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     Volume 6 Issue 17 | May 4, 2007 |

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The Final and the Farce

Nader Rahman

Australian cricketers celebrate after beating Sri Lanka in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, at the Kensington Oval stadium in Bridgetown, Barbados, 28 April 2007.

The World Cup final mirrored the farce….sorry, the tournament that preceded it. In a tournament where the weather gods happily stayed away, even they seemed to get in on the act as rain ruined…sorry, ruled the day.

All groans aside, the final was yet another lesson in Australian supremacy, as they deservedly won the tournament for an unprecedented third time in a row. One could argue Sri Lanka deserved to win the World Cup, but then again deserving and actually winning are two completely different things. The match was built up as part-two to the '96 final, but while that match remained competitive almost the entire way though, this match was won well and truly before the first 38 overs were up.

Things looked ominous from the beginning of the day, as rain clouds were never far from reach. But the weather was to play a cat and mouse game all day, a game that would eventually affect the result of the championship bout. It stayed away long enough for Australia to win the toss and unsurprisingly they elected to bat first. Australia like to impose themselves early on their opponents, and with Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist opening no wonder they chose to bat first. Almost as soon as the coin stopped spinning, the rain came down. It was a mixture of incessant drizzle with strong bursts of showers. The tournament had gone almost 7 weeks without much rain, and now for the grand final Mother Nature showed the world how fickle a spots fan she was.

The start was delayed by almost three hours, and that meant the overs were to be deducted, this would be the first rain--affected World Cup final. With the ground staff working overtime, the field was ready in fantastic time, but it was to be for a 38 over-a-side game. With the moisture around and the overcast conditions, Australia must have been ruing their decision to bat first. They would now have to face the incomparable Chaminda Vaas and the erratic Lasith malinga in what seemed to be swinging conditions.

Gilchrist and Hayden got off to a reasonably sedate start, scoring at about four and half runs an over and then the innings exploded. Gilchrist went ballistic as the next nine overs, that too without fielding restrictions went for over 80 runs. It rained boundaries as Gilchrist took apart everything in sight, Murali, Dilshan, and he was especially severe on Fernando. In his five--over spell with the field spread out Gilchrist did his best to miss the fielders by merely hitting anything he faced over their heads. To say it was batting of the highest quality would be doing him a great disservice, his normal brute strength gave way to immaculate timing. He stroked the ball rather than bludgeoning it. His strike rate spoke of power but it left out the craftsmanship of his innings. He took 43 balls for his first fifty and off the next 61 balls he scored a further hundred.

Australia cricket captain Ricky Ponting (L) and Man of the Match Adam Gilchrist (R) hold up the trophy as they celebrate their victory.

The innings were built around Gilchrist but in the opening partnership of 172 Hayden played a sedate but important role. He struggled a bit but eventually found his feet as he scored 38 peaceful runs while at the other end the rampage continued. With a quick-fire 30 and 20 odd from Ponting and Symonds the innings finished at 281 in 38 overs. The Sri Lankan bowling figures were testament to the hammering they were put through, with the lowest economy rate being 6.12 by the bleach blond eyebrow-pierced Malinga.

For Sri Lanka to chase down the score, they would have to play out of their skins and a chase of those epic proportions would really be fitting of world champions. The weather ran hot and cold again as the chase was bound to be interrupted by rain. Sri Lanka got of to an inauspicious start as Tharanga fell early. In walked Sangakkara, with a poor World Cup behind him, this was really the time to perform. Cautiously Jayasuriya and Sangakkra put together a few runs as the required run rate climbed. The tension built up as the clouds made their comeback. In the fading light Sri Lanka launched what was to be their final assault on the title. The two left handers took the game to Australia in the final power play as the innings gained momentum. For a period of time it looked like Australia really would be challenged, things looked good as the clouds drew closer. With Duckworh-Lewis in mind, Sangakkara first fell and soon after was followed by Jayasuriya. The game was still just within reach as the heavens opened. The innings was halted by the rain, and with the rain the Sri Lankan momentum left.

After a short break the innings resumed, but with two overs knocked off and a revised total. It was Complete confusion as Sri Lanka re-started their innings not knowing exactly what score they needed to win! In the confusion wickets fell like nine pins as Australia took control of the game. It got substantially darker as the batsmen threw caution to the wind. Every wicket took Australia closer to title while darkness descended. At the end of the 33rd over with 3 overs left Sri Lanka were offered the light, and they took it, thus essentially handing the game and the cup to Australia.

The Aussies started their celebrations as the Sri Lankan batsmen walked off the field, and that was just the beginning of the joke as the umpires claimed if the game could not be finished today, the last three overs would be played out tomorrow. The joke continued as the Sri Lankan batsmen came out in what could only be called pitch darkness and played out three comical overs. And then Australia celebrated for the second time in 15 minutes in pitch darkness!

The tournament ended amid farcical scenes, and in the process Australia won. It was anything but an uneventful Final and was a fitting end to the World Cup, of disappointments, jokes and utter mismanagement. With that ended this years World Crap….sorry, Cup.



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