Australia was crowned world champions on Sunday. They started the tournament as the favorites and lived up to the tag after six weeks and 48 games of non-stop cricket. They outplayed co-hosts New Zealand in the final, who were in red hot form and undefeated throughout the tournament, thereby extending their World Cup triumphs to a record five times. This was the first World Cup played under the new ICC rules where two new balls were used in every innings of a match at either ends and only four fielders were allowed outside the 30-yard circle in non-power play overs. These rules proved to be a nightmare for the bowlers especially the spinners as the batsmen plundered a lot of runs in the tournament. It was the first tournament in which a batsman scored a double century (it was scored twice in this edition) and the 400-run mark was breached thrice by teams. The bowlers too managed to torment the batsmen with some memorable spells. Here are the top ten individual performances of this edition listed in no particular order:
1) Grant Elliot-84* off 73 balls vs South Africa at Eden Park, Auckland (1st Semi-Final)
A master class innings which will go down as one of the very best ODI innings played in the history of the 50-over format. It was an innings which helped the Kiwis to get over the line in front of their home crowd against a fearless South African side, all of this in a World Cup semi-final! Elliot displayed nerves of steel under immense pressure against one of the finest bowling attacks in the world. He not only had to consolidate the innings but also had to accelerate and finish the job all by himself. This innings of Elliot took New Zealand to their first World Cup final.
2) Ajinkya Rahane- 79 off 60 balls vs South Africa at the MCG, Melbourne (Pool B game)
‘Jinx’ as he is better known as by his team mates, brought his A game against the Proteas. He came in and injected the much needed momentum into India’s otherwise subdued innings. He smashed 3 sixes at one of the biggest grounds in the world against the likes of Steyn and Morkel. He is of short stature but he does pack a punch! His innings helped India propel to a big score which was a little too much to chase for the South Africans.
3) AB de Villiers- 162* off 66 balls vs West Indies at the SCG, Sydney (Pool B game)
This innings wasn’t played under intense pressure or against a great bowling attack but is still rated as one of the best performances of this World Cup due to the pure ecstasy it brought to the spectators. He obliterated the West Indies bowlers to score the fastest 150 ever in ODI cricket breaking the previous record of Shane Watson by nineteen balls. In the end, the West Indies team managed to score eleven runs fewer than the Proteas skipper.
4) Wahab Riaz- 54* off 46 balls & 4/45 vs Zimbabwe at the Gabba, Brisbane (Pool B game)
Pakistan could well have been out of the tournament if they had lost this game hence the pressure was colossal. Wahab walked in at 155 for 6 and constructed an unbeaten 54 to help Pakistan bat out 50 overs for the first time in the competition. He later picked crucial wickets to peg Zimbabwe back at regular intervals. His 4th wicket of Chigumbura finished the match and resulted in Pakistan’s first win of their World Cup campaign. He was fittingly adjudged the ‘Man-of-the-Match’ for his outstanding all-round performance.
5) Steven Smith- 105 off 93 balls vs India at the SCG, Sydney (2nd Semi-final)
Steven Smith has had a phenomenal summer and has tormented the Indian bowlers in the best part of the last four months. It was another day in the office for Smith when he strode out to the middle in the fourth over of the innings except that it was a big semi-final. He was at ease from ball one on a wicket where everybody else struggled to get going. It is because of Smith’s innings that opener Finch made a scratchy 81 which helped Australia amass a mammoth 328 which turned out to be too many for defending champions India.
6) Mohammed Mahmudullah- 103 off 138 balls vs England at the Adelaide Oval (Pool A game)
Mahmudullah entered in the record books by becoming the first ever Bangladeshi cricketer to have scored a century in a World Cup game when he slammed an unbeaten 103 which knocked-out England from the tournament. Promoted to bat at number 4, Mahmudullah anchored the Bangladeshi innings whilst the rest batted around him to put up a daunting 275 runs on the scoreboard. England were under serious pump chasing that many runs in a virtual pre quarter-final and succumbed to the pressure handing Bangladesh a 15 run win and a ticket to their first ever quarter-final.
7) Trent Boult- 5/27 vs Australia at Eden Park, Auckland (Pool A game)
Boult’s bolt from the blue found Australia reeling despite getting off to a good start. Boult’s first spell read 0/24 in five overs. He picked up 5 wickets in the first three overs of his second spell without conceding a single run off the bat! It is because of his hostile spell that helped the Kiwis to skittle out the Australians for a paltry 151. Boult was the ‘Man-of-the-Match’ for his first ever five-wicket haul.
8) Mitchell Starc- 6/28 vs New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland (Pool A game)
This spell came in the same match and almost got Australia across the line. After conceding 14 runs in his first over, Starc came back well to pick up 6 wickets while conceding just 14 runs in the next 8 overs he bowled. He swung the ball at pace and made life hell for the batsmen with some brilliant display of fast bowling. He mixed the short ball with some toe-crushing yorkers which must have done the great Wasim Akram proud. Kane Williamson stood as a rock and saw his team home in the end but this spell from Starc will be remembered for a very long time.
9) Tim Southee- 7/33 vs England at Westpac Stadium, Wellington (Pool A game)
Tim Southee’s brilliant seven-for also features in this list which is dominated by the batters. Southee displayed great control with the new ball and made good use of the crease to blow England away for just 123. This was the best bowling performance by a Kiwi in a World Cup game and one of the better spells in the history of one-day cricket. Southee’s spell helped New Zealand to seal the game within 46 overs.
10) Martin Guptill- 237* off 163 balls vs West Indies at Westpac Stadium, Wellington (4th Quarter-final)
After holding on to a spot in the quarter-finals by the skin of their teeth, West Indies ran into Martin Guptill. Guptill scored the second double-hundred of the tournament and batted through the 50 overs to remain unbeaten on a gigantic 237-which is now the record for the highest individual score by a batsman in World Cup history. It was clean striking and not so much brute force. Guptill strength is that he looks to hit down the ground while keeping his head still thus maintaining his shape. He smashed 11 sixes with the help of this technique and still looked fresh at the end of the last over of the innings. The West Indies attack was hardly threatening but to score that many runs in a World Cup knock-out game makes it worthy of praise.