Cricket’s fiercest rivalries


Pakistan pulled off one of the greatest shocks in recent years by beating bitter rivals India to win the Champions Trophy this summer. Sarfraz Ahmed’s team were not given much of a chance ahead of the tournament, while India, England and Australia were the favourites, but Pakistan destroyed all and sundry. Their victory was made all that much sweeter because it came against the odds and versus their fiercest foes. It prompted us to examine some of the most intense rivalries in the cricketing world:

Australia v New Zealand

These neighbouring countries have much in common politically and culturally, and their rivalry is normally a friendly one, but that all goes out the window on the cricket pitch. It reached boiling point in 1981, when the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosted the third ODI in a five-match series between the two. With one ball of the final over remaining, New Zealand needed a six to tie the game, but Australia captain Greg Chappell told his bowler and younger brother Trevor to roll an underarm delivery along the ground to prevent Brian McKechnie hitting a six. It was legal but considered unsportsmanlike, and a sporting and political fiasco ensued, with New Zealand prime minister Robert Muldoon calling the Australians “yellow”. It sparked a fierce rivalry that has persisted for years.

West Indies v England

England’s colonial past adds an edge to sporting meetings with any Commonwealth country, which encapsulates virtually every major cricketing nation. But England’s rivalry with the Windies really ramped up in 1976, when captain Tony Grieg made a pretty horrendous comment: “You must remember that the West Indians, these guys, if they get on top are magnificent cricketers. But if they’re down, they grovel, and I intend, with the help of [Brian] Closey and a few others, to make them grovel.” There were alleged racial overtones to his speech and it sparked fury across the Caribbean and beyond. It fired the West Indies players up beyond belief and they delivered a stunning 3-0 series victory. At the end, Greig dropped to his hands and knees, crawled across the pitch and literally grovelled before the crowd.

Lancashire v Yorkshire

Few rivalries come with as much history as this War of the Roses between two top county cricket sides. Rather than squaring up to one another with swords, bows, arrows and catapults of bubbling oil, they now settle their differences on the cricket field. Yorkshire claimed victory in the first match in 1867, but Lancashire bemoaned the opposition’s cheating. Tensions still run high today as Lancashire – who yo-yoed for a while in and out of the top flight – are a force to be reckoned with once again and offer serious opposition to the mighty Yorkshire.

England v Australia

Australia has a furious cricketing rivalry with India and with South Africa, but nothing compares to meeting England for the Ashes. It transcends sport and pits Old World against New World, northern hemisphere against southern, marauding conquerors against colonials, fathers against sons (more than half of Australians are descended from Brits, after all). There have been some choice quotes from either side of the fence over the years, and some amazing sledges. Australian bowler Shane Warne summed it up: “It’s been drummed into you since the age of about five that if you’re Australian you have just got to beat the Poms.” The same is true for the English. There have been some wonderful clashes over the years between two countries with contrasting styles, and you cannot split them: in 69 series, England have won 32, Australia have won 32 and five were drawn. At the end of the day there is actually a lot of love between two countries 12,000 miles apart but united by heritage, culture and language. They just love beating one another at cricket. The home team generally has a huge advantage and cricket betting odds show that Australia are the 8/15 favourites to win the Ashes Down Under in November.


India v Pakistan

It is hard to top England-Australia, but the rivalry between India and Pakistan might just do that. While the Poms and the Aussies are friendly rivals and full of banter, India and Pakistan have fought three wars and been involved in numerous armed skirmishes and military standoffs since both gained independence after World War II. Their relationship has been plagued by hostility and suspicion and the cricket field is often an outlet for bubbling tension. The first Test between the two teams took place in 1951, not long after Pakistan was partitioned, and there have been some heated contests since. The rivalry is currently at its most intriguing as India has the world’s best batsmen and Pakistan has its best bowlers. The bowlers won out in the Champions Trophy and India will be itching for revenge at the 2019 World Cup.