A flat pitch, extremely short boundaries, a quick outfield and two powerful batting line-ups - it was a potent mix at Basseterre, and the outcome, not surprisingly, was a match that yielded 671 runs in 98 overs. Australia have already been on the receiving end after posting huge totals, and through the first half of the run-chase they were in danger of adding another to the list, which would have meant the five highest chases would all have come against Australia. In the end they were saved the blushes by some superb bowling, but also by some inexplicable batting by Jacques Kallis.
Kallis came in with the score reading 160 after 21 - a run rate of 7.62 - and then managed just 48 off 63 balls over the next 22 overs, a period in which South Africa's scoring rate plummeted to 5.32. Of the 146 dot balls Australia bowled, 32 were to Kallis (22%), which increased the pressure on the other batsmen and ultimately resulted in a rash of wickets.
The Australian innings suffered from no such hiccups, though, with Matthew Hayden's 66-ball century - the fastest in World Cups, and also by an Australian in ODIs - being the stand-out knock. As with most Hayden innings, the highlight was his driving down the ground - 46 of his 101 runs came in the V between mid-off and mid-on. The opening partnership of 106 came in less than 15 overs, and what was particularly interesting was the manner in which Hayden and Adam Gilchrist took on the South African bowlers. Against Shaun Pollock, who pitches it up and is easier to drive down the ground, Hayden took charge, scoring at more than two runs per ball. He was more subdued against Makhaya Ntini's back-of-a-length attack, allowing Gilchrist to take over. The table below shows how the openers shared it around too - both faced exactly the same number of deliveries against each bowler.
The feature of the entire Australian innings was the manner in which they clobbered good-length bowling. The conditions lent themselves perfectly to the tactic of hitting through the line and over the top - the good-length balls went at more than seven per over, a tell-tale sign of just how dominant and confident the Australians were. South Africa, on the other hand, only scored at 5.37 runs off the good-length deliveries.
Pollock is the one bowler who can usually be relied upon to keep it tight, but on such a good pitch even he was utterly powerless, ending up with his most expensive ODI figures. In 277 one-day internationals, this was the first time he went at more than eight per over. In fact, Pollock has gone at more than seven an over only three times, and they've all been against Australia, which is the side against whom his career economy rate is the highest. (Click here for Pollock's ODI career summary with the ball.)
Other stat highlights
In the Australian innings, all seven batsmen who batted had a strike rate of at least 100. The only other time this has happened in an ODI in which at least seven players have batted was in the 2003 World Cup, when New Zealand's seven batsmen all scored at faster than a run a ball against Canada at Benoni.
Australia's 377 for 6 is their highest total in World Cups, and their 11th 300-plus score in all editions of the tournament. No other team has managed more than four such totals in World Cups.
Opposition captains would do well to think twice before putting Australia in to bat. In 18 World Cup games when this has been tried, it's worked only three times, and never on eight occasions since the 1996 final. (Their 1999 semi-final against South Africa ended in a tie, but it was as good as a victory for Australia.)
The match total of 671 is a record for a World Cup game, going past the earlier highest aggregate of 652 in the game between Sri Lanka and Kenya at Kandy in 1996.
It was a pretty good day at the office for Ricky Ponting. Though he missed his hundred by nine runs, he had enough reasons to celebrate. Starting the game just eight short of 10,000 ODI runs, Ponting became only the seventh batsman to join the club. The two sixes in the innings also took his sixes tally in World Cups to 27, which is a record and two clear of the second-placed Sourav Ganguly. And when Nathan Bracken took the last wicket, it marked the 108th victory under Ponting's leadership, which made him the most successful captain. Allan Border, the only other leader with a century of wins, had 107.
Pollock and Charl Langeveldt both went for more than 80, which is only the second instance of two bowlers conceding so many runs in World Cups. The only other occasion when this happened was at Taunton in 1999, when Chaminda Vaas - another metronome in the Pollock mould - had a rare off day as he and Eric Upashantha leaked more than 80 against India.
Australia's 377 for 6 in this game is the tenth instance of a 300-plus score in the tournament, which is a record for any World Cup. The 2003 edition had nine.
Australia have also become only the second team to score more than 300 in five consecutive ODI innings (they'd exceeded 300 in the last two games of the Chappell-Hadlee Series). The only other team to achieve this feat is Sri Lanka. Australia are also the only team to score more than 300 on four consecutive occasions in World Cups - they've done it three times here, to follow the 359 for 2 in the 2003 World Cup final.
Gilchrist and Hayden have also become the most successful opening pair in World Cups in terms of aggregate. They have put together 791 runs for the first wicket, which is 17 more than what Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs managed in 12 World Cups innings.
With inputs from Rajesh Kumar.