Superb Australia leave others trailing
World Cup No. 8
Minnows Canada, Holland, Namibia
The organisers all but ignored the lessons learned from 1999 and persevered with the Super Six format, although they tried to even things out by tweaking how points earned in the group stage were carried through. It was still to prove fundamentally flawed as boycotts of matches in Kenya and Zimbabwe, on political and safety grounds, skewed the points so much that Kenya reached the semi-finals courtesy of wins over Bangladesh, Canada and Sri Lanka.
The bloated schedule resulting from an increase from 12 teams from 14 led to far too many meaningless one-sided matches. "It was simply too big and too long," Wisden noted, and at over six weeks it was hard to disagree. The extra matches also forced reserve days to be scrapped even though the competition was being held late in South Africa's cricketing year, resulting in two crucial washouts which effectively eliminated Pakistan and West Indies. The experiment with using Hawkeye, trialled in the Champions Trophy a few months earlier, was not continued. Relay throwing made its first appearance.
The competition got off to a flier with a great game between South Africa and West Indies. At the time, the home side's defeat looked a mere hiccup; a ridiculous miscalculation in their final group game meant that it contributed to their early exit, with a resulting tailing off in local interest. Canada briefly enlivened proceedings when they beat Bangladesh, although Bangladesh's subsequent performances underlined how poor a side they were. Kenya went through to the Super Sixes courtesy of the win they were handed when New Zealand refused to play in Nairobi, but whatever the circumstances, their success provided some welcome highlights. Zimbabwe progressed thanks to England's boycott of Harare and the points they got in the abandoned match against Pakistan, but their every move was overshadowed by internal politics.
Oh dear. Australia were all but guaranteed a semi-final berth before they started, while Kenya and Sri Lanka only had to beat a Zimbabwe side whose morale was in freefall to do the same. India joined those three with convincing wins in all their Super Six matches. But while the presence of two minnows pleased the neutrals, the absence of so many big names, including the host nation, meant many games were played out against a backdrop of empty stands.
For all the pre-match hype, India were never going to slip up against a keen but limited Kenyan side, especially in front of a capacity crowd that outnumbered the Africans by about 100 to one. Sourav Ganguly hit a hundred and from then on the players did little more than go through the motions. Australia survived some uneasy moments to see off Sri Lanka , with Brett Lee restoring the world order after Australia had limped to 212 for 7. Although rain ended the game early, the result had long since been known.
In its way this was as one-sided as 1999, but this time the crowd were treated to a feast of batting before a second-half that was only ever going to go through the motions. So savage was the attack led by Ricky Ponting (140 not out off 121 balls) with support from Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist that Australia 's 359 for 2 was never under threat. Ganguly went down with guns blazing, although a rain break, preceded by Ponting desperately asking his spinners to race through overs to ensure a result, did briefly stir the crowd. The Australians were deserved winners, and unlike 1999, they dominated throughout. Michael Bevan collected his second winner's medal ...easy work for a man who wasn't called upon to bat or bowl in either final.
A raft of Zimbabweans, most notably the black-armband rebels, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, who were driven into cricketing exile; Waqar Younis, the fall guy for Pakistan's failure; Carl Hooper, another captain to be chopped; Allan Donald, Jonty Rhodes and Gary Kirsten all wanted to end on a home win but slid into retirement in the rain at Durban; the two-time champions bade farewell to Bevan and Lehmann, the runners-up to Javagal Srinath. Sri Lanka's Aravinda de Silva called time after his team's semi-final exit.
More than ever, this tournament was dominated by the old guard, and few new faces blasted their way onto the World Cup scene. James Anderson showed promise, Andrew Symonds underlined what we all knew, while Kenya's Collins Obuya hinted at what might have been.
Not to be forgotten
Flower and Olonga's black armband protest (and the ICC tut-tutting which followed); Jon Davison's belligerent 111 against West Indies; Sachin Tendulkar's brilliance with the bat; England's "will they, won't they" prevarication over playing in Zimbabwe and the ICC's utter inability to put players before money; ambush marketing and the stand-off with the Indian team over sponsorship which preceded the event; Percy Sonn, the ICC president who was then head of the South African board, using his nation's time in the global spotlight to fall over blind drunk in front of other senior administrators.