Australia triumph in a tournament to forget
World Cup No. 9
Minnows Bermuda, Canada, Holland, Ireland, Kenya, Scotland
The lessons of 1999 and 2003 were learned and so the Super Eights qualifying was from four groups of four. However, the advertising men were left gawping as India and Pakistan failed to make it through the first round, Bangladesh and Ireland taking their places. While that thrilled the neutrals, it caused a flurry of "never again" chart from Asia and Dubai. The only points carried forward were the ones against the other qualifiers from the same group, which at least should have given the second round some meaning.
This was the first World Cup to use Powerplays, that aside, it was pretty much as before.
When West Indies beat Pakistan in the opening match, few suspected what was to follow, both on and off the field, and in terms of a series of dreadful matches. Pakistan were eliminated in their second game after contriving to lose by three wickets to Ireland, a result entirely overshadowed by the death hours later of Bob Woolmer their coach. The whole tournament was stunned and then thrown into doubt when Jamaica's police claimed he had been murdered. It turned out he had not, but things never recovered. India, meanwhile, were well beaten by Bangladesh and then sent packing by Sri Lanka. New Zealand and England went through from Group C - England courtesy of wins over Canada and Kenya - while Australia and South Africa barely broke sweat in a group containing Scotland and Netherlands.
Bangladesh and Ireland's qualification meant that, in reality, the semi-finals were between four of six, and with England and the hosts looking all at sea (literally in Freddie Flintoff's case), the excitement was minimal. Of 24 games only three were remotely tense, the best the first and last, England v South Africa and a meaningless clash between England and West Indies with Brian Lara's bowing out.
Sri Lanka beat New Zealand by 81 runs thanks to Mahela Jayawardene's 115 not out and New Zealand were always well behind the clock. Australia thrashed South Africa who once again chocked, crashing to 27 for 5 before limping to 149 - Australia strolled home with 18 overs to spare.
The best two sides made the final, but the farcical scenes at the end of the match summed up the utter shambles that almost everyone - other than the relentlessly upbeat ICC - knew the tournament had become. Adam Gilchrist thumped 149 off 104 balls - even that was shrouded in controversy as he admitted to using a squash ball inside his glove as an aid - as Australia scored 281 for 4 in a rain-reduced 38 overs. Sri Lanka chased gamely and while Kumar Sangakkara and Sanatah Jayasuriya added 116 for the second wicket they were in with a shout but they fell in quick succession and then farce descended in the gloom. The umpires left the field for bad light as Australia celebrated but then the officials, amid scenes with left cricket a laughing stock, brought the players back on. By the end, nobody could see what was happening in the middle.
Some big games departed ... Glenn McGrath went out on a high with a third winners medal and the man-of-the-Tournament award; Inzamam-ul-Haq went in tears after his dismissal against Zimbabwe, the pressure of the captaincy and Woolmer's death all too much; Lara might have felt like crying after being left high and dry by Marlon Samuels in front of a full house in Barbados. How many of an ageing Australia side will be back in 2011 is open to doubt. As for the coaches, 14 of the 16 who went into the tournament had moved on with six months.
There was a paucity of good young talent, the cupboard was fairly bare. Shaun Tait of Australia impressed but it was very much a tournament for the old guard.
Not to be forgotten
Sadly, this will be remember for all the wrong reasons. It was overlong - a record 56 days - and the organisers managed to stage an event in the Caribbean and then do all they could to strip out every facet that makes watching the game there such fun. Overzealous security was again to the fore, ticket prices were silly - Barbados finally broke ranks, slashed the cost and were rewarded with full houses - complete idiocy meant that at some venues people had to walk long distances to get to games, and local business inflated their prices, and in many cases got burned. The booing of local and ICC dignitaries at the final presentations told its own tale. But ultimately the ninth World Cup will be remembered for the death of Woolmer and the media hysteria which followed.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo