A few cases where underdog teams surprised stronger opponents in ICC World Cup tournaments. Every ICC World Cup is a chance for all the teams to prove themselves. Thanks to the ICC, even teams that aren’t full-time members get an opportunity to play in this major event.
In the past, this was done through the ICC Trophy, which has transformed into the World Cup Qualifier tournament. Over the years, numerous such teams have had the chance to perform on the grand stage. From East Africa and Canada in 1975 to Sri Lanka in 1979 and Zimbabwe in 1983, several smaller teams have made appearances in World Cups.
Other minnow teams like the UAE, Kenya, Netherlands, Namibia, Ireland, and Afghanistan have also participated multiple times. Many of these teams have even secured notable victories against more established units.
Some of them created a buzz by defeating major teams in the tournament, creating unforgettable moments in ICC World Cup history. Now, let’s revisit some of those remarkable instances when smaller teams triumphed over the heavyweights in World Cup tournaments.
Here are memorable moments of minnows upsetting big teams in ODI World Cup history:
#1 Kenya’s victory over West Indies in the 1996 World Cup
In the 1996 World Cup’s Group A match between Kenya and West Indies, Kenya was asked to bat first and struggled, scoring only 166 runs despite efforts from Steve Tikolo, Hitesh Modi, and Thomas Odoyo. The Windies’ bowlers Courtney Walsh and Roger Harper took three wickets each.
However, this total wasn’t expected to challenge the strong West Indies batting lineup, featuring Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. But Rajab Ali made early breakthroughs by dismissing Richardson and Lara.
Lara was caught trying to repeat a powerful shot. West Indies couldn’t recover after a shaky start at 35/4. Only Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Roger Harper reached double figures, and they were eventually bowled out for 93 runs. Rajab Ali and captain Maurice Odumbe each took three wickets. This surprising turn of events led to Kenya winning by 73 runs, shocking the cricketing world and two-time World Champions.
#2 Zimbabwe secured victories over India and South Africa in the 1999 World Cup
In the 1999 World Cup, held in England after a 16-year gap, Zimbabwe showcased their cricketing prowess. They began their impressive run by facing India in Leicester. Despite missing Sachin Tendulkar, who had returned home for his father’s funeral, India posted 252/9 with Sourav Ganguly scoring 55, supported by Ajay Jadeja (43) and Robin Singh (35).
Zimbabwe, led by Andy Flower’s unbeaten 68 and Grant Flower’s 45, secured an unexpected 3-run win as Henry Olonga dismissed three Indian batsmen in the 45th over. Ten days later, Zimbabwe continued their remarkable performance by defeating South Africa in Chelmsford.
Neil Johnson’s 76 helped Zimbabwe reach 233/6. Johnson and Heath Streak’s strong performances rattled South Africa, reducing them to 40/6. Although Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener contributed with 52 runs each, South Africa could only manage 185. Zimbabwe won by 48 runs.
#3 Bangladesh’s remarkable win over Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup
In their World Cup debut during the 1999 edition, Bangladesh faced Pakistan in Northampton. Surprisingly, Pakistan chose to field after winning the toss. Akram Khan (42) and Shahriar Hossain (39) were standout performers as Bangladesh reached 223/9, with Saqlain Mushtaq taking 5/35 for Pakistan.
Although chasing 224 wasn’t a significant challenge for Pakistan, their top five batsmen were dismissed for single-digit scores due to reckless batting. Khaled Mahmud made a significant impact by dismissing Shahid Afridi, Inzamam Ul Haq, and Saleem Malik. Azhar Mahmood and Wasim Akram provided some resistance with a 55-run partnership, but once they were out, Bangladesh took control. Saqlain was run out for 21, and Bangladesh secured a 62-run victory.
This historic win played a crucial role in Bangladesh being granted Test status in 2000.
#4 Kenya’s 2003 World Cup victory against Sri Lanka
In the 2003 World Cup, which Kenya co-hosted with South Africa and Zimbabwe, Kenya had a remarkable run. New Zealand forfeited their match, giving Kenya four points. In a match against Sri Lanka, where Sri Lanka chose to bowl after winning the toss, Kenya posted 210/9, with opener Kennedy Otieno scoring 60. Despite not having a match-winning total, Kenya’s bowlers performed well.
Martin Suji removed Sanath Jayasuriya early, and Collins Obuya starred with the ball, taking five crucial wickets, including those of Hasan Tillakaratne, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, and Chaminda Vaas. Sri Lanka was bowled out for 157, and Kenya won by 53 runs. These victories allowed Kenya to qualify for the Super 6s and the semi-finals.
#5 In the 2007 World Cup, Ireland secured a victory over Pakistan
The 2007 World Cup is often remembered as one of the worst tournaments for two main reasons. First, the format was excessively long, and second, prominent teams like India and Pakistan were eliminated in the initial round. One of the notable upsets during the event was Ireland’s surprising victory over Pakistan in Jamaica.
Ireland’s captain, Trent Johnston, won the toss and decided to field, taking advantage of the overcast conditions. Pakistan’s batsmen struggled to deal with the swinging ball, managing to score just 132 runs. Among them, Kamran Akmal and Imran Nazir were the only ones who crossed the 20-run mark.
In response, the entire Irish innings was anchored by Niall O’Brien, who scored 72 runs. With contributions from other players, they successfully chased down the target with three wickets remaining. Despite Pakistan’s bowlers making an effort and taking early wickets, the low total was insufficient for them to defend. Ireland’s victory marked a remarkable start to their World Cup debut.
#6 India suffered a shocking defeat to Bangladesh in the 2007 World Cup
In the same group, India faced off against Bangladesh in Trinidad. India, having lost to Sri Lanka in their previous match, was under pressure to secure a victory and advance to the Super 8s. Despite good performances by Sourav Ganguly (66) and Yuvraj Singh (47), effective bowling by Mashrafe Mortaza (4/38), Abdur Razzak, and Mohammad Rafique limited India to a total of 191 runs. India needed early wickets and managed to get them.
However, half-centuries from Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh’s key players, led Bangladesh to their first-ever World Cup victory over India, winning by a margin of 5 runs. This outcome also resulted in India’s elimination from the 2007 World Cup.
#7 In the 2011 World Cup, Ireland secured a remarkable victory over England
Once again, Ireland has a remarkable place in our collection of unforgettable moments. This time, their opponents were their neighbours, England. The two teams met in Bengaluru during the 2011 World Cup, and this match is still celebrated as one of Ireland’s most iconic victories in cricket history.
England batted first and posted a formidable score of 327/8. Jonathan Trott (92) was the standout performer, with Kevin Pietersen (59) and Ian Bell (81) contributing as well. For a relatively inexperienced team like Ireland, this target seemed quite daunting, especially considering their reputation as not being strong chasers.
Ireland began their innings cautiously, but England kept taking wickets at regular intervals. At 111/5, even the most ardent Ireland supporters started to lose hope of a victory. However, Kevin O’Brien decided it was time for a miracle. He combined forces with Alex Cusack (47), and together, they added 162 runs. When Cusack was unfortunately run out, O’Brien shifted into overdrive.
Kevin O’Brien played a blistering innings, crafting the fastest century in World Cup history at the time, reaching his ton in just 50 balls. He concluded with an explosive 113 from 63 deliveries, which included 13 fours and 6 sixes. John Mooney ensured O’Brien’s heroic effort didn’t go to waste, and Ireland achieved a remarkable 3-wicket victory in the final over. This win remains one of the most significant and memorable moments in the history of One Day International cricket.
#8 Bangladesh emerged victory against England in the 2015 World Cup
England’s disappointing 2015 World Cup campaign included a painful loss to Bangladesh. In Adelaide, Bangladesh batted first, with Mahmudullah achieving a significant milestone – the first-ever World Cup century for Bangladesh.
Mushfiqur Rahim also contributed 89 runs, helping Bangladesh reach 275/7. Ian Bell’s 63 runs gave England hope, but Bangladesh’s well-timed wickets, particularly those of Rubel Hossain (four wickets), Mashrafe Mortaza, and Taskin Ahmed (two wickets each), limited England to 260 runs.
Despite James Taylor’s 65, England fell short by 15 runs, sealing Bangladesh’s place in the quarterfinals and ending England’s World Cup journey. This marked Bangladesh’s only appearance in the ICC event’s knockout stage.