The walk, the protest, the hat-trick

ESPNcricinfo staff
Kenya shocked Sri Lanka, Gilchrist shocked Australia, Tendulkar tormented Pakistan, and Flower and Olonga took a stand
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Tendulkar smacks Shoaib around
India v Pakistan, Centurion

Sachin Tendulkar has never batted better than in the World Cup of 2003, and during it never better than for three famous deliveries against Shoaib Akhtar in Centurion.

It was a match Tendulkar said he was compelled to live a year in advance. Everywhere he went, people reminded him about the 1st of March, the fixture against Pakistan. He did not sleep well for 12 nights leading up, he revealed later.

Facing a handsome target, Tendulkar shed his pent-up anxiety with three strokes in Shoaib's opening over to jumpstart a classic innings. The first of them - reaching out (were he not so pumped up, he would surely have let it pass for a wide), at once cutting and tipping, very high over the square third-man boundary - would become an icon; its sheer thrill, and nationalist symbolism, was a sort of belated rebuff to the Miandad six.

The second stroke was his lovely trademark - back in the crease and with swirling wrists diverting a reasonable delivery to square leg. But the third shot ..

A little trot across to off stump, block, down the ground to the on, four. No back-lift, no follow-through: none needed. He simply met the ball and the entire execution began there and finished there. And by now the crowd, the most vividly alive of the tournament, had gone quite wild. Visually it was like a cinematic special effect: everything moved in a blur - flags, roars, horns, waves, the ball, Shoaib - and amid it Sachin and his pure stroke appeared magically frozen.

Gilchrist walks
Australia v Sri Lanka, semi-final, Port Elizabeth

Australians only walk when their car has run out of petrol. But in the 2003 World Cup, Adam Gilchrist disproved that theory with an act of sportsmanship that generated almost universal approval amid cricket supporters, and general bemusement, not to say disquiet, in the Australian dressing room.

It was the semi-final, and Gilchrist attempted to sweep the offspin of Aravinda de Silva, got a thin edge onto his pad and was caught behind. Rudi Koertzen, the umpire, did not respond to Sri Lanka's appeals but Gilchrist did. He paused, waited for the umpire's decision - or non-decision - then turned and headed for the pavilion.

It was an astonishing moment, partly because it was an Australian, partly because it was such an important game, and partly because the nature of that type of dismissal is rarely clear-cut.

Gilchrist's decision had no bearing on the result - Australia won comfortably - but it seemed to be a sign of a more enlightened, free-spirited approach in the post-Waugh era. Of course, under duress these good intentions can go out of the window; there weren't many Australians walking in the 2005 Ashes.

There were some dissenting voices about Gilchrist's action. Some, like Angus Fraser, objected to him being canonised simply for not cheating. Others thought he had walked almost by accident - that having played his shot he overbalanced in the direction of the pavilion and simply carried on going. Both are harsh judgements. It was a remarkable occurrence, and one that should be held as an example to all cricketers.

The black armband of courage
Zimbabwe v Namibia, Harare

The months before the tournament had been marked by endless debate about the moral rights and wrongs of staging matches in Zimbabwe, then a one-party state with serious political and social issues. As the tournament kicked off, two players from the Zimbabwe team protested against the state of affairs in their country in their own way.

Shortly before the start of Zimbabwe's opening match against Namibia, the press were handed a statement from Andy Flower and Henry Olonga in which they announced they would be wearing black armbands to "mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe". They stressed their desire to make a silent and dignified gesture. None of their team-mates, with the exception of Flower's brother Grant, had an inkling of what was about to happen. The public were also unaware until in the 22nd over, Flower, walked out to bat wearing a makeshift black armband. Olonga was photographed on the players' balcony sporting his. The point had been made and the Zimbabwe authorities, used to clamping down on such signs of dissent brutally and immediately, had little response given the global spotlight on the event. The protest was hailed in the western press but things would take a sour turn at home. Olonga said he was aware of the consequences. "If guys want to take me out they can," he said. "They know where I live." Flower played his last game for Zimbabwe in the Super Six stage against Sri Lanka, while Olonga was dropped, ignominiously kicked off the team bus.

Vaasy wrecks Bangladesh
Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, Pietermaritzburg

Sri Lanka were ruthless against the minnows in the 2003 World Cup, and they began with against Bangladesh, shutting them out in the first over. Chaminda Vaas was the chief destroyer, grabbing a hat-trick with the first three balls of the match - a first in cricket - and then some more. Hannan Sarkar was the first to go, beaten by a delivery that nipped back in. Mohammad Ashraful followed next ball, lobbing a simple return catch, and Ehsanul Haque couldn't resist the temptation to poke at a fullish delivery, only to edge a catch to slip and spark wild celebrations. There was more in store, as Sanwar Hossain, after audaciously striking Vaas for four off the next ball, was trapped in front immediately after. Vaas finished with 6 for 25, Bangladesh were bowled out for 124, and Sri Lanka went on to win by 10 wickets. Five days later, they returned to bowl out Canada for 36.

Kenya spring a surprise
Kenya v Sri Lanka, Nairobi

Remember Brian Lara against Kenya in Pune in the 1996 World Cup? When he edged a catch to a till-then butter-fingered Tariq Iqbal, Kenya got the first sense that they were in for a special day. Fast forward to the 2003 World Cup, and the feeling was similar in Nairobi when Aravinda de Silva, fighting an inspired home team, nicked legspinner Collins Obuya to his wicketkeeper brother Kennedy Otieno. Sri Lanka, caught off guard in their chase of 211, were 112 for 6 with their most experienced batsman back in the pavilion after a determined 41. A partisan crowd egged the hosts on and soon enough they completed a shock 53-run win with Obuya finishing on 5 for 24. It eventually helped Kenya qualify for the Super Six stage, and the South Africa fans, deprived of their national team after its early exit, had found a new side to cheer. Kenya added another feather to their cap later in the tournament, beating Zimbabwe, and qualified for the semi-final, where their run was ended by India.

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