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Minnows are passe, the Trendsetters are in


altOh, how we love witnessing an underdog playing a notch upper and beating a giant! How eagerly we catch onto those highlights when the Davids of the World have come one better than the Goliaths. It is so much a part of human nature to root for the lesser known when the battle is on against the all-powerful. There is this sense of joy, an unadulterated excitement, rush of blood, chewing of nails, crossing of fingers etc. that happen when you become a part of these encounters. Hence, good, bad, interesting, passionate and intense are the few feelings that form a vital part of the collage of sporting memories. The focus of this article lies firmly on the greatness of these small town boys of the cricketing world.

We have taken into consideration 4 teams that are regarded as minnows. The teams either have played for a longer duration and/or have caused major upsets in their short stay at the international level cricket. Hence, the shortlisted teams are Zimbabwe, Kenya, Bangladesh and Ireland. In case of Zimbabwe, it has played 407 ODI matches out of which it has won 107. The stats that interests us is the number of matches won (47 matches) against the top dogs of the world cricket. Out of those 47, most have come against the likes India, West Indies, England, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka. While Pakistan, South Africa and Australia have not suffered much of the damage against the Zimbabweans. Bangladesh has won 72 of its 262 matches and 20 have come against the mighty international teams. The most remarkable being its white wash win over New Zealand. Upsetting Australia at Cardiff and jolting India’s chances at the World Cup 2007 in West Indies. Kenya, though disappointing overall, has played some spirited cricket in its early days at the top level international cricket. Ireland has done remarkably well in its stay at the highest level of cricket. Ireland seems to be the one team that seems to revel at the World Cups. It has sent shivers in the camps of England and Pakistan. Amongst all four teams mentioned here, Ireland also possesses an impressive win-loss record.

Team  Matches Won Won (vs Biggies) Performance (vs Biggies)
Zimbabwe 407 107 47 43.93%
Bangladesh 262 72 20 27.78%
Kenya 146 39 4 10.26%
Ireland 73 33 2 6.06%

That’s how we see it- say the annoyed minnows:

Now lets’ focus on the records of the so called top dogs against these so called minnows. Well, India leads this list of shocking defeats. And hey, even this top spot is fiercely contested. West Indies and New Zealand are leaving no stones unturned to snatch this spot. Finally, have something to boast about; in case of WI after a long time. England and Sri Lanka too have done their bit to feature in the top 5 of this elusive list. And now, we will make sure that the likes of Australia, South Africa and Pakistan raise the bars and emerge toppers in the list.

Teams vs India vs Aus vs Eng vs NZ vs Pak vs SA vs SL vs WI
Zimbabwe 10 (51) 1 (27) 8 (29) 8 (34) 2 (43) 2 (31) 7 (46) 9 (40)
Bangladesh 3 (24) 1 (19) 2 (15) 5 (21) 1 (31) 1 (14) 3 (30) 4 (18)
Ireland 0 (2) 0 (2) 1 (5) 0 (2) 1 (3) 0 (3) 0 (1) 0 (3)
Kenya 2 (13) 0 (5) 0 (2) 0 (2) 0 (6) 0 (10) 1 (6) 1 (6)

Note: The numbers mentioned in the brackets are the No. of Matches played against the respective opponents.

Well, this is an attempt to relive some of those fascinating cricketing moments when a lesser known cricketing entity went against the top dogs of the cricketing world. The stats team has gone through many results to come up with 5 such interesting duels. There were majorly four criteria that were taken into consideration before finalising the list. First, the matches that are cited as a point of reference are post 1995 era. Second, more than the number of runs scored, it was the quality of cricket on display that took the front seat before shortlisting the matches. Third, how did it affect the momentum of the tournament/series? And fourth, what impact did it have on the esteem or the immediate future of the particular country’s cricketing reputation. Keeping all these above aspects in mind, we shortlisted these interesting cricketing battles.

Ireland vs England - 2nd March 2011, M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
Ireland won by 3 wickets with 5 balls remaining
England 327/8 (50 overs); Ireland 329/7 (49.1 overs)

A classic scenario where the lesser known had nothing to lose. The known, on the other hand had 2 points and a birth to the quarterfinals to gain. England had won the toss and elected to bat first. The top order looked in a prime form. KP, captain Andrew Strauss and then Trott and Bell took it over from there. England 327/8 post 50 overs. And Ireland was tottering in this chase, 111/5 and “Oh come on, England can’t lose this one, was the feeling across half the world. But Ireland was feeling otherwise. Ireland had never liked to be a part of the world that has England in it. In came Alex Cusack to accompany Kevin O Brien. Ireland still needed 217 runs to win and England was 5 wickets away. This seemed like England’s day of glory. Felt otherwise, a certain guy in a funny hairdo. Kevin O Brien launched an attack that the scarcely present crowd at Chinnaswamy will remember for a lifetime or two.

Ireland vs Pakistan - 17th March 2007, Sabina Park, Kingston
Ireland won by 3 wickets with 32 balls remaining (D/L method)
Pakistan 132 (45.4/50 overs); Ireland 133/7 (41.4/47 overs)

This shall be one of the key upsets in the history of the World Cups. Unlike Bangladesh, Ireland did not have the test status to be proud of and it just rolled the Pakistan team over. Heroic- yes, by all means this Ireland performance was. It played a spirited cricket. Always knowing, it is an underdog but that day, it made the whole world stand up and take notice. It sent Pakistan packing. A dream start for Ireland’s journey at the top level cricket. Pakistan was put in to bat and it was a Greigy moment of dear oh dear post over no.45 when Pakistan was bundled out for a shocking 132 runs. Rankin was brilliant with the ball. Now, it was the responsibility of Ireland’s batting to hold on to the advantage it had achieved. Geez, it did so. Niall O Brien played one of the most crucial knocks in his and Ireland’s cricketing history. How crucial were those 72 runs!  It was game and glory for Ireland. Pakistan could start packing its bags for an early return to its homeland.

Bangladesh vs Australia - 18th June 2005, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
Bangladesh won by 5 wickets with 4 balls remaining
Australia 249/5 (50 overs); Bangladesh 250/5 (49.2 overs)

Damien Martyn and Michael Clarke made sure that Aussies reached the score of 249 runs. With McGrath, Gillespie and Kasprowicz at Ponting’s disposal, Australia should have been cruising towards the victory. Bangladesh though, seemed hell bent not to let that happen. The prodigy, Ashraful played one of the best knocks of his career. He scored a hundred that took Bangladesh closer to the target of 250 runs; Habibul Bashar accompanied him with a gritty 47. Aftab Ahmed packed the final punch with his 13 balls 21 runs. This victory still remains to be one of the most magical moments in the journey of Bangladesh cricket.

Zimbabwe vs India - 19th May 1999, Grace Road, Leicester
Zimbabwe won by 3 runs
Zimbabwe 252/9 (50 overs); India 249 (45/46 overs)

Tendulkar had rushed home to be with his family during the trying times. India on the other hand, was up against Zimbabwe at Leicester. Zimbabwe had batted first and put up a respectable score of 252/9 in 50 overs. Chief contributors, well the ever so present Flower brothers. If it had to qualify for the super six stage, India had no other option but to win this one. Tendulkar or no Tendulkar, India should be chasing this down. Heath Streak and till then unknown entity Henry Olonga thought otherwise. Streak was miserly in his 9 overs that went for mere 36 runs. But more importantly, gave Zimbabwe 3 crucial wickets. And Olonga, chipped in with 3 wickets in his 4 overs. The match was a close tie, but the spirited Zimbabwean side prevailed.  How ‘Grace’ful was that!

Kenya vs West Indies- 29th February 1996, Nehru Stadium, Pune
Kenya won by 73 runs
Kenya 166 (49.3 overs); West Indies 93 (35.2 overs)

Lara, Chanderpaul, Richardson, Jimmy Adams, Keith Arthurton- if they can’t chase down a target of 167 runs, then no one could help them. Kenya was bundled out for 166 thanks to the dominating bowling display from Walsh, Ambrose and spinner Roger Harper. Many believed that this would be a cake walk for WI. The end had some other plans though. These ever so fighting Kenyans fought it out;they fielded well, bowled their hearts out and more importantly kept WI under check. Although WI went on to play the semi-final, this was one of those days which WI fans would like to forget.

This win completes our list of top 5 cricketing upsets of the recent past. So fellows, how lovely will it be if these countries from cricketing backwaters emerge even stronger! The cricket fans will be glad, the history of these countries will be gladder and perhaps the administrators of the game will be the gladdest to see the game getting evolved big time.

Stats by: Karna Yajnik

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