LONDON. — There’s a first time for everything, of course, but when it comes to beating England at cricket, that first time tends to feel extra sweet.
Here are five of the most recent triumphs of the underdog.
Zimbabwe by nine runs
— Albury 1992
It ought to have been the sleepiest of finales to the group stage of the 1992 World Cup, with England already assured of their berth in the semi-finals. Enter Eddo Brandes — the most famous chicken farmer this side of a Nick Park animation, and a soon-to-be-legendary nemesis.
It had all seemed pretty straightforward when Zimbabwe were scuttled for 134 by the swing and spin of Ian Botham and Richard Illingworth.
But then Brandes pinned Graham Gooch lbw with his very first ball, and with figures of 4 for 21, he led the line to outstanding effect.
Astonishingly, England managed to lose five of their first six encounters with Zimbabwe (and six of their first eight), with Brandes’ rotund and red-faced energy invariably right in the thick of things.
Netherlands by four
wickets — Lord’s 2009
With apologies to Steven Lubbers and the Netherlands team who beat an “England XI” led by Peter Roebuck at Amstelveen in 1989, that loss was nothing compared to the shocker that was doled out at Lord’s in the opening match of the 2009 World T20.
It was, as hindsight amply confirms, an evening ripe for embarrassment for the host nation — the weather was miserable, the opening ceremony was canned, Kevin Pietersen was rested, and the Dutch were inspired.
Tom de Grooth led the pursuit of a then-hefty 163 with a 30-ball 49. And, in the critical closing scramble, Stuart Broad’s aberration gifted the decisive overthrow, as his underarm at the stumps skidded into no-man’s land to ignite the sort of fireworks that no dank English evening could douse.
Bangladesh by five runs
— Bristol 2010
Bangladesh’s first decade of full international status was a tale of barely relenting woe.
The moments of glory were something to behold (Australia at Cardiff, anyone?) but all too crushingly overshadowed by the litany of defeats that surrounded them.
They had lost each of their first 20 encounters against England across Tests and ODIs, but were clearly closing the gap come their tour in the spring of 2010 — in fact, they might have won earlier that year in Mirpur had it not been for an Eoin Morgan special.
Instead, the breakthrough victory came on a heady evening in Bristol, and in extraordinary scenes, as Ian Bell — hobbling with a broken foot — appeared at No.11 in a bid to save the day, only for Jonathan Trott, on 94, to edge Shafiul Islam to the keeper with three balls remaining.
Ireland by three wickets
— Bangalore 2011
When asked last month, in the wake of an outstanding century on his Test debut against Pakistan, which of his great Ireland innings held first place in the pantheon, Kevin O’Brien didn’t hesitate for a moment.
His 50-ball epic against England, on a stunning evening in Bangalore, was and remains one of the most visceral moments in the whole history of international cricket.
His numbers alone told only part of the story, however, as Ireland set off in pursuit of a towering target of 328, and appeared, at 111 for 5, to be dead in the dew.
Scotland by six runs
— Edinburgh 2018
There was a fitting face in the crowd as Scotland broke their cricketing duck against the Auld Enemy.
David Sole’s glowering walk to the middle at Murrayfield in 1990 had set the parameters for the greatest of Scotland’s rugby glories — the 13-7 Grand Slam win over Will Carling’s apparent world-beaters — and similar underdog vibes were in evidence on Sunday night, as the World No.1 ODI team was sent homewards to think again.
Calum MacLeod’s outstanding century set his team on their way to an extraordinary record total of 371 for 5; Safyaan Sharif’s nerveless yorker sealed a backs-to-the-wall defence with seven balls to spare. — Cricinfo