March 24, 2003

Records galore among the memories

The 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup is behind us and Australia has captured its third title with an awesome, clinical and professional performance to blow India out of the final, almost as early as the first over bowled.

By far the most professional team, and that includes management and administration, at the tournament, the Australians have shown everyone how the game should be played and run. Organised at all times they never showed any of the pressure that was obviously on them. They came to South Africa to play, enjoy and win playing a game almost unfamiliar to most of the other teams who from day one fought hard for second place.

For the organisers it was a huge success that will benefit cricket worldwide and more so in South Africa where the game will, due to the exposure and hype around the country, grow in all areas.

As ICC President Malcolm Gray said during the presentation ceremony at the final: "Forty-three days ago we placed the spirit of cricket in the hands of southern Africa. I thank you, the people of this outstanding country and enchanting continent for upholding and enhancing that spirit. You have helped write a glorious chapter, not only in the history of our sport but also in the history of southern Africa."

There were moments and memories during the tournament that will long stay with us. Five centuries in the first four games assured those that had been waiting in anticipation that they were in for something special.

The opening ceremony was dwarfed by the brilliance of the Brian Lara hundred in the opening match against South Africa, a blow from which the hosts never recovered.

In total 21 centuries were scored with Sourav Ganguly scoring three while 89 fifties were registered with Sachin Tendulkar scoring six.

Batting records fell by the dozen. John Davison scored the fastest World Cup 100 in a 67-ball onslaught against West Indies, who replied with first Wavell Hinds scoring the fastest World Cup fifty in 24 balls, only to be eclipsed by Brian Lara getting there in 23 balls. It was a feast of runs that entertained the Centurion and SuperSport Park faithful.

Sachin Tendulkar broke his own tournament record in scoring 673 runs at an average of 61.18 which included one century and six fifties.

Australia also scored the highest total for a World Cup final when they destroyed the India attack, posting 359 for two wickets at the Wanderers.

Surprisingly only one partnership record fell, that of the seventh wicket going to Ramnaresh Sarwan and Ridley Jacobs putting on 98 for West Indies against New Zealand.

The South African pitches were not just made to order for the batsmen. The feast of runs was complemented by some brilliant bowling performances and groundstaff countrywide should be applauded for the pitches that were prepared.

Who will forget the first three-ball innings hat-trick for Chaminda Vaas against Bangladesh or the Brett Lee hat-trick against Kenya?

Glenn McGrath taking 7/15 for Australia against Namibia was nearly surpassed by compatriot Andy Bichel taking 7/20 as England capitulated, taking the two Australians to the top of the all-time World Cup bowling figures list.

They were joined in the top ten by Shane Bond and Ashish Nehra, who shared figures of 6/23, and Vaas with 6/25. Vaas took 23 wickets during the tournament and was followed by Lee (22) and McGrath (21) as they eclipsed the previous World Cup record of 20 wickets.

In the field Adam Gilchrist took six catches in the match against Namibia while Mohammad Kaif claimed four against Sri Lanka to go to the top of the record-fielding table.

The spectators helped to make the tournament the success that it was. Who will forget the scenes as a full house of fanatical supporters from India and Pakistan filled SuperSport Park, keeping up relentless support for their respective teams?

The full house at the Wanderers for the final built up an atmosphere that pictures can never describe. Flag-waving supporters from both India and Australia left local organisers hoping that it would soon be repeated.

The minnows came to learn and left with a wealth of information and experience. They also left some scars on some of the more fancied teams as players like Canada's Davison left massive dents in some bowling egos.

The Netherlands will be remembered for the way they enjoyed the experience of playing on a stage that they knew they were not going to conquer. Maybe they were the only team to learn how to enjoy playing the game from the Australians.

The disappointments of the tournament must be the South Africans. Starting as second favourites, and fancied to give the Australians a run for their money, they fell by the wayside with some tense, uninspiring, mediocre cricket. Given a last minute lifeline in the last first round match against Sri Lanka they even failed to accept the heavenly assistance that could have seen them through to the semi-finals.

Apart from all the records and performances the most outstanding feature of the tournament to me was the way the Australians played this wonderful game of cricket. Winning makes it easy to enjoy the game, and at no stage did they panic. They smiled and encouraged each other in times of joy and despair as each player appeared to know exactly what was expected of him. Not even the loss of Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie could put them off their stride as they walked over all the opposition.

Well done Australia, and thank you for a truly professional, enjoyable and memorable performance.