And the winners are ...
Click here for the tournament statistics
It might have been the longest World Cup but, despite all the organisational mishaps and lop-sided contests, it produced a worthy winner. Australia were head and shoulders ahead of the rest - no team even came close to challenging them - but a number of other individual performers stood out through the tournament. We asked members of our staff to select their best World Cup XI and there were no surprises that Australian players dominated the list.
Matthew Hayden, the leading run-scorer, and Glenn McGrath, the top wicket-taker, expectedly made it to every team as did Muttiah Muralitharan. Hayden, with 659 runs that included three centuries, stands way above the rest in the run-pile - Mahela Jayawardene, the second in the list is a good 111 behind. He maintained a blistering strike-rate of 101 through the tournament and weighed in with seven catches to boot. He managed the fastest hundred in World Cups (during his 101 against South Africa at Basseterre) and gave a lesson in pacing of an innings (during his 158 against West Indies in Antigua).
McGrath was similarly outstanding with the ball. The fact that he didn't nail more than three victims in any match but still ended up with 26 wickets is testimony to his consistency. He conceded less than four-and-a-half runs an over and ended with the best average in the tournament, a stunning 13.73. It was a fitting way to end a glorious 14-year career.
Hayden's opening partner, Adam Gilchrist, was the overwhelming choice for the wicketkeeper slot. He ended the tournament in a blaze of glory, pillaging 149 in the final in Barbados, but chipped in with two fifties earlier as well. He also ended with 17 dismissals, the highest for a wicketkeeper in the competition. Ricky Ponting and Mahela Jayawardene - the second and third most prolific scorers - were obvious choices for No.3 and 4. Both cracked a century and four fifties, both rattled off their runs at a healthy strike-rate and both averaged more than 60. It came as no surprise that both led their sides to the final.
At No.5 is Kevin Pietersen, making the list ahead of Jacques Kallis. Pietersen was below Kallis in the run-chart - though one must remember he played one less game - but the jury appears to have preferred him at No.5, a position that requires one to both build an innings as well as boost the total. Also, Kallis had a poor tournament with the ball, hurting his chances of making the grade as an allrounder. Michael Clarke, the other contender for the slot, missed out to Pietersen by a solitary vote and was chosen the 12th man.
Scott Styris was the unanimous choice for the allrounder berth. He came into his own as a batsman, amassing 499 runs at 83, and contributed important wickets with the ball, notably 4 for 43 against Bangladesh in Antigua.
The lack of allround options meant that the team comprises five specialist bowlers. Backing McGrath with the new ball are Lasith Malinga and Shane Bond. Malinga's slingy competitor, Shaun Tait, managed five more wickets than him but fell behind in terms of economy, average and strike-rate. It must also be remembered that Malinga missed three matches owing to injury. Bond was a more surprising pick, ahead of Tait and the impressive Nathan Bracken, but his speed, allied with a miserly economy of 3.05, probably won him the day. Bracken, though, it must be said was extremely unlucky to miss out.
Two spinners made the cut: Murali was undoubtedly the best slow bowler in the tournament, befuddling right-handed batsmen with his latest doosra from around the wicket and finishing with two four-wicket hauls. Partnering him is another wrist-spinner, Brad Hogg, who with 21 wickets capped off a second successful World Cup.
Who will be captain? The votes were split in half over that one: some wanted Jayawardene for his intuition and ability to handle Murali, others felt there was no looking beyond Ponting. For the sake of remaining the only captain to yet lose a World Cup game, and for joining Clive Lloyd in claiming two trophies, we finally decided on the latter.
Cricinfo's World Cup XI
1 Matthew Hayden, 2 Adam Gilchrist (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Kevin Pietersen, 6 Scott Styris, 7 Brad Hogg, 8 Shane Bond, 9 Muttiah Muralitharan, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Glenn McGrath, 12th man: Michael Clarke.