Whenever India faces Australia in a world cup game, the first picture that comes is the ‘The Wanderer’s Cry’. The Onslaught did by Kangaroos in the 2003 world cup final is still a nightmare for every Indian fan.
March 23, 2003! There was a moment when the droplets of rain touched the grass of Johannesburg. Every Indian Fan prayed to the god at that time for the continuous showers. But sometimes cricket is very cruel. In the end, it was not the rain, but tears showered like rain. When we look back, we should be ready to accept the result. They were unbeatable in all sense. In fact, we can say that Storms over the night had blown away in front of their dominance. When the last wicket went high into the hands of Mcgrath, along with Sachin, the greatest player to player to play this game, the second largest population in the world felt as they lost world war.
In flat Wanderers pitch, what made Dada to Choose Bowl first? Even after 16 years, it’s still a mystery. Against any other opponents, he would surely have batted first. Yet it had been 71 matches and three years since Australia last failed to defend a total of 200 or more. Against such a batting lineup, every seamer would undergo pressure. The first over from in-form Zaheer Khan contained ten deliveries and 15 runs. No other World Cup Final had such a horrible start. There was no coming back for India. Gilchrist and Hayden dominated the opening overs, as they always do. After nine overs, Australia were 74 without loss. They were ‘Intent and intimidate’!
Adam Gilchrist had a dream start to his second Final in succession, 57 from 48 balls, adding 105 in just 14 overs with Matthew Hayden. By the time Ricky Ponting walked out to the middle, this was the situation. Australia had the perfect start. Skipper Ponting could afford to play himself in, along with Damien Martyn. Martyn was aggressive at the start. Initially, he set the tone for the partnership. With some gorgeous strokes through the covers, he completed his 50, from just 46 balls. Contrastingly, Ponting required 74 balls for his half-century. He had just one four along the way.
But by the time the innings ended he made sure that his 140 will be remembered forever. If not by all, the Indians will definitely remember. Indian bowlers, especially Javagal Srinath was the main victim of his massacre. Hitting was brutal and perfect. In his 121 balls, in his 138 minutes, he just middled everything he got. The gear-change occurred when Harbhajan returned in the 39th over. Ponting completed his fifty with a single – then hit him out of the attack with two successive sixes over mid-wicket. Harbhajan was replaced by Nehra. Ponting Welcomed him with a remarkable one-handed slog-sweep off a low full toss. It disappeared over midwicket. Off the penultimate ball of the innings, he drove Srinath for six over long-on. This time ball reached the second deck of the stand at the Golf Course End.
Australia’s acceleration had been breathtaking. 109 off the last ten overs. Above all, 64 off the last five. Srinath conceded 87 runs, the most in a world cup final (still not broken). Punter thumped eight sixes. All in the arc between long-on and square leg. Martyn too played a brilliant knock. His 84-ball 88 was made with a broken finger. Australia finished with a huge total of 359 for 2 in 50 overs!
In an era, where Teams found chasing 250+ like climbing an Everest, 360 was an impossible target. This Indian team had the experience, belief, and spirit, which they showed 6 months before while chasing 320+ to win the Natwest Final. This time it was not England, but Australia. The spirit & aggression India had was not enough to beat world’s best team.
When Sachin Tendulkar tried to pull McGrath’s fifth ball, the dreams started shattering. Sachin walking off after being caught by the bowler is still a difficult frame to digest. But Sehwag just made the match on by his some strokes. 81 ball 82 was a treat to watch. It didn’t last too long. Indian Hopes were over when Darren Lehman’s throw knocked out the bails at Sehwag’s running end. Runout literally completed a humiliation. Entire Dreams were shattered. No others could withstand Australian Dominance.
Then came the rain, but even Rain couldn’t make Sachin’s Dream true. India was all out for 234. Australia won by 125 Runs and World Cup- A Well Deserved Result! Even though India lost cheaply, Ganguly could be proud of the way his boys played. The Final between best Team in the World vs Best Batsman in the world came to an end!