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Roy revs up

How Andrew Symonds found his groove, after almost switching to rugby

Peter English
Peter English
Andrew Symonds confronts Waqar Younis after he bowled two beamers at him, Australia v Pakistan, 4th match, World Cup, Johannesburg, February 11, 2003

Waqar lost more than the verbal battle at the Wanderers  •  Getty Images

Andrew Symonds was fortunate to be walking out to bat in Johannesburg in Australia's opening game of the World Cup. He was picked for the squad on a captain's hunch after considering playing rugby league due to a lack of motivation. Australia, who were missing Shane Warne and Darren Lehmann to suspension and Michael Bevan to injury, were also struggling for enthusiasm at 86 for 4 when Symonds arrived with his head shaved of the dreadlocks he was about to grow.
His first ball was a bouncer from Waqar Younis and his start was far from smooth. However, Symonds, who almost played on when 23, was still not concerned when Shoaib Akhtar removed Ricky Ponting, and he set about producing the innings of his life.
He couldn't remember big parts of the display and had to watch it again on DVD when preparing the World Cup chapter for his autobiography. He saw himself cover-drive Waqar Younis to bring up 50, and his maiden ODI century came with a cut boundary off Shahid Afridi, who he'd earlier struck for four fours in an over.
Then the fireworks began, including a toe-to-toe argument with Waqar after Symonds avoided a beamer. Sixes down the ground off Wasim Akram and Waqar came as he clumped 49 from his final 36 deliveries, reaching an Australian World Cup record of 143 off 125 balls.
A spectacular catch in the outfield iced his day and the 82-run win. "We saw his talent and we've known it for a long time," Ponting said. "It was about time it started coming out." After the game, Symonds apologised for having disappointed people for so long.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo