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Australia won their home one-day international series for the 12th time in 20 years. But long after the result fades into cricket's "who cares?" file, people will be talking about other aspects of the tournament.
Cricket has featured more than 1,400 one-day internationals over the past 30 years, but rarely one as dramatic as England v Sri Lanka at Adelaide in January 1999, when Muttiah Muralitharan was called for throwing. Umpire Ross Emerson, who had called him for the same offence three years earlier, watched his action from square leg, decided nothing had changed and no-balled him in his second over.
Pandemonium broke out. Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga led his side towards the boundary where they milled about for nearly 15 minutes as he spoke to Sri Lankan officials in Colombo via a mobile phone. The game resumed, but later in the night there was a series of spats between Sri Lankan and England players.
Ranatunga was charged with breaking five terms of the International Cricket Council's Code of Conduct. But he arrived at the disciplinary hearing accompanied by lawyers who argued that suspension would be restraint of trade. They managed to prevent the inquiry from hearing the evidence. ICC referee Peter van der Merwe, close to tears, was reduced to imposing a suspended six-match ban and a small fine. Sri Lanka were accused of changing the face of cricket by using the law to tie the hands of officials responsible for the conduct of the game. In a further bizarre twist, Emerson was stood down by the Australian board for the rest of the tournament. It was announced that he had been officiating at Adelaide while on sick leave from his regular employment for a stress-related condition.
Even before the Adelaide showdown, the tournament prompted embarrassing head-lines when Tasmanian batsman Ricky Ponting was knocked senseless in a Sydney nightclub. Suspended for three games, he later gave a press conference confessing that he had a drink problem and promising to seek help. But there was a big plus for Australia in the inspired captaincy of Shane Warne, which saw them to victory in their last seven games. Deputising for the injured Steve Waugh, Warne's attacking field placings stopped singles and created pressure. He rallied his troops like a football coach, with plenty of backslaps and good communication. Warne leads the busiest life of all Australian cricketers, yet when any of his players had a problem, he instantly called them to his room for a chat.
England started well, with four wins in their first five games, but then lost six of their last seven. For all their experience, they had too many bits-and-pieces players, like Mark Ealham and the over-rated Adam Hollioake, and not enough match-winners, though Graeme Hick scored three centuries. Sri Lanka were rarely at their best with bat or ball. But Australia put on perhaps their best collective batting effort of the decade. Openers Mark Waugh and Adam Gilchrist both topped 500 runs, with Gilchrist breaking the record for Australia's highest individual score in a one-day international. Michael Bevan averaged 135.50, a landmark achievement for anyone else but no more than routine for this hard-to-dismiss hustler who has perfected the art of scoring quickly with minimal risk. Australia also had the two leading wicket-takers: Warne got 19, but even he was eclipsed by Glenn McGrath, whose 27 (at 15.62 each) represented a record for any one-day tournament.
Match reports for
2nd Final: Australia v England at Melbourne, Feb 12, 1999