Biggest Upsets in World Cup History

Here are the top 10 biggest upsets from the history of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip Mohanty

Last Updated: 2023-12-27

Umaima Saeed

5 minutes read

The ICC Cricket World Cup is the biggest stage in one-day international format for teams to stake their claim as the best in the world. The format has changed over the years and has seen some teams emerge on the big stage with some surprising and thumping wins against giants of the world. For associate nations, the World Cup is the global stage to showcase their talent and leave a mark. Hence a victory over a full nation by an associate team or a lower-ranked team is considered an upset in cricket, especially in the World Cups. 

Let’s have a look at some of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

Biggest Upsets

In ODI World Cup

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1. Sri Lanka v India, 1979

In the second edition of the tournament, Sri Lanka, then an associate nation which had never won a single one-day international previously surprised the experienced Indian side at Old Trafford. After losing the toss and batting first, Sri Lanka scored 238/5 in 60 overs with half-centuries from Sunil Wettimuny, Duleep Mendis and Roy Dias. Sri Lanka bundled India out for 191 with Somachandra De Silva and Tony Upatha taking 3 wickets each. This victory is considered the first-ever upset in World Cup history.

2. Zimbabwe v Australia, 1983

It was Zimbabwe’s very first One-Day International match. As all associate nations like the World Cup to leave an impression, Zimbabwe did it with style by defeating the mighty Australia. This match is considered as one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history. Kim Hughes, Australia captain won the toss and elected to bowl first in the 60-over match. Fast bowlers Dennis Lillee and Graham Yallop produced a brilliant spell taking 2 wickets each and pegging Zimbabwe down at 94/5 at lunch. The Zimbabwean skipper Duncan Fletcher batting at number 6 remained unbeaten till the end and took the total to 239/6 in 60 overs.

Chasing a fairly easy total, the openers added 61 for the first wicket but it was Fletcher who drew the first blood with the ball and finished with a match-winning spell of 4/42. Despite Kepler Wessels (76) and Rod Marsh (50*) scoring half-centuries, Australia managed just 226/7 in their 60 overs losing the game by 13 runs thanks to a disciplined Zimbabwean bowling and fielding performance as a unit.

3. Zimbabwe v England, 1992

It was the last league game of the tournament for both Zimbabwe and England in the 1992 World Cup. The former hadn’t won a single game in the tournament with England already qualifying for the semifinals with 5 wins and a loss against New Zealand in the previous fixture.

England skipper Graham Gooch won the toss and put Zimbabwe to bat first, a good decision as Ian Botham and Richard Illingworth picked up 3 wickets each to dismiss the Zimbabwe side for 134. Chasing the low total, England lost their skipper on the first ball of the innings with medium pacer Eddo Brandes bowling an excellent spell of 10-4-21-4 with some disciplined bowling from the rest of the attack. With 10 runs needed off the final over with 1 wicket in hand, Malcolm Jarvis dismissed Gladstone Small and scripted a historic win for Zimbabwe who won a match in the World Cup after a gap of 18 games, their previous win was in their first-ever ODI against Australia in the 1983 edition.

4. Kenya v West Indies, 1996

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Featuring in their first-ever World Cup, Kenya had never played a single ODI before the tournament and had a team comprising mostly amateur players. The team were considered underdogs and were defeated thrice before they faced the 2-time champions West Indies.

Batting first in Pune, Kenya was dismissed for 166 in 49.3 overs, and it looked like a cakewalk for the strong West Indies batting order comprising Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Richie Richardson and others. Rajab Ali and Martin Suji got some early wickets and with top scorer Chanderpaul’s dismissal for 19, the men in maroon could never recover and were bundled out for 93 with Kenya getting their first taste of success in ODIs.

Kenya’s win versus West Indies is also regarded as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

5. Bangladesh v Pakistan, 1999

1999banvpak.jpgThe Bangladesh cricket team played their first-ever ODI back in 1986 against Pakistan. They failed to register a win in the ODI format until 1998 after 22 matches. Bangladesh’s first ODI win was against another associate nation Kenya. Their victorious performance in the 1997 ICC Trophy (the qualification tournament for the 1999 Cricket World Cup) allowed them to participate in the 1999 World Cup. It was Bangladesh’s first-ever World Cup.

After losing 3 out of 4 games, Bangladesh met Pakistan at Northampton in their last league match. Batting first, Bangladesh put up 223/9 in their 50 overs with Akram Khan scoring 42. The Pakistani top order failed and the middle and lower middle order could only score 161 before Khaled Mahmud’s 3-wicket haul led Bangladesh to their most famous win in the format. Bangladesh’s strong performance against a side like Pakistan that ended up as the runner-up of the same edition is one of the biggest upsets in cricket World Cup history.

6. Kenya v Sri Lanka, 2003

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The Kenya team failed to win a single game in the tournament after their solitary win against West Indies in 1996 but had a better outing in the 2003 edition co-hosted by them. The team defeated Canada, got a walkover versus New Zealand and faced a strong Sri Lanka side at home.

Muttiah Muralitharan picked up 4 wickets and Chaminda Vaas took 3 wickets to restrict Kenye to 210/9. What seemed like an easy target for the strong Sri Lanka lineup boasting the likes of Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva and others; Collins Obuys picked up 5 wickets to break the one-time champion side’s back and snatched a famous win for the side that eventually went on to qualify for the semifinals of the tournament. 
Looking at Sri Lanka’s form in the tournament, the game is counted as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

7. Ireland v Pakistan, 2007

The 2007 tournament saw yet another turnaround in the group stage as Ireland, featuring in the World Cup for the first time, also an associate nation turned the tables and defeated a strong Pakistan side at Sabina Park in Kingston.

Ireland played their first ODI in 2006, just a few months before the World Cup. Their first game against Zimbabwe was tied and in a quick turnaround, the team saw Pakistan bat first in their 2nd group match. Boyd Rankin (3/32), Andre Botha (2/5), Kyle McCallan (2/12), and Trent Johnston (1/20) helped the side clean up the opposition for 132 in 45.4 overs.

Chasing a modest target, Ireland lost 4 wickets for 70 in 34 overs but Niall O’Brien led the charge with a calm 72 with his brother Kevin scoring an unbeaten 16 off 52 deliveries to remain at the crease and take the side to a famous 3-wicket win.

8. Ireland v England, 2011


The England side entered the 2011 World Cup as one of the favourites and fielded a strong in-form side for the event. It was also Ireland’s second entry in a World Cup. England had won their first game comfortably against the Netherlands and tied to India in the next. Ireland had lost to Bangladesh and was playing its second match of the tournament.

English skipper Andrew Strauss won the toss and opted to bat first. Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen hit half-centuries to score 327/8 in their 50 overs. The game seemed all but over as England had a strong bowling lineup of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy with Anderson bowling out skipper William Porterfield on the first ball of the chase.

The middle order got some starts but Kevin O’Brien stole the limelight with a magnificent 113 in just 63 balls hitting 13 fours and 6 sixes. He was dismissed with the team requiring 11 runs off as many balls. John Mooney scored 33 in 30 balls and finished unbeaten taking the team to a thrilling 3-wicket victory.

9. Afghanistan v England 2023

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The English team was at the receiving end of one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history as the Afghanistan side defeated the defending champions in all aspects of the game in the 2023 edition. It was Afghanistan’s 2nd victory in the history of ODI World Cups with the team playing its third edition of the tournament.

England had lost to New Zealand in the first game and defeated Bangladesh in their 2nd. Their opponents had lost both their games: against Bangladesh and India respectively. England won the toss and put Afghanistan to bat first who were sent-back packing for 284 with Rahmanullah Gurbaz top scoring with 80 and Ikram Alikhil scoring 58. 

Dawid Malan and Harry Brook got into a good partnership for England after losing 2 early wickets but the spinners led the Afghan comeback sharing 8 wickets amongst them to dismiss England for 215 and winning the game by 69 runs.

10. Netherlands v South Africa, 2023

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Netherlands entered the tournament as the only associate side after finishing the ICC World Cup Qualifier as the runner-up. They started off the World Cup campaign with some strong individual performances, but their efforts paid off against South Africa in a rain-hit fixture at Dharamsala.

Batting first in a 43-over per side game, Netherlands put up 245/8 with captain Scott Edwards saving them with an unbeaten 78 in 69 deliveries after an early collapse which saw the side struggle at 82/5. The Proteas batters got off to a cautious start, but the Dutch bowlers kept attacking and chipped in with wickets at regular intervals.

David Miller top scored with 43, Keshav Maharaj scored 40 but Logan van Beek’s 3/60 and a couple of wickets each from Roelof van der Merwe, Paul van Meekeren and Bas de Leede helped the side script a famous win as South Africa was dismissed for 207 with a ball to spare.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip MohantySports Editor

Dillip has over two decades of experience in creating sports content. As the Sports Editor of SportsBoom, Dillip brings in a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Dillip has worked with leading sports broadcasters and sports web content portals in Asia. He is an adept storyteller and has a special liking for data stories. He has a keen interest in data analysis and uncovering insights from large datasets. He loves to tell the story with rich and compelling data visualisation.