer than I thought they would be. And the wet weather in the second week was untimely.
What was the biggest facepalm moment?
Samiuddin: Easy – the appointment of Kumar Dharmasena for the final after his semi-final performance. And that blunder actually happened earlier in the year, when they awarded him Umpire of the Year, which meant that, as long as Sri Lanka weren’t in the final, Dharmasena would likely be standing, because if the ICC don’t pick their own best umpire for their showpiece game then it doesn’t put their award in a great light. So they did and… well.
Isam: The overthrows off Stokes’ bat, which, firstly, should have made the ball dead (had the ICC been serious about such intricate details), and the resultant six runs which should have actually been five runs, had the umpires, already equipped with so much technology, observed things better.
Gollapudi: Chris Gayle raising his bat while walking out, even as West Indies were being knocked out of the World Cup.
Gardner: South Africa’s entire campaign, but in particular how many self-owns they managed in the must-win game against New Zealand at Edgbaston.
Ugra: Shai Hope missing a stumping off Dhoni. And Boult, Boult!, stepping on the boundary rope in the final. When Boult loses his bearings, it is a sign that that the match is going to go England’s way. No matter how, the World Cup was England’s from that moment on.
Farrell: When Gulbadin Naib brought himself on to bowl at the death against Pakistan.
Muthu: Once bad boy Kohli turning goody-goody and walking when he wasn’t even out. They should make that dismissal into an emoji.
Krishnaswamy: Shimron Hetmyer and Chris Gayle going for risky hits, ignoring the available singles in the must-win game against New Zealand, leading to a collapse. We’ll remember what Carlos Brathwaite did next, but the bigger takeaway for West Indies will be how their heavily T20-influenced approach failed them in two winnable games: this one and the chase against Australia.
Miller: It’s not so much a facepalm as a jaw-drop. Of all the “uncontrollables” that turned the final England’s way, Trent Boult’s rope-tread was the clincher. After the poise he showed to end Brathwaite’s rampage at Old Trafford, it was an error that will haunt him for evermore.
Dobell: It actually happened a bit before the start of the tournament. I was having a coffee with Moeen Ali. An Australian guy came over and said, “Ah, look, I’m an Australian but I just want to say I really admire you and the way you bat all day. How about a selfie?” I caught Moeen’s eye at this point. He looked bemused. “I bowl all day sometimes,” he said. “Batting… hmm, not so much.” Anyway, it became pretty apparent the Australian fella thought Moeen was Hashim Amla. He probably has that selfie of him and “Hashim” on Facebook now.