Picking favourites is a mighty difficult task, and when the question is over the best World Cup innings over 11 editions of the game’s showpiece edition, it gets even more difficult to do so.
Sports Lounge attempts to keep it one for all seasons, picking out the top five innings based on the fluency of batting, game situation, impact as well as the overall method in the madness.
1. Kapil Dev 175* vs Zimbabwe, 1983
The now legendary game that no one saw will remain etched in the memories of Indian cricket fans. Perhaps the foundation stone in that epic march to India’s breakthrough World Cup title 36 years ago, laid almost poetically by the team’s captain and its inspiration, Kapil Dev.
The strapping all-rounder walks onto Tunbridge Wells with his team down 17 for 5, and thunders with an audacious innings of 175* that takes India to what eventually was a winning total against Zimbabwe. The opposition wasn’t quite top draw, you ask?
They beat Australia in that World Cup, and featured a certain Kepler Wessels and Graeme Hick in their ranks back then. The innings also has gained legendary status because the BBC chose to be on strike that day and not televise the game altogether.
2. Inzamam-ul-Haq 60 vs New Zealand, 1992
He wasn’t quite a picture of calm and poise back then. A 21-year-old Inzamam had been embarrassed by Jonty Rhodes in a previous game, which became the image of the 1992 World Cup, but the Pakistan batsman had other plans for himself.
He chose his stage, and set it alight in the semi-final against hosts New Zealand at Eden Park. Not that he looked determined; he still ambled up to the crease when Pakistan needed 123 from 15 overs.
All that changed as Inzi smashed Deepak Patel and co. to all parts of the tiny stadium, his 37-ball 60 setting up victory with just an over remaining. It announced Inzamam to world cricket, and a game later, Pakistan to the ICC World Cup.
3. Ricky Ponting 140 vs India, 2003
While some innings stand out for their sheer genius, or sometimes brute force, you would find it hard to categorise Australia captain Ricky Ponting’s 140 against India in the final of the 2003 World Cup in Johannesburg.
Australia was the archetypal cricket team, difficult to beat home or away, and despite missing Shane Warne through the tournament, they didn’t drop a single game on their way to their second consecutive world title, set up by a Ponting special.
Only India had a bowling attack capable of challenging the vaunted Australian batting order, but Ponting’s arrival put paid to their hopes. Despite being at his elegant best, Ponting was brutal in that innings.
He carved pacers over point and pulled with disdain, smashed spinners down the ground on his way to one of the finest ODI innings ever seen, batting India out of the title.
4. Kevin O’Brien 113 vs England, 2011
While there are innings here that feature for the occasion, or the name who rose to it, this one challenges that norm in more ways than one.
The Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore has been witness to countless performances in international cricket, and none of them can match Kevin O’Brien’s proverbial kick-in-the-gut innings that stunned England in the 2011 World Cup.
An Associate country up against a team with a storied history made for a David v Goliath battle, and chasing an almost impossible 328, and having fallen to 111-5, Ireland would have done well to come close.
O’Brien came, saw, and smashed a 50-ball 100 to cheers that reverberated across the city’s night sky. If Ireland’s win over Pakistan in 2007 gave them identity, the victory over England proved that they belonged.
A few years later with Ireland gaining Test status, it was O’Brien again who stood out, stroking the country’s first Test match hundred for good measure.
5. AB de Villiers 162* vs West Indies, 2015
How can ABD not feature in a list of important things in world cricket.
You won’t see him at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, but the former South Africa captain raised the bar for batting that day alone.
Only a few days ago in South Africa, de Villiers had smashed the fastest century ever in an ODI, against the same opposition. All they could do on that occasion was bow to the genius of their opposing captain.
De Villiers, however, had plenty more left in his tank. He had already smashed the fastest ODI century; it was time for the fastest 150.
An eye-popping 261 runs came in the last 20 overs of the South Africa innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and de Villiers, who had scored his half-century off a little over 30 balls, and had accelerated to a century off 52, but rocketed to 162* from 66. No, there isn’t a number missing there.
If the previous innings on this list were about the occasion or a team’s coming of age, this was the pinnacle of batting, a celebration as it were.