Inevitably, it's Australia
Inevitable. The word kept springing up the mind through Saturday night when I was tracking the ICC World Cup 2007 final between Australia and Sri Lanka. It was one of those nights when I could never really stop a word from playing on my mind all the time. Come to think of it, it was one of those frequent days when Australia did what it pleased.
Australia had lost five games on the trot in the run up to the World Cup and everyone – I don’t think I am an exception – said that it would be the most competitive tournament in the history of the World Cup. In the end, the stiffest challenge before Ricky Ponting’s team came from itself – it had to keep raising the bar for itself.
Yet, as ironies go, this one takes the cake. We had a short game at the end of a long tournament. I know there are some who would have liked the game to use the reserve day so that a full match of 50 overs each could be played. But then to take the match into a second day would have diluted the very essence of one-day cricket.
I was quite comfortable with a truncated game and a 10-minute break between innings. In fact, I was getting ready for a 20-over-a-side slugfest – and I believe that would have given Sri Lanka a better tilt at the World Cup. The Australians are masters of the 50-over game and Sri Lanka could have fancied itself more with fewer overs.
In a typically Australian thing, the openers took Chaminda Vaas apart, striking him for five fours and a six. Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene did not seem to have another plan to stop Gilchrist and Hayden from running away with the match. He was forced to introduce Dilhara Fernando and Muttiah Muralitharan earlier than he would have liked
Indeed, there was an inevitability to the manner in which the man who won the final almost by himself. Adam Gilchrist played like other only dream of. But he had done it in 1999 and 2003, making half-centuries in both finals and, even if he was not among the runs like Matthew Hayden was, a big innings from him was on the cards.
There was also more than a hint of the expected when Glenn McGrath came onto bowl his final overs at the end of a distinguished career as Australian pace bowling spearhead. Expectedly, he was on the spot and even if he went for a few runs in one his seven overs, he can look back with pride over what he had achieved in the match, the tournament and in his career.
The end was quite farcical with much of the cricket being played in bad light. While I fought off sleep, I could not resist going back to 1991 when India lost a game to Pakistan in Sharjah in very poor light. The street lights were on then and the game forced ICC to take a hard look at drafting playing conditions that would be applicable to all games.
Did I hear you say that it was inevitable?