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Australia won the World Cup for a record third consecutive time, beating Sri Lanka by 53 runs in a rain-shortened final that ended in a farce on Saturday.
Adam Gilchrist scored 149, the highest individual score in a World Cup final, as the defending champions, electing to bat, piled 281-4 from their allotted 38 overs.
In reply, Sri Lanka could only muster 215 for 8 in fading light, after being set a revised target of 269 in 36 overs under the Duckworth-Lewis system, as rain, which forced a delayed start, halted play for 12 minutes during their run chase.
Mathew Hayden - whose brutal assaults have powered Australia right through this tournament - had made 38 scratchy, unimpressive runs off 52 deliveries in the 21st over.
This, in a match reduced to 38 overs by pre-game rain, with Australia opting to bat first and needing, on a flat batting track devoid of swing and seam, to get away to a great start.
Typically for this Australian side, if one player is not quite at his best, another will come along to take up the slack - and on the day, it was Adam Gilchrist who stamped his authority on the game with an innings of rare beauty.
Where Hayden presses forward irrespective of what the bowler is up to, Gilchrist uses the depth of the crease and is equally facile hitting off either foot - a quality that helped him launch an incredible assault that had the Lankan bowlers and fielders wilting, and Mahela Jayawardene at his wit's end.
Lasith Malinga had threatened to steal the show with a display of immaculate control at high speed. If the test for a bowler is to be able to bowl to the Australian opening pair with the field up, then Malinga aced it - his first four-over spell read 4-1-6-0.
It was Hayden who found the quick bowler hardest to handle - repeatedly, he found himself on the front foot, too close to the ball to be able to get a full swing in; the excess pace also meant the ball came on to him too quick to handle. Hayden managed 1 run from 15 Malinga deliveries faced - a tribute to a brilliant opening spell.
Malinga's efforts, though, were negated by the inability of his opening partners to manage anything remotely similar. With the pitch devoid of any assistance for swing and seam, Vaas came across as a medium pacer bowling straight - easy meat on a true pitch, and Gilchrist in particular gorged.
The fun began in the third over, when Gilchrist with a controlled flick got the first four of the innings, through square leg; the next ball was met with the identical shot, only hit even better to power the ball several rows back into the stands wide of long on.
That pretty much set the pattern - Malinga would bowl a tight over; at the other end, Vaas would disappear (3-0-24-0). Dilhara Fernando came on; Vaas came back from the other end once Malinga had completed his first spell, and mostly by dint of brilliant fielding, Sri Lanka managed to keep Australia to 46/0 at the end of ten overs - the slowest start the team has had in the competition.
The 11th over was to prove a turning point of sorts. Fernando bowled a slower ball, Gilchrist launched into a drive and hit it too early. The ball rocketed back down the track, at ankle height; the tall bowler did his best to get down low, and to his right, but couldn't hang on to the return catch.
That let off seemed to free Gilchrist up - the next ball was swung over midwicket for four; the ball after that nearly took Hayden's legs out from under him as it rocketed to the fence; the ball after that went several rows back over the long on boundary for a towering six (Fernando 3-0-29-0).
From that point on, Gilchrist got into a zone that brooked no stopping. Jayawardene rotated his bowlers as rapidly as possible, constantly alternating pace and spin, switching ends, shuffling his fielders around, all in an effort to unsettle the batsmen. Nothing worked: Dilshan attempted his restrictive style of off spin; two overs went for 23.
Muthaiah Muralitharan was the last throw of the dice, but the Aussies took to him, ticking him off for singles and twos and not letting him settle; in his fourth over, Gilchrist went on one knee for a ferocious swing that deposited the ball well beyond the midwicket boundary.
The game was pretty much reduced to a Gilchrist versus Sri Lanka contest, with Hayden's role reduced to applauding the blizzard of shots and now and again strolling down the pitch to hug his partner for one achievement or the other: 50 runs off 43 balls; 100 off 72 balls.
If `fortune favors the brave' is a clich�, then it is innings like this that give it longevity. Gilchrist was hitting at pretty much everything and even in Superman mode, he did make the odd error - but the mishits went wide of the fielders or landed between them; on one occasion Sangakkara nearly pulled off a miraculous take off a thick outer edge, but the ball wouldn't stay in his grasp. and Gilchrist just shrugged, and kept hitting.
An attempt by Hayden to club Malinga over cover, in the 23rd over, saw Jayawardene time his jump to a nicety at the short position, and pull off a superb catch (38/55; 172/1), but the blip hardly registered as Gilchrist - with Ponting as the enabler, taking singles and heading off to the other end to watch the fun from the best seat in the house -- went totally ballistic.
It increasingly seemed as if Gilchrist, inebriated by adrenalin and the sheer exuberance of his own batting, would single-handedly power Australia to a 300-plus score even in the rain-reduced game.
An innings that takes pride of place in the World Cup hall of fame finally ended in the 31st over, when Gilchrist attempted to pull a short one, and got a tired top edge to Chamara Silva at midwicket (149/104 balls; 224/2).
As defining knocks go, this one - which saw Gilchrist score well over half the total number of runs on the board during his tenure - rivals the Ricky Ponting effort against India in the 2003 Cup final. The 13 fours and 8 sixes (coincidentally, that number ties with Ponting's 8 sixes against India in 2003) were part bludgeon, part skill, and wholly electric.
With their main - in fact, only - tormentor gone, the beleaguered Lankans finally got some breathing space. It was too late to pull it back entirely, but they did manage to tighten things - at least in comparison to what had gone before. A direct hit by Jayawardene in the 36th over caught Ricky Ponting out of his ground (37/42; 261/3) just when the Australian captain, who in the previous over had effortlessly hoisted Malinga over the midwicket boundary, seemed ready to step up the gears.
Shane Watson was sent out to try and blast a few, but an attempt to go across his stumps and paddle to fine leg failed, with Malinga bowling the late reversing yorker bang onto the base of middle stump (1/2; 264/4).
Symonds and Clarke took Australia to an imposing 281/4 - a score that the Aussies, even on this batting beauty, should be able to defend.
Australia's innings was powered by just the one man; the damage he did can be gauged best from the Lankan bowling card, in which not a single bowler managed to have an economy rate of under six. Under that once in a lifetime assault, even the Lankan fielding, normally so incisive, succumbed.
For Lanka, it is a hard ask, to go at 7.5 or more through the entire 38 overs; the one thing they have going for them is that the wicket holds no terrors, and they have nothing to lose and thus can play with rare freedom.
Australia progression: 1-38 overs
5 overs: 26/0 @ 5.20 (Hayden 6/17; Gilchrist 19/14)
10 overs: 46/0 @ 4.60 (Hayden 14/31; Gilchrist 31/30)
15 overs: 95/0 @ 6.33 (Hayden 21/40; Gilchrist 67/51)
20 overs: 137/0 @ 6.85 (Hayden 31/50; Gilchrist 96/71)
25 overs: 180/2 @ 7.20 (Gilchrist 123/90; Ponting 3/7)
30 overs: 222/1 @ 7.40 (Gilchrist 148/102; Ponting 19/25)
35 overs: 257/2 @ 7.34 (Symonds 15/13; Ponting 34/40)
38 overs: 281/4 @ 7.39 (Symonds 23/21; Clarke 8/6)
Sri Lanka innings
Official incompetence contrasted with Australian competence as the final moments of the World Cup were reduced to total farce.
The question really begs asking: Are Aleem Dar and Steve Bucknor the best officials to stand in the Cup final?
More on that later.
Sometimes, a shrewd captain can break open a game with a little move that looks innocuous on the face of it, but can have lethal consequences.
Ricky Ponting has gone 28 games before this one without facing defeat at the World Cup stage - to suggest he is shrewd understates the case.
He made the move in the 23rd over, when with Sri Lanka seemingly in touch with the ask, he brought on Michael Clarke's non-threatening slow left arm.
What prompted the move, in all likelihood, was the gathering clouds, and the rain that rushed towards the ground from the horizon. Sanath Jayasuriya came dancing down the track, looking to smear Clarke somewhere into the clouds over midwicket; the ball stayed low and turned just enough to beat the flailing bat and hit the stumps (63/67; 145/3).
That wicket added another layer of pressure to the burden the chasing team was laboring under: with the fall of a third wicket, Duckworth Lewis tables suggested that Lanka needed to be 169 - a good 17 runs more than Lanka had managed at that point. And as Jayasuriya walked off, it began to rain, with rapidly increasing velocity; the light too faded almost by the minute.
The Lankan chase was the antithesis to the Australian innings - where it was all flash-bang-crackle when Adam Gilchrist was powering his team to a mammoth score, it was all calm control and an absence of panic during the Lankan response, despite the early loss of Upul Tharanga
Nathan Bracken got the breakthrough in the third over, when he produced a short of length delivery that seamed away at some pace; Tharanga could do no more than hang his bat out, for the outer edge to give Adam Gilchrist his 50th victim of this World Cup (6/8; 7/1).
Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara looked to settle in, against some quality swing, seam and pace from Tait, Bracken and McGrath; the three bowlers were aided by a steady breeze blowing across the ground.
Australia missed an opportunity to ram home the advantage in the 6th over, when Sangakkara tried to upper cut Tait over the slip cordon. Shane Watson, on the line at deep third man, was a touch slow in coming forward; his lunge just failed to grasp the ball as it landed on the turf.
The Lankans made 42/1 in the first 10 overs (Australia 46/0); the 50 of the second wicket partnership came off a slow 61 deliveries.
And then the two batsmen combined to break the game open. In the 13th over, Jayasuriya took to Watson, first carving him over mid on, then twice in succession playing two shots that, on a tennis court, would have been forehand drives down the line.
At the other end, Sangakkara jumped on McGrath, first hoisting him over the long on boundary and into the middle of a bunch of Sri Lankan spectators, then playing a classical extra cover drive, and finished off with a fierce pull. Watson was taken off, Tait was brought back on, and Sangakkara greeted him with a whiplash square drive for four.
The acceleration, which saw Jayasuriya (51/51) and Sangakkara (50/50) get to their respective half centuries while bringing up the 100 of the partnership off 90 balls, was sudden, unexpected, and effective - the second 50 of the partnership came off a mere 29 balls, with a minimum of fuss.
It seemed a touch risky for Ponting to bring on his main left arm spinner at this point - but Brad Hogg used all the toys in his box in an impressive display of slow left arm bowling that had even the ebullient Jayasuriya tied up.
Sangakkara tried to remedy the situation; in the 20th over, he danced down to drill a drive that went through Symonds at cover. He then stayed back to the next ball, anticipating that it would he short - it wasn't, and his attempted pull misfired, finding Ponting at midwicket (54/52; 123/2).
At the end of the 20th over, it was a game waiting for to be claimed: Sri Lanka was 124/2, where Australia at that stage, in the midst of Gilchrist's withering assault, was 137/0. Just 13 runs and the two wickets separated the two teams - until Ponting, looking over his shoulder at the approaching rains, pulled Clarke out of his box, got rid of Jayasuriya, and seized the initiative.
The rains came down, the umpires dithered through it, holding little conferences while both sides seemed keen to get on with it; they finally whistled the players off just when the rain was stopping, had another conference, brought the players back on. it was all a bit of a mess. And it got worse when Jayawardene pointed out to the umpires that no one had told them what the revised target was.
It turned out that two overs had been lopped off the allocation; the target was revised to 269. More prosaically, Sri Lanka needed 113 runs in 62 deliveries - and it was getting murkier. In an attempt to do something about it, Jayawardene walked across his stumps, aiming for the unprotected fine leg; Watson's fullish length delivery did just enough off the seam to beat the flick and crash into the pad, nailing the Lankan captain in front (19/19; 156/4).
Dilshan and Chamara Silva fought on, hitting some crisp shots, and running for pretty much everything. One short single too many, though, did for Dilshan - attempting to work a ball onto the off side, he got the ball off the edge towards third man instead. Clarke was lightning quick, running across to field; Dilshan, just as slow, getting into the run after being tangled up on the back foot on that shot. The throw found McGrath perfectly positioned to take the bails off (14/13; 188/5).
The asking rate by then had ballooned to 13.5; the light had faded to near-zero visibility (the light was actually offered to the batsmen, who refused); there was nothing left but to slog. Silva tried, coming down the track to give Clarke the heave-ho; like Jayasuriya, he missed with the flail, playing all over a ball that kept on the low side (21/22; 190/6).
McGrath - bowling the last few deliveries of a brilliant career -- then produced a waist high full toss that Russel Arnold, who has announced his retirement after this game, didn't even see; his blind wave caught a portion of the bat and ballooned up; Gilchrist came racing up, then dived headlong to seal his day with a great catch (1/2; 194/7).
Insanity then got compounded - while the local broadcasters were busy showing ads, the umpires offered light to the batsmen; they took it, despite Malinga, just a couple of balls earlier, having whacked a six high over long on. The Australians began celebrating; the umpires reminded them that the game is not officially over yet. Meanwhile, the ICC officials began bringing out the podium, for the presentation, and the umpires furiously waved them away.
"Congrats Australia", said the scoreboard; Ponting pointed at it and Aleem Dar and Steve Bucknor shook heads, shrugged shoulders, pointed to watches. it was all bizarre, and a very sad way for a world-level tournament to be run.
Incredibly, Aleem Dar then suggested that the two teams had to continue the game tomorrow - with just three overs left! Jayawardene had to come out, chat with Ponting and then the two captains went up to the umpires to, seemingly, politely suggest that they were batty.
The umpires abruptly decided to call the players back on and let the game continue - only to discover that some officious chappie had meanwhile removed the discs marking the 30-yard circle; so there was a further wait while that had to be attended to.
If the ICC had gone out of its way to prove that its arrogance is only matched by its incompetence, they accomplished that feat very nicely. And to rub it all in, play resumed in near total darkness. Malinga ran out at Symonds and had a swing, missed, and was stumped (10/5; 211/8).
We were then treated to cricket as comic movie: you know the ones where they speed up the action? Like that: everyone ran about like crazy trying to finish off the game, for fear that Dar would ask them to come back out tomorrow.
The Sri Lankans cooperated, patting the ball back to the bowler so no one would have to go running around to fetch it. And when the farce finally ended, Australia had sealed the win - it's 29th straight win at this level -- and an unprecedented a third successive World Cup, by the comfortable margin of 53 runs, per Duckworth Lewis.
In the dark of the night, the crowds strained for one last glimpse of Glenn McGrath - the champion who has been with this team through four successive campaigns, three of them successful, as he finally walked off a cricket field for the last time.
Somehow, on such a momentous day, you expected trumpets, heralds, guards of honor - not the unbelievable farce the ICC officials, on and off the field, turned it into.
Sri Lanka progression:
5 overs: 18/1 @ 3.60 (Jayasuriya 4/10; Sangakkara 6/12); required rate 8.03
10 overs: 42/1 @ 4.20 (Jayasuriya 21/26; Sangakkara 12/26); required rate 8.60
15 overs: 93/1 @ 6.20 (Jayasuriya 43/43; Sangakkara 36/39); required rate 8.26
20 overs: 124/2 @ 6.20 (Jayasuriya 55/59; Jayawardene 1/1); required rate 8.94
25 overs: 150/3 @ 6.00 (Jayawardene 17/16; Silva 2/7); required rate 10.15
30 overs: 188/5 @ 6.26 (Silva 21/21; Arnold 0/0); required rate 13.50)The Cup: Complete Coverage
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