CWC19: Five closest matches

Which games got our pulses racing in the World Cup so far?

Most of the matches of this World Cup have been predictable and pretty one-sided but a few of them have not. Especially in the past few days we’ve started to have some really exciting matches. Here are my picks for the five best ones.

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5. Sri Lanka defeated England by 20 runs

How does a team ranked 9th win against a team ranked 1st while scoring just 232 runs when the team ranked 1st has just scored over 300 in 8 matches in a row? Huh? I have no idea what the answer is, other than “England didn’t concentrate” but even then it was close. Ben Stokes suddenly realised that the rest of the team weren’t pulling their weight and, right at the end, decided to win it for England off his own back. 21 runs to get off 3 overs, he gives Mark Wood 1 delivery to face, and he goes and edges it behind. He could have just left it alone and the match was England’s for the taking. Oh dear. England should have won this one right up until the final dismissal. They were never losing. At no stage was Sri Lanka ahead. And then, suddenly, they won. Lasith Malinga bowled well, but even still this was shameful. If this ends up costing England a spot in the semi-finals, then they only have themselves to blame.

4. New Zealand beat Bangladesh by 2 wickets

In terms of wickets in hand, this was the closest match of them all, but in terms of balls remaining it wasn’t, as there were still 17 balls to go. Nonetheless, it was still a bit nervous when Mitchell Santner hit the winning runs, as they breathed a massive sigh of relief. Bangladesh has been a bit of a bogey team for New Zealand, at least in Bangladesh, including once winning all of their matches against New Zealand. Luckily for New Zealand, their results outside of Bangladesh have been much worse. It was still a close one, though.

3. New Zealand beat South Africa by 4 wickets (with 3 balls remaining)

8 runs required off the last over. 164 and it’s all over with Kane Williamson doing it solo, as he managed 106 off 138, scoring nearly half of the team’s runs. While it looks a bit slow, it really wasn’t. He even scored a boundary off the last ball of the previous over too, to cut it from 12 off 7 to a more manageable 8 off 6. This is how South Africa are knocked out of the World Cup, in what was to that point the closest match of the tournament. It’s no coincidence that New Zealand have won more close matches than anyone else, and South Africa have lost them. One team is blessed and the other is cursed.

2. India beat Afghanistan by 11 runs

Fresh on the heels of the biggest upset of the tournament, when Sri Lanka beat England, we nearly had an even bigger one when India struggled to 224. While Afghanistan were always just behind the run rate, they were always close enough to get there. Then suddenly Mohammad Nabi went berserk and, with 12 needed off 4 balls, it looked like Afghanistan might just get it. He then hit the ball towards the boundary and refused to run, in spite of there being 2 there, and it was 12 off 3 required. Then he hit what might have been a boundary but instead he was caught, and then two more wickets in two balls meant a hat-trick to end the match but it was oh so close to going the other way.

1. New Zealand beat West Indies by 5 runs.

This was the only match on this list which looked all over until the final ball, and then the other team won. Carlos Braithwaite was going berserk and hit what looked like the winning 6, only it didn’t quite go over the boundary, reeled in as it was by Trent Boult. It was a difficult catch too, though not the best of the tournament. The funny thing is that he could have hit it along the ground and ran 3 and had 3 to get off the final over. He went for glory and came agonisingly close and instead West Indies lost, as New Zealand’s lucky charms seem to be working overdrive.

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