Dark and dreary

ESPNcricinfo staff
A coach's death, two shock exits and a final everyone wishes to forget
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World Cup

No. 8

Minnows

Bermuda, Canada, Holland, Ireland, Kenya, Scotland

Format

The lessons of 1999 and 2003 were learned and so the Super Eights qualified from four groups of four. However, unexpectedly India and Pakistan failed to go past the first round, with Bangladesh and Ireland taking their places. 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.

Innovations

This was the first World Cup to feature Powerplays.

Early running

Pakistan were eliminated in their second game, after they lost to Ireland by three wickets. The result was entirely overshadowed by the death of Pakistan's coach, Bob Woolmer, hours later. India, meanwhile, were 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 a sweat in a group containing Scotland and the Netherlands.

Super Eights

Bangladesh's 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, the excitement was minimal. Of 24 games only three were remotely tense; the best being the second and the last, South Africa v Sri Lanka and a meaningless clash between England and West Indies which was special as it was Brian Lara's last.

The semis

Sri Lanka beat New Zealand by 81 runsthrashed South Africa, who once again choked, crashing to 27 for 5 before limping to 149.

The final

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 and Australia scored 281 for 4 in rain-reduced 38 overs. Sri Lanka chased gamely, and while Kumar Sangakkara and Sanath Jayasuriya were in - they added 116 - they were in with a shout. But both 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 which left cricket a laughing stock, brought the players back on. By the end nobody could see what was happening in the middle.

Controversies

Bob Woolmer was found unconscious on the floor of his hotel room a day after Pakistan's early exit from the tournament, and was pronounced dead in a Jamaica hospital soon after. The pall of gloom that swept the tournament came with an assortment of conspiracy theories involving unrest within the team, match-fixing and murder. Investigations continued through the World Cup before it was reported to be a death due to natural causes.

The tournament was also marred by poor turnouts as the organisers charged steep rates for entry and forbade spectators from bringing in musical instruments. Too many games, and the presence of too many weak teams in the Super Eights, contributed to dull cricket all the way. The final ended in darkness with the umpires and match referee showing a poor grasp of the rules. A farcical finish that underlined how poorly the entire event was organised.

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