A McGrath prediction goes right

ESPNcricinfo staff
And a pudgy blond breaks South African and Pakistani hearts

Sourav Ganguly, 183, and Rahul Dravid, 145
v Sri Lanka, Taunton

The world champions were ground to dust by a resurgent India, smarting from two consecutive defeats and under pressure to notch up three consecutive victories to qualify for the Super Six stage. The main architects of the win in Taunton were two players who formed the backbone of the Indian batting, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, and they raised the then-highest ODI partnership in a merciless display. Ganguly struck 17 fours and seven sixes in his 183 and Dravid, in a pivotal phase of his ODI career, confounded his doubters with an attacking 145 to propel India to their best score in the 50-over format at the time - 373. They broke several records in a show of clean hitting against some indisciplined bowling, and cashed in on the short boundaries. The confidence was striking, with Ganguly charging the seamers and Dravid adapting to changing conditions, on his way to becoming the highest run-getter in the competition.

Neil Johnson, 76 and 3 for 27 v South Africa, Chelmsford
At the heart of Zimbabwe's success at this World Cup was Neil Johnson, who brought destructive batting and nippy swing bowling to the table.

Both facets were on display in this game as he almost single-handedly inflicted on South Africa their first defeat of the tournament. It was typical stand-and-deliver stuff. He took no prisoners with the bat and wasn't bothered by reputation.

Still, a target of 234 shouldn't have been too much of a test for a South African team who'd been early tournament pace-setters. However, no one said so to the Zimbabwe new-ball attack, and Johnson led a dramatic demolition job, removing Gary Kirsten with the first ball of the innings. After Herschelle Gibbs and Mark Boucher had been dispatched by Heath Streak and a run-out, Johnson extracted Jacques Kallis and yorked Hansie Cronje as the score lurched to 34 for 5 and then 40 for 6.

There was no way back for South Africa, and Zimbabwe progressed to the second stage of a World Cup for the first time. Later in the tournament South Africa went out in that semi-final against Australia, a match they could have avoided if they'd beaten Zimbabwe. In hindsight, it was some setback by Johnson.

Glenn McGrath, 5 for 14 Australia, West Indies, Old Trafford
During the early stages of the World Cup, Glenn McGrath struggled to recapture the form of his first tour to England two years before. He was stuttering like Australia, who needed to beat West Indies at Old Trafford to progress to the Super Six stage, following losses to New Zealand and Pakistan. McGrath had a plan, but rather than carry it out quietly, he made a very public announcement: in his newspaper column he predicted he'd take care of the threat of Brian Lara and grab five wickets. Coming from someone operating below his best it was extraordinary.

The self-belief and manufactured pressure spurred McGrath to a performance that secured Australia's passage to the next stage. West Indies were blown away for 110 and McGrath, who was back opening after a first-change experiment, took five, as predicted, off 8.4 overs - including Lara, who arrived to face McGrath's hat-trick ball after the dismissals of Sherwin Campbell and Jimmy Adams, and moved to 9 before falling to a superb delivery. Mark Waugh suggested Lara played around the ball, but his bowling team-mates say it angled on middle and clipped the top of off. After taking three top-order wickets in 14 balls, McGrath completed his collection with two tailenders to show that his predictions were worth listening to.

Shoaib Akhtar, 3 for 55 New Zealand v Pakistan, semi-final, Old Trafford
Shoaib was at his blistering best in a lop-sided semi-final, hitting the stumps three times and consistently topping 90mph. Best of all, he reminded everyone that fast bowling was supposed to be just that - fast. He bowled three spells, 4-3-3, and cleaned up a batsman in each.

With Shoaib's 15th ball, Nathan Astle, reduced to fishing and hopping for the first of his 17 deliveries, had his leg stump flattened by an express delivery that burst through his airborne defence. As Roger Twose and Stephen Fleming trudged along, a score of 250 looked remotely possible. Wasim Akram would have none of it, however, and brought Shoaib back to a tumultuous roar. After being slashed for four by Fleming, Shoaib shook his head, returned to his run-up, and served up the ball of the match, if not the tournament. It was a yorker, 92mph and moving, and Fleming jammed his bat down about an hour too late. Leg stump went packing, the crowd erupted, the bowler celebrated.

One final spell remained, and sure enough Shoaib came back on in the 46th over, around the stumps, and took out a clueless Chris Harris' leg stump with a devilishly disguised slower one. With electrifying speed, Shoaib restricted New Zealand to a modest 241. He didn't need any fielders - wicked inswinging yorkers were his poison. It didn't matter that he was the most expensive bowler for his side; he was out there to take and break wickets.

Shane Warne, 4 for 29, Australia v South Africa, semi-final, Edgbaston
Generations will know of the greatest one-day match, and of the man who scripted it. The dramatic last over notwithstanding, every soul who was at Birmingham that day will say it belonged to a pudgy blond.

South Africa, chasing 213 to walk into their first such final, were 43 for 0, with Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten looking good. Enter Warne. With the second ball of his second over, he ambled in and, eyes fixed firmly on Gibbs, unleashed a beauty. It looped up, drifted away, landed in the rough outside leg stump, and fizzed past a dumbfounded Gibbs to clip off. The ball of Warne's ODI career.

Five deliveries later Warne floated another one up in the footmarks outside leg, Kirsten went down to sweep, missed and the ball hit off again. Hansie Cronje lasted just two deliveries, as an attempted flick to the on side went to first slip - replays suggested there was no edge - and Warne had three wickets in eight balls.

In Warne's final over Shaun Pollock slammed a six and a four before stealing a single to the covers to bring Jacques Kallis, on 53 from 91 balls, on strike. One last time Warne tossed it up; Kallis checked his drive and sliced straight into the waiting hands of Waugh at cover. A spell of 4 for 29 had been completed. Warne's captivating display inspired his flagging team-mates, changing the mood in a way that only born champions can.

Shane Warne, 4 for 33 Australia v Pakistan, final, Lord's
Blame it on Warne for a lop-sided finale to what had been an enthralling tournament. Pakistan, given their successful run, were expected to be worthy competitors but Warne's four-wicket haul, which followed his match-winning effort against South Africa in the semi-final, scuppered their hopes. Unlike against South Africa, Warne was introduced with Pakistan in a shaky position and he choked them further to shut them out of the match. Ijaz Ahmed was done in by a quickish legspinner that turned sharply from leg stump to crash into middle and off. Moin Khan, who had tormented bowlers in the death overs, was foxed by flight. Shahid Afridi was trapped in front, and Wasim Akram mistimed a slog to midwicket. Warne had grabbed four of the six wickets that fell for 61 runs, paving the way for Australia's second World Cup triumph.