Top One-Day International Matches of All Time

The best of the best across 50-over history.

At the time of writing, well over 3000 one-day international cricket matches had been played. Of all these 50-over contests, which five stand out above the rest?

Individual opinions will vary, but to my mind, these are the five matches which most deserve to be remembered and rewatched. I've chosen these five in particular for the quality of the individual performances featured, the drama of their close finishes, and the importance of what was at stake.

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South Africa vs Australia, 5th ODI, Johannesburg, 2006

Test cricket match at the Adelaide Oval with the heritage scoreboard in background.
Diana Mayfield / Getty Images

A tense one-day series between these two great rivals was tied at 2-2 going into the fifth and final match. By the end of Australia's 50-over innings, the match -- and series -- appeared over as a contest. The Aussies had racked up 434 runs, then a world record and captain Ricky Ponting had played one of the great one-day innings.

South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs then played an even better inning, and the Proteas blasted their way past Australia's total in the final over. Those who were at the ground couldn't explain what they'd seen, and the rest of the cricket world couldn't explain it either. Instead, discussion turned to when the 500-run mark in ODIs would be passed. (It hasn't - yet.)

Other records tumbled: the match contained the most sixes ever hit in a one-day international, while Australia's Mick Lewis gave statistically the worst bowling performance in history. It was a batsman's delight and a treat for fans.

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Australia vs South Africa, World Cup Semi-Final, Birmingham, 1999

The Johannesburg game was an out-of-this-world run feast. This remarkable Cricket World Cup match - also between Australia and South Africa - ebbed and flowed like the nearby River Rea, carrying its fans' hearts along with it.

It had first seemed that Australia's 213 would not be enough. Captain Steve Waugh and the ever-consistent Michael Bevan did the bulk of the work to get them there, while their teammates fell to top-notch fast bowling by Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald.

South Africa struggled for much of their innings, though, particularly against the wily spin of Shane Warne. Lance Klusener looked to have taken South Africa to the final by bludgeoning the scores level with four balls to play, but in a final twist, confusion between the batsmen led to a runout. The match finished in a rare tie, and Australia went on to the World Cup final due to a better record in the tournament.

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Australia vs West Indies, World Series of Cricket, Sydney, 1996

Michael Bevan is widely regarded as the best 'finisher' to have played one-day international cricket, and this is the match that began his legend.

It was a rain-affected encounter, which it made it difficult for both teams to score runs. West Indies managed 172 in their 43 overs with a heavy reliance on an outstanding inning from Carl Hooper, a tall and elegant right-hander. The left-handed Bevan scored fewer runs than Hooper had in Australia's chase but the pressure on him was infinitely greater, no more so than when required to hit four off the last ball to win. He did, and all of Australia went wild.

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India vs Pakistan, Austral-Asia Cup Final, Sharjah, 1986

It was a comprehensive all-round performance from India, a sound batting effort backed up by quality bowling and (mostly) capable fielding in sweltering UAE heat. The only problem was Javed Miandad, Pakistan's greatest batsman, who played an innings that would ensure his status as a national hero.

Miandad scored 116 out of 248. It would have been a remarkable inning anyway, but to drive home the point, he struck the last ball of the innings for six to win the Austral-Asia Cup for Pakistan. Given the deep on- and off-field rivalry between India and Pakistan, that six was one of the most valuable and meaningful ever hit.

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India vs Sri Lanka,1st ODI, Rajkot, 2009

India batted first and scored 414. Sri Lanka batted second and scored 411. As incredible as these numbers are, both teams could have scored plenty more.

Both innings followed almost exactly the same trend. The openers blazed away and laid the platform for a massive total, with one from each side going on to a big individual hundred. The wicketkeeper-captains of both sides, Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India and Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka, then came in and picked up the tempo even further. The rest of the batsmen came and went without managing to broach 450, as had looked likely, but they did manage to scramble past the elusive 400 mark.

The match signaled the start of a competitive, high-scoring series. It predicted the future, too, as one and a half years later, India and Sri Lanka would face off in a classic World Cup Final.