Cricket is a sport seriously played by only a handful of countries. If one compares it with a global sport like football, cricket is not widespread and enjoys its fanfare in only certain parts of the world. We see many great rivalries between different national teams in world football.
However, that does mean that cricket does not have its share of great rivalries. The zeal for the game has given birth to a few fierce rivalries over the decades, and we will discuss five of them in this article. Let’s get on with the list.
#1 Australia vs England
It is the oldest rivalry in the game of cricket. Australia and England started playing Tests with each other in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and those two have had some scintillating encounters over the years. The Test series between the two countries is called the Ashes, and the fight for the small urn continues to capture the imagination of many cricket lovers worldwide. Here’s everything you need to know about the Ashes.
England has quite a conservative approach to the game. On the other hand, Australia has always ushered in modern technology and innovations to the sport with revolutionary changes like coloured clothing, white balls and day-and-night cricket. However, famous Test series like the ones in 1981 and 2005 have been immortalised and will always be etched in the memories of cricket lovers. Australia dominated the rivalry in the 1990s and early 2000s, but England restored some pride after that and managed to win a few series.
Australia and England also played an ODI World Cup final in 1987, with Australia winning the match at Eden Gardens. England then beat Australia in the T20 World Cup final in 2010 to take revenge, and their clash continues to be the most prominent among all the rivalries in world cricket.
#2 India vs Pakistan
The rivalry between India and Pakistan transcends the scope of sports and extends to socio-political boundaries. The strained relations between the two countries make any sporting clash between the two a fiercely contested one, and both sets of supporters tend to seek victory at any cost in the match.
India and Pakistan no longer participate in a bilateral series and face each other in major competitions of white-ball cricket only. They have not played a Test series in the last 15 years but have had great matches in World Cups and other tournaments. However, they played a few great Test series, like 1983 and 1999.
India has dominated Pakistan in World Cups and has never lost a match against them in the ODI World Cup. However, Pakistan recently turned the table with their victory over its arch-rivals in the T20 World Cup in 2021.
#3 Australia vs India
This rivalry has gained prominence in the last two decades, especially after the famous Test series between the two in 2001. India won that pulsating series 2-1 and have posed some stiff challenge to the Aussies in different forms of cricket since then.
Both countries, however, have struggled to win Test series on each other’s soil, with Australia winning in India in 2004 and India only recently managing their first series win in Australia.
However, Australia won Test series against India in the 1960s and still enjoys a superior record overall against them. Australia also has a great record against India in World Cups, never losing against them until the 2019 World Cup, which saw India registering a win. However, with India’s improvement in all formats of the game during the last few decades and Australia’s sustained brilliance, this has become the most interesting of all rivalries in world cricket.
#4 Australia vs New Zealand
Australia enjoys quite a good rivalry against their trans-Tasman neighbours, New Zealand. It is not a bitter one like India vs Pakistan, but both countries hate losing to each other. Australia has often played the role of a big brother to New Zealand – at least, as far as cricket is concerned- and has generally enjoyed greater success.
However, New Zealand’s cricket has progressed significantly in recent years, and they have managed to win the inaugural ICC Test Championship beating India in the final. Still, they lost to Australia in the 2015 ODI World Cup final and the 2021 T20 World Cup final and have somehow finished their neighbours in the biggest of the stages, as far as cricket is concerned.
Despite being neighbouring countries, Australia and New Zealand’s playing conditions are very different. Australia typically has fast, bouncy pitches, while New Zealand has green pitches where the ball swings a lot. The grounds in New Zealand are also significantly smaller and often play to their team’s advantage.
#5 England vs South Africa
This rivalry started flourishing in the 1990s after South Africa was allowed to play Test again following their two-decade-long hiatus. England and South Africa have played some Test series like the ones in 1998, 2005 and 2012 and continue to enjoy a great rivalry.
In white-ball cricket, too, those two have played a few great matches. It all started with the memorable semifinal of the 1992 World Cup, where rain proved to be the anti-climax, and the weird rules of the tournament saw England coming up with a win. Since then, the two countries have had a few great encounters in white-ball cricket.
However, the difference in playing conditions in the two countries has almost always made the Test series between the two a treat to watch. South Africa’s fast and bouncy tracks provide a start contrast to England’s wet and swinging conditions, and neither of the teams usually finds it difficult to adjust to the other’s soil.
I like to watch, analyze and write about various sports and have been writing for different websites for the last five years. I reside in Kolkata, India