Afghanistan‘s surprising win against England is just one more example of smaller teams defeating stronger ones in the World Cup over time. The 2023 World Cup experienced its first major surprise on Sunday.
Afghanistan, participating in the tournament for the third time, pulled off a stunning victory by defeating defending champions England with a substantial 69-run margin. They successfully defended a target of 284 by limiting England’s powerful batting lineup to a score of 215.
This marks only the second time Afghanistan has won a match in the World Cup and the first time they’ve defeated a Test-playing nation. Their previous victory occurred in the 2015 World Cup, their tournament debut, when they narrowly beat Scotland by one wicket.
Afghanistan’s win over England is one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history
Although this was the first major upset in this World Cup, previous editions of the tournament have seen several surprises. Let’s examine four results from the past that could be considered as significant as or even more substantial than Afghanistan’s remarkable achievement.
#1 West Indies vs. Kenya in the 1996 World Cup, where Kenya won by a margin of 73 runs
Kenya was making its debut in the World Cup and had just one professional cricketer, Steve Tikolo, in their squad. On the other hand, West Indies, though facing difficulties at that time, still had prominent players like captain Richie Richardson, Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh, and Curtly Ambrose, making them a leading team in world cricket.
The West Indies, who had won the World Cup twice, were dismissed for just 93, with only Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Roger Harper reaching double-digit scores. In the realm of cricket upsets, there are very few that rival the unbelievable nature of this match in international cricket history.
#2 The 1999 World Cup match between Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Bangladesh secured a 62-run victory
Bangladesh had only secured two ODI wins against Kenya and Scotland before their stunning victory over Pakistan in the 1998 World Cup. At that time, Bangladesh had not yet become an ICC Full Member.
Pakistan, with a star lineup including Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Shahid Afridi, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Saleem Malik, Saqlain Mushtaq, Waqar Younis, and a young Shoaib Akhtar, chose to bat first. Despite Bangladesh posting a total of 223/9, Pakistan struggled and found themselves at 42/5 within the first 13 overs, leading to a subsequent collapse. They were eventually bowled out for 161.
#3 The 2011 World Cup match between England and Ireland, where Ireland secured a victory by three wickets
This match exemplifies an “explosive” ODI. England, who were not as comfortable with white-ball cricket as they have been since the 2015 World Cup, had a remarkable batting performance, amassing 327/8. At the time, Ireland was not a full ICC member, making it seem like an easy victory for England, especially after James Anderson dismissed captain William Porterfield with the first ball of the chase.
Ireland built good partnerships for the second and third wickets, but their situation deteriorated to 111/5 in the 25th over. However, everything changed significantly, largely thanks to Kevin O’Brien’s extraordinary display of power-hitting, a rare sight in ODI cricket.
He achieved a century in just 50 balls, which was the fastest in World Cup history until Aiden Markram broke the record this year. O’Brien remained unbeaten on 113 from 63 balls, and incredibly, Ireland managed to reach 329/7, defeating England by three wickets with five balls to spare.
#4 In the 2003 World Cup, Sri Lanka faced Kenya, and Kenya secured a 53-run victory in this match
The significance of this match goes beyond the surprising result, as it played a pivotal role in Kenya’s subsequent qualification for the super six and then the semi-finals. Kenya batted first and managed to score 210/9. Sri Lanka, despite having prominent players like Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, and Aravinda de Silva, was eventually dismissed for 157.
This victory marked a historic moment as Kenya became the first non-Test playing nation to progress beyond the first round of a World Cup. They continued their remarkable journey by reaching the semi-finals, where they were defeated by India by a margin of 91 runs.
However, this accomplishment remains the peak of Kenya’s international cricket achievements, and they have not come close to World Cup qualification ever since.