The 2003 World Cup in South Africa
Australia’s dominance continued in the 21st century as Ricky Ponting and his boys picked the World Cup for the second consecutive year, their third in all.
With more teams than ever, 14 to be precise, participating this year, the World Cup saw more number of one-sided matches than expected. The ICC continued with the faulty Super Six concept as the South African monsoons washed out some crucial matches and political and social unrest resulted in the boycotting of many others. As a result, Pakistan and West Indies could not even reach the Super Sixes.
The ‘surprise’ performers this time were the Kenyans as they reached the semis with wins over Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Canada and Sri Lanka. Australia, meanwhile, were at their best of their forms as maintained an all clean record in the Super matches. Sri Lanka too registered convincing victories in all their Super matches to join Australia in the semis, while India defeated an already hopeless side to book the final berth.
The semis made Australia struggle a bit as they somehow managed to reach 212/7 in their stipulated 50 overs. Brett Lee later demolished the Sri Lankan top order before the rain halted the match, and Australia won the match by 48 runs through D/L method. India, meanwhile, claimed an easy victory over Kenya. Sourav Ganguly’s unbeaten 111 and Sachin Tendulkar’s solid 83 set a 270-run target, something which was too big to achieve for the Kenyans.
The final clash was an outright display of Australian domination. After Harbhajan Singh claimed a couple of wickets on form on Adam Gilchrist (57) and Matthew Hayden (37), there was nothing that the Indians could do as skipper Ricky Ponting (140 not out) and Damien Martyn (88) continued to abuse the Indian bowlers with the bat. Chasing a humungous total of 359 runs, the Indian batsmen fell like a pack of cards as Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds dismissed the Indian order with 10.4 overs to spare.
Australia’s reign, hence, continued!
India at 2003 World Cup
This was the World Cup where the Australians had a big challenge in the form of an Indian setup that was hailed by cricket pundits as the strongest Indian team since Kapil’s outfit in 83. Despite a string of losses to their name and a hiccup in the first match against Holland that they won after a spirited performance by the bowlers, India looked set for the ultimate target.
The next match was a dampener as Aussies humbled the Indians by nine wickets in just 22.2 overs. This was perhaps the reality check that the Indians needed desperately as from there on, they won every match they played and entered the final with a convincing win over Kenya in the semi-final. Sachin Tendulkar was on song and so was Sourav Ganguly. The two top scorers of the tournament had raised enough tremors in the Australian camp that had reached the final from the other end.
However, things took turn for the worse from there onwards as India choked at the time they were just a whisker away from the magical feat. The Australians levelled-up and scored a massive 359 in their stipulated overs and the Indians could not recover from the early loss of Tendulkar to chase the total. In the middle, rainy clouds did spark hopes in the Indian fans of the match being washed out and being played on the next day but it was not meant to be. The clouds cleared and so did the Australian plans to raise the coveted trophy for the third time.
-India were all out for just 234 runs in the final while Australia romped back home with the trophy and a tournament figure of an unbeaten streak of eleven matches.