Yearender 2015: Top 10 most thrilling ODIs

The year 2015 has been witness to some of the most thrilling games which went down to the wire. The suspense on these thrillers was bettered only by the daily melodramatic soap operas; or maybe not.  Take a sip of your favourite soft drink and get some popcorn while Bhaskar Narayantakes you back through some spine-tingling ODI matches which forced us all to sit on the edge of our seats. These games took us on a rollercoaster ride.  We will go through these matches in a chronological order.

1. South Africa vs West Indies, 4th ODI at Port Elizabeth: South Africa and West Indies were involved in some good matches at the start of the year. Most of them were one-sided contests though, with AB de Villiers’ 31-ball 100 stealing the show. However, the fourth ODI provided a thrilling start to the year. Sheldon Cottrell and Jason Holder helped reduce South Africa to 196 for 6 before David Miller’s maiden ODI century — 130 not out off 133 balls — helped the Proteas reach 262 for 8.

Morne Morkel dismissed Dwayne Smith in his first over, and Chris Gayle and Leon Johnson soon followed suit as well. Denesh Ramdin and Jonathan Carter were soon back in the hut, and at 73 for 5 it seemed like the match would end predictably. Then Marlon Samuels (68 off 93) and Darren Sammy (51 off 52) steadied the ship with a 93-run stand. Samuels’ dismissal united Jason Holder with Andre Russell, and the duo stitched together a crucial 29 runs. Carlos Brathwaite hung around for 11 runs, but his dismissal at 239 meant West Indies needed 24 to win in around three overs with one wicket in hand. Russell, who was striking the ball well at the other end, then opened up completely. He launched into Aaron Phangiso and Kyle Abbott, hitting three sixes and a four in two overs to knock off the required runs and also bring up his 50. In the end he was unbeaten on 64 off 40 balls with five fours and five sixes as West Indies won by 1 wicket with 9 balls remaining.

2. Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, 12th match at University Oval, Dunedin: Minnows Afghanistan gave tough fight to the Sri Lankans in this Pool A match of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Afghanistan fought till the last minute but narrowly missed out on a victory against a much better team. The match was played on February 22, 2015 at University Oval, Dunedin in New Zealand. Having won the toss, Sri Lanka decided to field first. Afghanistan batsmen Asghar Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari scored 54 and 38 respectively. Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews’ three-wicket hauls helped Sri Lanka bowl Afghanistan out for 232 in 49.4 overs.

In reply, Sri Lanka lost both their openers Lahiru Thirimanne and Tillakaratne Dilshan for ducks. Kumar Sangakkara, who came one-down, was bowled by Hamid Hassan for 7. Dimuth Karunaratne too departed for 23. Sri Lanka were four down in 12 overs with only 51 runs on the board, and were in serious danger of losing the match. However, Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathew’s 126-run fifth wicket stand and late order flourish by Thisara Perera helped them take a four-wicket victory with only 10 balls remaining. Jayawardene cracked 100 off 120 balls while Mathews made a patient 44 in 81 deliveries. Perera played a blinder, an unbeaten 47 off just 26 balls.

3. Ireland vs United Arab Emirates (UAE), ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, 16th match at The Gabba, Brisbane: This day-night match between two associate teams, Ireland and UAE, took place on February 25 at The Gabba in Brisbane. Ireland won the toss and asked UAE to bat first. Amjad Ali’s 45-run knock gave UAE a good start while middle-order batsman Shaiman Anwar struck a quickfire 106 off 83 balls. It helped them post 278 for 9 in their allotted 50 overs. For Ireland, Max Sorensen, Alex Cusack, Paul Stirling, and Kevin O’Brien took two wickets each.

William Porterfield’s 37 runs in 64 balls gave Ireland a decent start. Ed Joyce and Andy Balbirnie too contributed with 37 and 30 runs respectively. Ireland were four down for 97 after the second ball of the 25th over. It was from here that Gary Wilson scored a brisk 80 off 69 balls with the help of nine boundaries. Kevin O’Brien came next and carted 50 off just 25 balls with eight fours and two sixes but got out off the final ball of the 47th over. Ireland needed 20 runs with only two wickets remaining in the final three overs. Cusack and George Dockrell saw them through in the next eight deliveries. The momentum kept shifting from one team to the other before Ireland pulled off a tense win. Gary Wilson was adjudged player of the match.

4. Afghanistan vs Scotland, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, 17th match at University Oval, Dunedin: One of the most thrilling encounters of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 ended with Afghanistan pulling off a one-wicket victory against Scotland with only three balls left in the match played on February 26, 2015. Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi won the toss and elected to field first. Kyle Coetzer made 25 at the top of the order. Matt Machan, Preston Mommsen, and Richie Berrington got starts but they did not succeed to convert them into big scores. Scotland were bowled out for 210 in 50 overs. Afghanistan’s left-arm medium pace bowler Shapoor Zadran took a four-wicket haul. It would not be his only contribution in the match.

Javed Ahmadi’s run-a-ball 51 gave Afghanistan the ideal start. Samiullah Shenwari then played one of the most crucial innings ever played by an Afghan batsman. Apart from Shenwari and Ahmadi, no other Afghanistan batter offered any resistance. Shenwari was the ninth and final Afghanistan wicket to fall. After his dismissal off the fifth ball of the 47th over, Afghanistan required 19 runs to win. Hamid Hassan and Zadran then made sure Afghanistan won in the final over.

5. New Zealand vs Australia, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, 20th match at Eden Park, Auckland: It was a day-night match between neighbours New Zealand and Australia on February 28, 2015. In a low-scoring encounter in which only 55.3 overs were bowled, Australia decided to bat first but were bundled out for 151 in 32.2 overs with left-arm medium pacer Trent Boult picked up five wickets. However, Australia showed fantastic resilience with some amazing fast bowling from Mitchell Starc stealing the limelight from Boult. After Brendon McCullum’s early assault, Starc broke the backbone of the New Zealand batting with a six-wicket haul. The ninth New Zealand wicket fell with 146 on the board, meaning that the Black Caps needed 6 to win with their No. 11 facing a super-charged Starc. Luckily, the talismanic Kane Williamson was there at the other end. Boult managed to see off two balls from Starc, and Williamson proceeded to hit the next ball he faced for six to seal the game for the Kiwis by 1 wicket.

6. Ireland vs Zimbabwe, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, 30th match at Bellerive Oval, Hobart:Zimbabwe won the toss and elected to bowl first in this match played on March 7, 2015. Their decision proved costly with Ireland blasting 331 for 8 in their 50 overs. Ed Joyce carted 112 off 103 deliveries while Andy Balbirnie missed out on a century by only three runs. Zimbabwe did not start well, losing four wickets for 74 runs. Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams then put on a fifth wicket partnership worth 149 runs. After the fall of Taylor for 121 in 91 balls, Craig Ervine soon followed suit. Set batsman Williams too departed for 96 off 83 balls off the fifth ball of the 47th over. Zimbabwe then lost their last three wickets for 26 runs and were bowled out for 326 in 49.3 overs as Ireland won by a narrow margin of 5 runs.

7. New Zealand vs South Africa, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, 1st semi-final at Eden Park, Auckland: The day-night ODI of March 24, 2015 was reduced to 43 overs as time was lost due to rains in the middle of the game. South Africa batting first posted 281 for 5 in their allotted 43 overs. Faf du Plessis made 82 off 107 balls while AB de Villiers scored an unbeaten 65 in just 45 deliveries and David Miller played a swift cameo as well late in the innings. New Zealand had to chase a revised total of 298 in 43 overs as per Duckworth-Lewis (D/L) method. New Zealand rode on a fantastic start from skipper Brendon McCullum, who blitzed 59 off only 26 deliveries, but the real finishing touches were provided by Grant Elliot. A surprise selection for the World Cup, Elliott responded by striking a 73-ball unbeaten 84, hitting a six off Dale Steyn to award New Zealand a win off the penultimate ball of the match. New Zealand won by four wickets, but it was a nail-biting finish. Elliot was deservingly declared player of the match.

8. Zimbabwe vs India, 1st ODI at Harare Sports Club: India posted 255 for 6 after having been asked to bat first by Zimbabwe on their tour to the African nation. Ambati Rayudu scored 124 while Stuart Binny carted a 77-run knock at a strike rate near 100. Zimbabwe did not have a good start with their first wicket Chamu Chibabha falling in the fifth over when there were just 16 runs on the board. Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza tried to stabilise the innings but soon departed after being dismissed by Stuart Binny and Akshar Patel respectively. Skipper Elton Chigumbura then led from the front, but wickets kept tumbling at the other end. Sikandar Raza and Graeme Cremer gave him a helping hand with 37 and 27-run knocks respectively but it was not enough. Zimbabwe could only reach 251 for 7 at the end of 50 overs. Chigumbura remained unbeaten on 104 off 101 balls, as Zimbabwe lost the game by only 4 runs.

9. Sri Lanka vs West Indies, 1st ODI at Colombo (RPS): It should not have been a close match to begin with. After rain curtailed the game to 26 overs a side, Suranga Lakmal reduced West Indies to 24 for 3. They were soon 42 for 4 in the 16th over. Then Andre Russell, that monster, opened up. His 41 runs came off 24 balls with three hits to the fence and three more over it. Carlos Brathwaite could not do much, but then came the skipper, Jason Holder. If Russell was severe, Holder went a step further. His 36 came off a mere 13 balls with two fours and three sixes. West Indies ended at a respectable 159 for 8 in 26 overs.

In response, Sri Lanka got up and running in spectacular fashion. Tillakaratne Dilshan hammered a 32-ball 59 and added 46 with Kusal Perera (14) to put on 46 in under five overs. Lahiru Thirimanne scored 17 off 20 balls, but disaster soon struck for Sri Lanka. Sunil Narine proved to be mysterious as ever, bowling a spell that read 6-0-21-3. West Indies were hampered severely by Russell pulling up with an injury after bowling just five balls (though he went for 18 in them). At 152 for 9 with just Ajantha Mendis and Lakmal at the crease, it looked like West Indies had the match in the bag. Then Mendis showed a previously unseen aspect of his game by belting a four and a six off Johnson Charles to help Sri Lanka to a 1-wicket win.

10. India vs South Africa, 1st ODI at Green Park, Kanpur: South Africa’s skipper AB de Villiers decided to bat first in a pitch that appeared to be very good for batting. After decent contributions by the top three batsmen, AB de Villiers slammed an unbeaten 104 off 73 balls, helping the Proteas reach 303 for 5 in 50 overs. India, riding on Rohit Sharma’s brilliant 150 off 133 balls, looked well on course to an easy chase. However, Rohit’s dismissal off the first ball of the 47th over turned the game on its head. India now needed 35 runs to win with six wickets in hand. Some sensational death bowling from South Africa, led by Kagiso Rabada, meant that India could only add 29 runs off the last 23 deliveries, ending at 298 for 7 in their 50 overs. South Africa won the match by five runs and went on to win the series 3-2.

Honourable Mentions:-

1. Sri Lanka vs Pakistan, second ODI at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Kandy: Pakistan had already won the first match of their tour to Sri Lanka. They elected to bat first in this all important second match of the five-match ODI series. It was a day-night limited-overs game played on July 15, 2015. Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad gave Pakistan a slow and steady start with the duo adding 59 runs for the first wicket in 13.5 overs. Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Rizwan scored crucial fifties in the middle-order. Pakistan made 287/8 in 50 overs. For  Sri Lanka, Lasith Malinga and Sachith Pathirana took two wickets each.

Sri Lankan openers in contrast to Pakistan’s, gave them a flying start with Kusal Perera smashing 68 off only 25 deliveries and Tillakaratne Dilshan also making a healthy contribution of 47 in 63 balls. Sri Lanka lost Perera on the second ball of the ninth over but he did his job since Lankans were cruising at an express pace, having added 92 runs in such a short span. Upul Tharanga came next and scored 28. But after his and Dilshan’s fall, the hosts lost the wickets of Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne in quick succession. The Lankans were 159/5 at the end of 24.2 overs. It was here that Dinesh Chandimal and Milinda Siriwardana made a sixth wicket stand for 37 runs. After Siriwardana’s wicket, Chadimal again made a 52-run stand for the seventh wicket with Sachith Pathirana . After Pathirana’s loss, Sri Lanka were 248 for seven in 39.3 overs; but Chandimal’s defiance was praiseworthy. He stayed till the end and helped them win the game in 48.1 overs. He made 48 not-out and Sri Lanka took home a two-wicket win with 11 balls remaining.

2. South Africa vs New Zealand, first ODI at SuperSport Park, Centurion: In this day-night match played on August 19, 2015, South Africa avenged their World Cup semi final loss against New Zealand. Kane Williamson won the toss and asked South Africa to bat first. South Africa, capitalising on a 124-run knock by Hashim Amla posted 304/7 in 50 overs. In reply, Tom Latham with his 60 off 80 balls gave the kiwis a good start but they lost track mid-way. New Zealand’s lower-order gave a fight but ultimately they got bowled out for 284 in 48.1 overs. South Africa took a 20-run victory with Amla bagging player of the match award.

This article first appeared in CricketCountry

(Bhaskar Narayan is a reporter at CricketCountry and Criclife. He passionately follows the game and is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar. His Twitter handle is @Cricopathy)