There was no force that was going to stop the mighty Aussies from clinching a hat-trick of World Cup Titles. History was made at the Kensington Oval as Australia became the first side to win the World Cup three consecutive times. Previously West Indies had this opportunity in 1983 but Clive Lloyd’s men went down to the Underdogs India. In the 2007 World Cup, the Aussies were simply unchallenged. To their credit, the Sri Lankans tried their best but their opponents were simply at another level. The Sri Lankans ended as the proud runners up. In the nine editions so far, Australia have won four times!
The Toss and Line Ups…
To begin with it was a great atmosphere at the historical venue, for once the crowds came packing. But the weather gods unfortunately had other ideas. Black skies prevailed and a constant drizzle delayed the start of the match. There was time for a toss in between two rain spells which Ponting had won. His decision to bat first may not have been a straightforward one for the experts as the wicket was under covers for quite some time. The wicket otherwise was expected to be a flat one with even pace and bounce. Both teams kept faith in their Semi Final line ups. Immediately after the toss, the rain revisited the stadium and this time spent a long time, enough to send doubts that the Final might have to be postponed the next day. It stopped only after a couple of hours and play did get underway with 12 overs docked in each innings. There was no place for third powerplay. The crowd were relieved that the action did get started finally!
Superman takes the Game and the Cup away from SL
Some players reserve their best for the big occasion. And one player who did that was Adam Gilchrist. So far for Gilly, it has been a quiet tournament according to his standards, but today he was determined to get Australia off to a dream start. Now this was a hat-trick for Gilchrist with the Kangaroos getting a blistering start from him in the Finals of the 1999 World Cup and also the 2003 World Cup. For once, Matt Hayden, the top scorer of the tournament ended up as a mere spectator as Gilchrist launched into an assault on Vaas and other bowlers. Lasith Malinga was the only bowler who kept his own by bowling a superb first spell. Gilchrist got to his fifty not at a scorching pace, initially the start was more of a steady one, which according to the Australian standards is at six runs per over. A 50 from 43 balls was soon going to be 100 off 72 balls for the Superman – Adam Gilchrist! It was the fastest century of a World Cup final. Hayden meanwhile trying to stamp his authority failed to clear Mahela at covers to be the first wicket down for the day. Fittingly young Lasith Malinga got that wicket but then the Kangaroos had got 172 on the board with about 23 overs gone!
It was a perfect launching pad for a massive first innings total. Gilchrist didn’t stop with a hundred, he scored another 49 runs before he fell in the 31st over. He was done in by a slower one from Dilhara Fernando. Gilchrist’s damage was kept at 149 from 104 balls with 13 fours and as many as 8 sixes! Even Murali got the stick, although he was never given the shabby treatment by the batsmen. Ponting got to 37 from 42 with a four and a difficult six off Lasith Malinga straight down the ground. The Sri Lankans did well towards the latter part of the innings to restrict the Australians. Andrew Symonds for instance, played 21 balls, but could get only 23 runs with only a couple of boundaries. The death bowling was good but just enough to keep the Aussies down below 300. It was still a massacre with the scoreboard reading 281 for 4 in 38 overs! Dilhara Fernando was the worst bowler, going for 74 runs in his 8 overs while Chaminda Vaas was attacked in his first spell, he finished with 54 in 8. Murali had none for 44 in 7 while Malinga was the stand out bowler with 2 for 49 in 8 which amazingly included a maiden over!
It’s too tough for the Lankans
There was no doubt that the Sri Lankans could have got to the 282 target with about 7.3 runs per each over to get. Their batsmen are all talented but there aren’t many power hitters compared to the Aussies in their line up with the exception of a Sanath Jayasuriya. Tharanga flayed his first ball and also the first ball of the innings for a boundary over point. But that was the only shot he would be remembering as he was induced in nicking a lovely delivery in the 3rd over from Nathan Bracken that had lot of life in it. One drop batsman Kumar Sangakkara got off to an extremely slow start which kept the pressure on himself and his partner Jayasuriya. Sri Lanka couldn’t afford to play too many dot balls and that got Sanath to break free, but in an unconvincing fashion. He did get boundaries rolling but surely each shot looked to be going into a fielder’s hands. Sangakkara meanwhile took the onus on himself and he gave the charge to Glenn McGrath to dispatch him over mid wicket for a six. That got Sangakkara going and with support from Sanath, Sri Lanka looked to be getting on a competitive edge. At this time, it started to look very cloudy and looked mostly to rain yet again. The breakthrough for the Champs was brought by Brad Hogg, getting Sangakkara foxed in playing a pull shot to a quicker one to be caught at short mid wicket.
It wasn’t a bad effort from Sangakkara as he got 54 from 52 with 6 fours and a six. He put on 116 for the second wicket with Jayasuriya, who was the next to be dismissed, three overs later. The wicket came at the wrong time, as with the fall of each wicket, the Duckworth Lewis Target gets much tougher for the chasing team. Jayasuriya’s wicket was taken by a clever Michael Clarke with a nothing delivery. The left hander took the chance, came down the track much before the ball was delivered. Clarke seeing that pushed it with his arms with no spin and outside the reach of Jayasuriya to bowl him, the ball also kept quite low. Jayasuriya got only his 4th fifty against Australia, for years together he hasn’t performed well against them. Today he got 63 from 67 with 9 fours which was no way a match winning effort. The rest of the batsmen didn’t have any chance to make a fight with the match already gone out of their favour. The Sri Lankan Skipper, who had got a century in the Semis made 19 before he was wrongly given lbw by Bucknor off Watson.
Total Confusion, nobody knew what was happening…
After 33 overs were bowled, as usual the Television Channel showed ads for a long time and once they came back live, on the screen, the caption was “Australia ICC World Cup 2007 Champions”. The only guess was that the light was offered for the Sri Lankan tail enders and they had accepted it and that was it. It was sensible enough with 63 to get from 18 with just two wickets in hand, it was only a formality. The Australians were in a huddle celebrating victory and then came out Aleem Dar all of a sudden asking Ricky Ponting to hand him over the ball and there were lot of talking going on. After few minutes, the batsmen came back and it probably appeared that Ponting mutually agreed with his counterpart in using only slow bowlers to operate for the remaining three overs. The ridiculous three overs were done and this time there was no stopping for a huge celebration. Sri Lanka came second having got only 215 for 8 in 36 overs.
The Man of the Match obviously went to Gilchrist while the big individual award that of the ‘Player of the Tournament’ was awarded by Sir Garifield Sobers to Glenn McGrath for taking 26 wickets, the highest that anyone could take. It wasn’t only the end of a 51-match long World Cup but was also the end of Glenn McGrath’s international career which ended in great style. Russel Arnold of Sri Lanka was also playing his last international match and there could be a couple of more players who might say that its time to hang the boots.