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Punter in paradise

Ponting played himself in and then inflicted major damage on India's bowlers

Dileep Premachandran

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Ricky Ponting hits a straight six off Javagal Srinath, World Cup final, March 23, 2003
After a sedate start, Ponting went berserk at the Wanderers Mike Hewitt / © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Damien Martyn | Ricky Ponting
Series/Tournaments: ICC World Cup
Teams: Australia | India

Ricky Ponting
140 not out v India, final, 2003

He may have lost the toss, but by the time Ricky Ponting walked out to the middle on World Cup final day, Australia had the perfect start. Adam Gilchrist had bludgeoned his way to 57 from 48 balls, adding 105 in just 14 overs with Matthew Hayden. In such a scenario, Ponting could afford to play himself in, and he duly did so with Damien Martyn for company after Hayden gave Harbhajan Singh a second wicket.

It was Martyn who set the tone for the partnership, with some gorgeous strokes through the covers en route to 50 from just 46 balls. Ponting, by contrast, needed 74 balls for his half-century, hitting just one four along the way. But seeing 50 next to his name appeared to trigger something, and what followed can only be described as carnage.

Harbhajan was taken for two sixes over midwicket, and there was an outrageous one-handed swipe off Ashish Nehra that sailed over the square-leg fence. India's bowling plan was ripped to pieces. The century partnership had taken the two 109 balls, but only 64 were needed for the next 100 as the run rate soared. Ponting took just 29 deliveries to get from 50 to 100, finishing with a stunning 140 from 121 balls. He thumped eight sixes, all in the arc between long-on and square leg, and the stunning acceleration deflected attention from Martyn's gem - an 84-ball 88 made with a broken finger.

All but 24 of Ponting's runs came on the leg side, illustrating just how wayward India's bowlers were in both line and length. You couldn't be too harsh, though. On the biggest day of all, they had run into a once-in-a-generation batsman at the peak of his powers. At a venue that the punters call the Bullring, they were well and truly gored.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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