World Cup Cricket News 24/03/03
Report By Jon Cocks
Saurav Ganguly won the toss for India and sent Australia in to bat at Johannesburg on a fast wicket that exuded a little morning moisture. Australian captain and Man of the Match Ricky Ponting, who would have elected to bat anyway, played perhaps his career signature innings to fashion a famous back-to-back Australian World Cup victory by a convincing 125 run margin, bowling India out for 234 in the fortieth over of its reply.
Openers Gilchrist and Hayden attacked from the outset and all batsmen maintained relentless scoreboard pressure on a hapless and sometimes line-and-length clueless Indian attack. The Indian ploy of inserting Australia on a fresh and lively wicket back-fired and the rain delay in the match’s second innings intensified the pressure on the Indians as they chased 360 in a World Cup Final.
An unbeaten partnership of 234 (exactly India’s final score) between Ponting (140* from 121 balls) and Martyn (defying the problem of his broken finger, with 88 from 84) built on an explosive opening union of 105 between Gilchrist (57 from 48) and Hayden (37 from 54). Australia amassed a World Cup record score of 2-359, easily surpassing the 60-over effort of 291 by the 1975 West Indians.
Gilchrist was at his free-wheeling best, on the front foot from the start, hammering seven fours and a six in his typically blinding opening cameo that almost completely mirrored his 1999 World Cup Final innings. Hayden was sterling in support, leaving balls that seamed and playing several majestic strokes only to fall just as it looked like he was finally going to play that threatened big knock.
The opening onslaught of 0-87 from the initial eleven overs was assisted by a ‘ flyer’ from Mr X Tras. 15 came from Zaheer’s first over, with wides and no balls and two glorious boundaries by Gilchrist, who was ‘brutal’ according to Richie Benaud. Zaheer’s three overs had cost 28; Nehra was unable to make an impression when he took over.
Gilchrist raised the Australian hundred in the 13th over, but played an ambitious shot across the line at Harbajhan and somewhat unnecessarily holed out to Sehwag at mid wicket. Ricky Ponting chipped over mid wicket early and hustled hard between the wickets, but Hayden was caught at the wicket by Dravid at 1-125.
This was the last moment of Indian bowling and fielding joy. The Indian bowlers let the captain down, not bowling a sufficiently consistent line. Zaheer’s seven overs cost 67, Srinath conceded 87 from his ten, while Nehra’s ten were relatively inexpensive at 57. Harbajhan Singh (8-0-49-2) troubled Martyn early in his innings, but after the 25th over, the Australian batsmen dictated proceedings.
Surprisingly, no point nor gully confronted Damien Martyn and his confidence rose each time he cut square for a boundary or stroked the ball on the off side, free of the New Zealand Point Trap. The introduction of part-timers Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Mongia signalled the green light for the Australians to begin hitting out.
The inevitable loose deliveries were punished ruthlessly, as the unbeaten partnership for the third wicket grew in magnitude and historical importance. As Ponting and Martyn became more comfortable, the latter feasting on the gap square on the off side, the Indian nightmare intensified. His part-timers totally ineffective, Ganguly called upon his pace attack for a final effort to curtail the rampant Australians.
Instead, 109 came from the final ten overs, as Ponting raised his thirteenth ODI century. By the end of fifty overs, Ponting had hit eight magnificent sixes, one of which required a new ball to replace the one he hit from the ground. For a while, Martyn shaded Ponting, but when the captain smashed two successive sixes from Nehra, he made the definitive statement of the final and 90 runs came from the final 47 balls he faced.
Ricky Ponting ultimately dominated the union with Martyn that became the best ever partnership by Australians in World Cup cricket history. The Australian captain’s third World Cup Final became a defining moment in his cricket career, as he gave no chance and lasted until the final delivery, setting India more than seven an over for victory.
As he did in a significant 1999 World Cup round robin match, McGrath removed Tendulkar (4) in his first over, inducing the little maestro to hook and accepting a return catch from the ballooning top edge. 19 came from his third over as Ganguly (26) and Sehwag hit out, playing pre-meditated big shots to leg.
However, such high-risk strategy could not seriously sustain realistic hope for victory, as the required run-rate went past eight per over. Something would have to give and it wasn’t long before Ganguly tried to hook Lee. The top-edge was caught by Lehmann and India’s first ten overs had realised 2-58, well behind Australia’s equivalent 0-80.
Mohammed Kaif (0) quickly edged McGrath to Gilchrist. Rahul Dravid came to the wicket at 3-59 to see if he might perform the miracle for which a billion Indians were now praying. At 3-62 after twelve overs the miracle seemed over the rainbow, but with black clouds threatening, it was time to bring on the slow bowlers to get to the 25-over mark.
Sharp sun showers came, the lights came on, the rain got heavier and the covers finally came on at 3-103 after 17 overs, with Sehwag having reached a brilliant 56 from 55 balls. The rain break afforded brief hope for India and Sehwag (82) was playing beautifully, but Lehmann fielded superbly at deep mid off - after brief Indian resistance - to throw down the stumps to run out Sachin’s apprentice and remove the final Indian hope of victory.
This triggered the Indian collapse of 7-87. With 25 overs remaining, India required 206, but McGrath (8.2-0-52-3), Lee (7-1-31-2), Bichel (10-0-57-1), Hogg (10-0-61-1) and Symonds (2-0-7-2 at the death) destroyed any remaining Indian hope. The best team in the competition had triumphed, winning an unprecedented seventeenth consecutive ODI in the biggest match of them all.
There can be no doubt that the 2003 Australians have proven themselves as the unquestioned ODI World Champions of cricket, while Ricky Ponting has indelibly marked his name in the pantheon of cricket, as the victorious 2003 World Cup captain.