A squash ball and a perfect yorker

ESPNcricinfo staff
Australians dominated the World Cup but a Bangladeshi and a South African made their marks as well

Matthew Hayden, 101v South Africa, St Kitts
When Hayden smashed the fastest World Cup century, the first-round match between South Africa and Australia threatened to be a repeat of the epic at the Wanderers the previous year, but in the end South Africa finished 83 runs adrift. Hayden got to three figures off only 66 deliveries, beating the mark of 67 set by John Davison of Canada against West Indies in 2003. His forceful strokes back down the pitch forced the bowlers to adjust their line and length, but when the ball was short or a bit wide it was merrily biffed through point. Even after Adam Gilchrist was dismissed for a run-a-ball 42, Hayden continued in his typically bully-boy way, smashing 14 fours and four sixes in a regal display of hitting that set the tone for Australia's dominant campaign.

Mohammad Ashraful, 87v South Africa, Guyana
Spurred on by a delightful innings from Mohammad Ashraful, Bangladesh pulled off their second big upset of the tournament, thrashing South Africa by 67 runs. Undeterred by an Andre Nel-engineered top-order stumble that reduced them to 84 for 4, Bangladesh recovered through some meaningful middle-order partnerships. Ashraful's knock, the highest individual score by a Bangladesh batsman in World Cups, was a delightful blend of caution and aggression. He was forced to play safe early on, gliding singles to third man and cobbling together a reviving stand with Aftab Ahmed, but ended in a flourish of paddle-scoops and rasping drives redolent of boyish audacity. He brought up his second World Cup fifty with a smoked loft over Makhaya Ntini's head and followed it up with a cheeky four past fine leg, shuffling across the crease and angling it cutely. The final ball of the over, the 44th, was clattered past point and Ashraful stepped up the ante in fine style. With 251 on the board, Bangladesh's trio of left-arm spinners thrived on the sluggish surface, one that resembled a subcontinental sandpit during the second half of the match, and pulled off a truly memorable triumph.

Charl Langeveldt, 5 for 39v Sri Lanka, Guyana
The match is best remembered for Lasith Malinga's extraordinary spell, which claimed four wickets in four balls, but South Africa's victory was set up by Charl Langeveldt, who took the first five-wicket haul of the tournament. On a slowish pitch, quite different from the one at St Kitts, where they played their previous games, South Africa's bowlers, led by Langeveldt, adjusted well. He came on after an average opening spell from Shaun Pollock and immediately sent back Sanath Jayasuriya, using extra bounce to get him to lash straight to point. He then dismissed Mahela Jayawardene - who had looked to flick - with a peach that straightened from leg stump to take the leading edge and land in the hands of cover. Sri Lanka patched things together in the middle overs through Tillakaratne Dilshan and Russel Arnold before Langeveldt returned for a three-wicket maiden that killed the innings of all momentum at the death. The over made all the difference in the end as South Africa's last pair, with Langeveldt himself at no. 11, survived hell against an inspired Malinga to squeak to a one-wicket win.

Glenn McGrath, 3 for 18 v South Africa, semi-final, St Lucia
History suggested it would be a close encounter, possibly even a classic, but in the end the second semi-final turned into a cakewalk for Australia thanks to a typically understated spell of seam bowling from McGrath. South Africa were keen to take the fight to their opponents at the start but Graeme Smith's early dismissal meant they were already on the wrong foot. Jacques Kallis tried to make a statement, making room and advancing down the track, but he had chosen the wrong man to target. McGrath coolly fired in an inch-perfect yorker and it clattered into the stumps. Shaun Tait, bowling a memorable spell at the other end, removed AB de Villiers before McGrath sealed the deal in the space of one exceptional over. Even when he bowled a poor ball he claimed a wicket - Ashwell Prince chasing a delivery that would have been called wide. The next ball was the complete opposite: perfect line and length outside off stump, bringing a thick edge to first slip from Mark Boucher. Justin Kemp survived the hat-trick delivery but the stunned expressions on South Africa's balcony told the story. South Africa's had lost half their side with less than 30 on the board, and McGrath had accounted for three of their most obdurate batsmen.

Adam Gilchrist, 149 v Sri Lanka, Barbados
Batting with a squash ball in your glove can be a painful experience, but not for Gilchrist. The result was perhaps the best performance in a World Cup final. This was his third scene-stealer in consecutive World Cup finals. Against Pakistan at Lord's in 1999, he cracked 54 from 36 balls; four years later against India in Johannesburg, he made 57 from 48. But nothing quite compared to this. Once the sun had come out and Gilchrist had gauged the pace and bounce of a rock-hard and true surface, there was no reining him - or Australia - in. He set the tone by clubbing Chaminda Vaas for four and six in the second over and never looked back. Dilhara Fernando put down a return chance when Gilchrist was on 31 and the next three deliveries were clubbed for four, four and six, the last of which very nearly took out the fire engine next to the 3Ws stand at long-on. Gilchrist brought up his 15th ODI hundred from just 72 balls with a drilled four over long-off, and thereafter heaved through the line with impunity, trusting his eye, the surface and the fact that the fight had gone out of his opponents.