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Cricket news - World Cup 2019: Top five knocks

Ben Stokes's game-changing effort piloted England to a World Cup triumph

Aayush Puthran: A dream diminished in Manchester

Despite a 122-run stand between Chris Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer, West Indies had self-destructed in a way that they found themselves reeling at 164 for 7 in pursuit of 292, and had left exposed their tail. By then, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson had already picked five. There was Carlos Brathwaite, alright, but all that the New Zealand bowlers had to run through were Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas. The last three, despite their limited batting merit, combined to hold their end up for 61 balls, and using that assurance, Brathwaite played possibly the innings of the tournament.

First with caution and then with calculated risk, he kept eating into New Zealand's total. However, for the longest time, there wasn't much of an alarm for New Zealand. Even when the ninth wicket fell, West Indies were 47 runs behind of the target with only five overs remaining. By then, however, Brathwaite had brought up his fifty and picked up his scoring. He had launched a few over the ropes and several past it.

But the real turn of tensions took place in the 48th over when Matt Henry was carted for 25. With a view to end West Indies' resistance early, Kane Williamson had used up his prime bowlers, and was left with no option but to go with James Neesham in the 49th. The requirements had dropped to 8 from 12, and with the game so close, Brathwaite decided to hold strike. Barring a two towards deep mid wicket, he didn't run for anything. The game was well in control. With the last ball up, it was a double-trap: does he go for a big hit or take a single to keep strike and take on Henry again in the final over?

Boult believed it was going to be the latter, and looking to charge in on an attempt to take a quick single, he paced ahead from long on. But for a short delivery, Brathwaite had chosen to club it. The ball remained hung up in the skies, a few bases below where Brathwaite's hopes lied. Ian Bishop, for a few fleeting moments, went silent in the commentary box. If there was a moment that stopped hearts like none other in the tournament, it was that. But amidst all this, Boult remained cool, stationed himself underneath the ball, balanced it and held on to the catch.

Brathwaite was crushed and on his knees. And much like the 2015 world cup semifinal, the New Zealand players came around the vanquished to offer some solace. "The dream is diminished in Manchester for Carlos Brathwaite," went up another epic on him by Bishop.

Kritika Naidu: A World Cup classic from a No. 8

Australia were reeling at 147 for 6 against a West Indian attack that had quite literally bounced them out until that point. They still had 19 overs to go; it didn't seem like they would even bat out their quota of overs. It was then that Nathan Coulter-Nile walked in with Steve Smith for company.

Now, let's be honest, Coulter-Nile wouldn't have been a part of West Indies' deliberation, forget planning, leading up to the game, especially wielding the willow. But as it turned out, he swatted his highest score in any professional game with a 60-ball 92, taking Australia to a competitive 288, in a typical World Cup classic.

In his first World Cup innings, he whipped, slashed, hooked, top-edged and pulled merrily for his runs, clearing the boundary with ease in his knock that comprised of four sixes and eight fours. He was dropped on 61 by Shimron Hetmyer, but carried on unperturbed before Smith fell, ending their 88-run association for the seventh wicket.

He came close to his maiden century, but fell short after picking the man out on the straight boundary in the penultimate over. But the damage was done, and West Indies' confidence, cracked. Coulter-Nile may have missed out on a personal milestone, but the two points he helped Australia accrue, had more of a significance.

Akash Sarkar: Making the most of chances

Rohit Sharma knows how to kill a chase in one over. He did that against South Africa in India's first World Cup game. But here's some background - South Africa posted just 227 and had already lost their first two games. Easy chase, right? Not really. Kagiso Rabada got the ball to bounce and had both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit ducking. And then in the fourth over, it all changed in India's favour.

On the first ball, Rohit saw the ball climb uncomfortably and the leading edge - while trying to play the pull - was dropped by Faf du Plessis at second slip. The second flew past the outside edge. The third ball - another bouncer - was pulled for six. That hurt Rabada. The fourth took the outside edge and raced to the third-man fence. Virat Kohli was pumped but Rohit was almost as if he was sedated - no emotion, a blank stare. A dot ball was followed by a wide before Rohit cut the final ball over point. A total of 15 came in that over and India were on their way.

Imran Tahir, Chris Morris, Rabada, Andile Phehlukwayo and Tabraiz Shamsi were mere spectators from there on as Rohit drove the chase forward. None of them troubled Rohit as he got to his century in the 41st over. That knock also set up Rohit for the tournament - where he smashed five tons and became the first to do so in a World Cup edition. South Africa let go of the chances and Rohit grabbed them with both hands to script a memorable ton.

Kumar Abhishek: A masterclass saves the day for Pakistan

Run-chase, do-or-die game, tricky wicket, pressure. And that is what stared Pakistan glaringly in a must-win game against New Zealand. A target of 238 didn't seem threatening. However, the wicket at Edgbaston was slowing down a bit. The tweakers were getting some purchase as well. Just that Pakistan's number three was determined. Babar Azam played out his first 14 balls without a four, but the first one off Boult in the ninth over of the innings showcased his class and quality. A bent back leg in sync with some pristine timing helped the ball to speed away into the boundary hoardings via the cover region. Even when Boult changed the angle, Babar was unfazed. The bait was a full ball outside off, the gait was a cover drive. Four more runs added to Pakistan's total.

The innings kept ticking on, with Babar dealing in a diet of singles and boundaries. He also passed 3000 ODI runs during the innings and became the second fastest to do so. He received a reprieve as well, with Santner getting one to spit off the surface, but the 'keeper didn't have much of a chance to pouch the deflection.

Slowly but steadily the fifty came off 65 balls. At the other end, Haris Sohail was calm and collected and that allowed Babar to play his natural game. He tore into the spinners. First, Kane Williamson and then, 16 came off Santner in the 42nd over of the innings. And with Pakistan a few blows away from a win, the century was brought up off 124 balls. A top-notch innings where he dealt with seam and spin with considerable ease as Pakistan posted a crucial win.

Sriram AS: 'Ice-man' knocks the stuffing out of South Africa

It's a no-brainer that Kane Williamson has been New Zealand's messiah this World Cup. The captain shouldered responsibility in the batting department for New Zealand during various crunch situations in this tournament. One such knock which established the New Zealand skipper as the 'Ice-man' was the league game against South Africa. It was a 49-over affair. Chasing a tricky total of 242 on a tough surface, New Zealand were well on track, but a middle-order implosion saw them losing three wickets for seven runs as they slipped from 72/1 to 80/4.

However, Williamson was standing tall. He kept nudging it around, found the occasional boundaries and played risk-free cricket while also keeping the required rate in check. He found an able ally in Colin de Grandhomme, who came out firing on all cylinders and smashed his way to a quick-fire 47-ball 60, only to throw it away with New Zealand needing 14 runs from 11 balls.

It all came down to Williamson versus South Africa. The equation was further trimmed to eight off the final over and Andile Phelukwayo was bestowed the task to defend the target. Mitchell Santner faced the first ball and handed the strike back to his captain with a sensible single. What followed next was something astonishing. Williamson kept his cool under pressure, got under a slower ball to thwack a game-changing six over mid-wicket and raised his century; soaking in all the applause from the Edgbaston crowd.

The next delivery was again a slower ball slightly outside off and Williamson put the GPS inside his head to use - opening the bat face and guiding it past the short third man fielder to seal the deal for New Zealand.

Prakash Govindasreenivasan: Ben Stokes wins a World Cup for England

Where do we begin? Probably, when he was at full stretch desperately trying to make his ground, and inadvertently sent a Martin Guptill throw to the fence for four extra runs as the ball ricocheted off him. He had his hands raised as a gesture of it being unintentional, but there was damage. Suddenly, England's target had gone from 9 off 3 to 3 off 2. But that wasn't Stokes's only moment of crowning glory. He, in fact, had faced 95 deliveries before that absolute stroke of luck carried England closer to the target, and batted rather well in the company of Jos Buttler when none of the top-order batsmen could cut it in tough conditions against the best bowling attack at the World Cup.

It took Stokes time to come into his own, and even during his partnership with Buttler, it felt like the latter was batting on a different strip. Stokes's struggle for fluency was evident in his 80-ball 50, but to put up a fight and soldier on at first, and then step up admirably after Buttler's wicket was phenomenal.

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