Every sports fan loves a contest – and the more intense, the better, in our opinion! Cricket devotees have had the benefit of a number of fierce rivalries over the years – let’s dig into the background on some of those that have benefited the game we love over the years.
AUSTRALIA VS SOUTH AFRICA (2006-2010)
It’s not so long ago that Australia and South Africa were dominating world cricket in their battle for the number one spot in the rankings through 2007-9. Both sides were graced with some magnificent cricketers, all fighters who fuelled this rivalry. Watching Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden and Makhaya Ntini in combat can only be described as magnificent. No one who watched it will forget the remarkable series of 2008-09 when the Proteas broke Australia’s 16-year undefeated home record. The peak of this rivalry was undoubted ‘the 438 game’, where Australia set SA a record target of 434, only for Herschelle Gibbs’ heroics to fire South Africa over the line with a ball to spare. Don’t forget – this was before T20 took over the world and batting like that became almost commonplace!
WEST INDIES VS AUSTRALIA (THE 1970S,1980S)
For a long time, world cricket was something of a duopoly between Australia and England. The West Indian team of the 60s, 70s and 80s challenged that – and then some! The 1975 and 1979 World Cup wins showed that they were determined to share the spoils. The majestic West Indian team of the 1980s, powered by legends of the game such as Malcolm Marshall, Sir Viv Richards, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Sir Clive Lloyd, even defeated Australia 3-1 in 1985 – on Australian soil. What a series that would have been, with the West Indians pitched against the Chappell brothers, Alan Border, Geoff Lawson and Dennis Lillee amongst others – truly magnificent competitors!
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NEW ZEALAND VS AUSTRALIA (DIFFERENT ERAS)
Kangaroos vs Kiwis – these two neighbouring nations have long used cricket as a proxy for their own rivalries. Their battles have included many incidents that have changed the shape of cricket today, from the famous “underarm ball” to the 2015 Cricket World Cup final. The Chapel-Hadlee series has become an annual tradition, celebrating and continuing this neighbourhood rivalry. Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Shane Bond, Stephen Fleming, Kyle Mills, Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori are Kiwis who have been more than ready to stand toe to toe with their big brother next door!
ENGLAND VS AUSTRALIA (THE ASHES)
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These two teams have the oldest, and perhaps the greatest rivalry in the game. Since 1877, Australia and England have battled it out in 500 international matches across all formats, including arguably the pinnacle of cricketing duels – the biennial Ashes series. Cricketing purists will hold these Test battles in high regard, but even in the shorter form of the game, these great teams have produced magnificent displays, as in the 1987 World Cup final and more recently the 2019 semi-final.
Over three separate centuries – and counting – these two great nations have produced some legendary competitors. We don’t have space to list them all, but Sir Don Bradman, Sir Ian Botham, Jack Hobbs, Shane Warne, Mark Waugh, Andrew Flintoff, Mathew Hayden, Ben Stokes and Steve Smith are just a few magnificent examples!
PAKISTAN VS INDIA (ALL ERAS)
Since these two nations partitioned from the British empire in 1947, cricket has been their key battleground. Undisputedly, this is the biggest rivalry in the sport of cricket, although England and Australia might take issue with this statement! However, the sheer amount of passion, aggression and the number of followers leaves it in little doubt. Pakistan like to boast about the 2017 Champions Trophy final, Miandad’s last-ball six and Afridi’s sixes off Ashwin; meanwhile India will point to their 11-0 record at World Cups (ODI and T20I), the 2007 T20I World Cup Final and their dominance in the Asia cup.
This rivalry has seen the likes of Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Gavaskar, Ganguly, Dravid, Kohli go up against the bowling greats like Wasim, Waqar, Sarfraz Nawaz, Shoaib Akhtar, Amir. Every time these two teams play, almost a billion people around the world tune in – surely this proves there is no greater rivalry in world cricket!
Featured image source: new18.com