1999 Cricket World Cup – A stranger in its own home
The platform was set to arise again after 16 years, as the extravaganza of the World Cup returned to England amidst cricket being in a transition phase. The cold atmosphere, green pitches and medium pacers swinging & seaming the ball, batters with strike rate of 100 being considered respectable were few of the statistical changes in the last edition of the World Cup from the 20th century. It was probably the last chapter to be added in the Phase 1 of history of the prestigious tournament & perhaps the most discussed one too.
The hosts- England failed to advance through the Super Six stages despite a thunderous win over the defending champions- Sri Lanka at the iconic stadium of Lords by a margin of 8 wickets followed by a dominating victory against Kenya in the very next match by 9 wickets. Despite these victories, loss against South Africa & India by 122 runs and 63 runs, wherein the English batsmen fell prey to Allan Donald of SA & Sourav Ganguly of India, as the middle order and lower order failed to live up to the expectations of the home crowd. A lower NRR after the Group stages meant the hosts had to make way for Zimbabwe in the Super Six stage of the tournament as they made a dreadful exit from the competition.
This was the first time ever in 6 editions of the tournament, where England failed to make an entry into the knock-out stages. (1975, 1983- semifinalists), (1979, 1987, 1992- runners up) & (1996- Quarter final). In the Super Six stages, a dominance of the Group B teams (Pakistan, Australia & Newzealand) was clearly reflected as the three of the SF spots being grabbed by these 3 countries. South Africa extended their dream run further into the knock-out stages & made their presence felt in the SF of the competition despite losing their last “Super Six” encounter against Australia. The 1999 World Cup was the first instance in 7 tournaments, when the host nation had failed to enter the SF of the competition.
A contrasting outing in each of the semi-finals is what made the 1999 edition a memorable one. While one outing could be tagged as the “pre-cursor” to the finals, other SF lived up to the billing of the mega event. The mercurial Pakistan crushed the Kiwis at the Old Trafford displaying a good show with the bat & ball. A combination among the pace trio of Wasim Akram- Shoaib Akhtar-Abdul Razzaq & spin combo of Saqlain Mushtaq- Shahid Afridi made sure that wickets kept falling at regular intervals & also the target was below 250. The opening batting pair of Saeed Anwar- Wajahatullah Wasti (partnership of 194) made look the tricky chase of 242 easy as Pakistan won the the match comfortably with 9 wickets in their hand.
The second SF between Australia and South Africa, played at Headingley is probably the most talked about knockout encounter even today in the history of the Cricket World Cup. Within a gap of 4 days- both teams (Australia & South Africa) faced each other again in the competition (after the Super Six encounter). In that match, the dropped catch by Gibbs off Steve Waugh & the latter reported to say the former- “You’ve just dropped the World Cup” formed some of the memories added on the pages of the memory associated with the tournament. On June 17, 1999- the SF between South Africa & Australia underwent at Edgbaston.
Having elected to field first in the seaming conditions- the Proteas bowling unit led by Shaun Pollock limited the Aussie side to 213 despite Michael Bevan & captain Steve Waugh scoring vital half-centuries. In the run-chase, Gary Kirsten & Gibbs added a decent 50 to the scorecard. With wickets falling consistently at regular intervals soon made the scorecard read 61/4. The vital partnership between Jonty Rhodes & Jacques Kallis added along with valuable runs from Pollock & Lance Klusener helped the South Africans to bet high on the hope of making it to their 1st finals. The latter had the confidence and the nation’s hope rested upon him who had an impressive outing with both bat and ball in the tournament so far.
The last over by Damien Fleming had 9 runs in frame with Klusener on strike & Allan Donald at the non-striker’s end; both players trying to finish the proceeding for their respective teams. With the help of two boundaries off the initial 2 deliveries of the over meant the scores were level & SA required just 1 run to reach the finals. Klusener awkwardly pushed the ball along the ground straight to Mark Waugh & set off for a risky single. Donald remained rooted in his crease as the ball raced towards Adam Gilchrist & in no time the stumps were being uprooted. Owing to a superior net run rate, Aussies cemented their berth in the finals against Pakistan.
The finals turned out to be a one-sided affair as the heroics with the ball from Shane Warne who grabbed 4 wickets for 33 runs crumbled the Pakistan side for a meager 132. The Shane magic which included 8 wickets combined in the Semi-Finals & Finals of his tally of 20 wickets in the tournament stood as the pillar behind Australia emerging as the World Champions of the 1999 edition. Gilchrist’s onslaught of 54 added along with sensible batting from Mark Waugh & Ricky Ponting won the 2nd Cup for Australia on June 20, 1999, & also start of the Australian legacy in the tournament which lasted till their defeat on March 19, 2011, against Pakistan in the 2011 edition. During the time-frame, Australia remained undefeated for their 34 WC matches & won the next 2 editions (2003 & 2007).
2003 Cricket World Cup- A peak of Australian dominance in World Cricket
Pic credits: #CricketAustralia
The 8th edition of the Cricket World Cup came into the limelight for multiple reasons; the first being played in the African continent and secondly, with 54 matches scheduled it was set to become the largest World Cup since its inception to be played among 14 countries (both a record in itself).
The excitement revolving around the 1st tournament of such kind to be played in the 21st century did not disappoint the cricketing fans across the globe as the tournament unfold. Among the 14 countries, while the top 10 spots gained automatic qualification as a result of their Test-playing status, the hosts Kenya qualified on the virtue of its recent ODI status. Other 3 teams being – Netherlands, Canada & Namibia who got their ticket following their performance in the ICC Trophy 2001 in Canada. With 14 nations in the fray for the title, they were classified into 2 groups of 7 in each group as the format from the previous (1999) edition being retained. With each country scheduled to play a total of 6 matches before advancing to the Super Six stages, it was a format where consistency was set to become an integral part.
Citing security fears, England and New Zealand refused to play their respective group matches against Zimbabwe and Kenya owing to security issues, owing to which the result was favoured for the hosts (Zimbabwe & Kenya being the co-host).
Group A comprising of the powerhouses – Australia, India, England & Pakistan; the host Zimbabwe too made their presence felt grabbing 14 points from their 6 matches. Though the refusal by England paved their entry with ease into the Super Six stages, Heath Streak’s side saw an opportunity to extend the known Golden era in Zimbabwe cricket (1997-2002) wherein they missed out a semi-final spot to NZ in 1999 edition having an inferior run-rate. Kenya, on the other end, justified their spot into the next round following victories against Canada, Srilanka & Bangladesh (walkover over NZ).
Australia was in their top-notch form as their deadly bowling squad brutally dismantled 57 wickets of their opposition in 6 matches. The only major challenge in the tournament for Ricky Ponting’s men was faced in their last Group encounter against their Ashes-rivals when the lower order of the Aussies was tested as they chased the target of 204 with 2 wickets & 2 deliveries to spare. India, on the other end who had a shaky start in the competition against Netherlands and Australia (the only 2 occasions when India lost all their wickets) displayed a dominant performance in all three departments for the rest of their matches. Post the defeat against eventual champions, Australia by a heavy margin of 9 wickets; India had an unbeaten run of 7 matches till the Finals.
The pace trio of Zaheer Khan- Ashish Nehra- Javagal Srinath proved to be a lethal bowling combination for the opposition and played a major role in the victories. They accounted for a total of 23 wickets in the competition. Kumble- Harbhajan duo on the other end turned out to be one of the finest economical wicket-taking pairs in the tournament. Indian batting played an equal & dominant role in their roadmap to the Finals of the ICC 2003 Cricket World Cup with the likes of experienced batting stalwarts in form of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly in the top order. Boasting off a strong middle-order trio combination of hard-hitting & rich experience of the game in form of Rahul Dravid- Yuvraj Singh-Mohammed Kaif, made sure not only to capitalize the start but also stood the ability to finish off the game at crunch situation. Whether setting up a target for the opposition or chasing above par targets, they stood upfront against the expectations & thus played a crucial role in making it to the 2nd Finals of the ICC event after 1983.
As per the expectations and being the only two consistent teams throughout the tournament, India and Australia faced off in Johannesburg for the final showdown. With a hope to take advantage of early dew, Sourav Ganguly elected to field first on the live pitch of the Wanderers stadium. A change of pace after the brutal 100 runs opening partnership by Adam Gilchrist- Mathew Hayden seemed to be the game-changer for the Blues as Harbhajan Singh picked both the batsmen in quick succession leaving Australia at 125/2 after 20 overs which was seeming to be a nightmare at 105/0 after 13 overs. However, the joyous atmosphere was short-lived for the Blues as Ricky Ponting & Damien Martyn added 234* runs in 30 overs (an Australian record for ODI cricket till then). The final total read as 359/2 at end of the innings.
India’s slightest hope for their 2nd WC triumph was dampened at regular unwanted breaks & fall of wickets. Early loss of the maestro- Sachin Tendulkar, interruption of rain in middle & finally the end of a crucial partnership of 88 runs between Sehwag & Rahul Dravid dashed the slightest hopes for the Indian team. Post that, it was a formality for the Aussies to finish off the proceedings. A record marginal victory of 125 runs in the Finals of the Cricket World Cup was a signal of the dominance of Australian cricket towards the end of 20th century & start of the 21st century as the record of two consecutive victories in the History of the ODI WC was repeated after the initial two editions (1975,1979- Westindies, 1999,2003- Australia).
2007 Cricket World Cup- An undefeated Aussie wave in the Caribbean
Pic credits: #Sportskeeda
Buzz revolving around the 8th edition of the biggest extravaganza of cricket turned into a new high following the rotational policy of ICC, as 8 venues across West Indies hosted a total of 51 matches. Despite being the joint-most successful nation in the history of the ODI Cricket World Cup, it was the first instance when the pioneers of the competition were playing host to 15 other nations.
Amidst the grand opening ceremony of the 2007 Cricket World Cup, the other eye-catching excitement was the division of the 16 participants in 4 groups (Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D). Though one could have had easily projected the progress of the countries into the next stage (Super 8), Group B was the hot topic of the discussion post the initial week since the tournament unfold. Asian sub-continental heavyweights- India, Srilanka & then-considered minnows Bangladesh found themselves together in Group B, as a result of which it featured the headlines of the majority of the sport-fanatics in their backyard. Backed by two convincing victories against the hosts, WI & Asian counterparts- SL, India was backed by the statistics in ODI (the rich & experienced trio of Sachin Tendulkar- Rahul Dravid- Sourav Ganguly) who had scored more than 10,000 runs in the format backed by a destructive batting squad of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa & Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The pace bowling squad comprising of Zaheer Khan- Irfan Pathan- Ajit Agarkar stood the ability to dismantle the strongest batting opposition on any given day.
The tournament unfolded on March 13 at the Sabina Park, where Brian Lara led WI faced Pakistan captained by Inzamam-ul-Haq. On one hand, the latter aimed to exploit the 3-1 series wins in the previous year to the best of their result, the hosts seemed to have bet on their strong all-round middle-order line-up comprising of Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith who stood the ability of equal destruction with both bat & ball. Defending a moderate target of 241 & dismantling the Pakistan squad for a meager 187 in the tournament opener, the hosts certainly had their odds high way ahead.
Pakistan, soon found themselves being caught in a series of mishappening events post their loss against hosts in the opener in form of second straight loss against minnows- Ireland & adding to their woes, their coach- Bob Woolmer was found unconscious & later declared dead resulting in huge chaos revolving around their early exit & the series of mishappenings in Pakistan. Despite a massive win against Zimbabwe in their last group encounter- their squad failed to make their presence felt in the “Super 8” stages of tournament & made a dreadful exit from the competition. Ireland progressed along with the hosts ahead. Group A comprising of Australia, South Africa, Netherlands & Scotland saw one-sided, dominating results as Ricky Ponting led Aussies scored 325+ scores in all of their 3 matches & grabbing 10 wickets against each of their opposition. A similar dominance by NZ & England in Group C saw both the nations marching ahead easily.
Group B saw a disastrous start to India’s World Cup campaign, as Rahul Dravid led side was exposed & exploited heavily against their Asian counterparts- Bangladesh in their tournament opener. Pace of Mashrafe Mortaza combined with the left-arm spin duo of Abdul Razzak & Mohammed Rafique. As a result, India was bowled for a mere 191 runs in the last over of their innings with Ganguly (66) & Yuvraj Singh (47), the lone pair to have made an impact in the batting line-up. The Indian bowling unit displayed a fighting performance despite a low target & managed to keep the contest alive until the 49th over, but calm composed knock of 56* by Bangladesh’s wicketkeeper-batsmen- Mushfiqur Rahim turned the result in favour of the latter.
Though the loss had a dreadful impact on the Indian cricket fans, the next outing against Bermuda raised a sudden positive hope of making it to the Super 8. Withholding a 200 run partnership knock between Ganguly- Sehwag, a 122- run stand for 5th wicket between Tendulkar-Yuvraj helped India register 413/5 (the highest registered ODI score in a World Cup match till date). Bermuda innings was dismantled at 156, thereby India managing a 257-run margin victory in a World Cup encounter.
With the slightest of hopes alive for marching ahead, India battled against SL in their last group stage match. Chasing a target of 255, India featured them in the tricky run-chase cum do-or-die encounter for the first time in the tournament. However barring the captain- Rahul Dravid (60 off 82 balls) and Sehwag (48 off 46 balls), no other batsmen was successful in making an impact on the game. As a result, India succumbed to defeat by a margin of 69 runs which meant India crashing out of the tournament in the first round for the first time since 1992.
Post the Group stages, the top two teams from each of the 4 groups advanced to the “Super 8”. Barring the other representative of the same group, each team battled it out in six more games. Australia extended their unbeaten run & dominance from the group stages as they qualified for the Semifinals without any major dent to their smooth sailing in the competition. SL, NZ & SA were among the others to grab the remaining three semifinal spots. Thereafter, in the knock-out stages; SL & AUS outplayed their opposition New Zealand & South Africa to progress through the Finals.
The Kensington Oval at Barbados was set to witness a repeat of the 1996 edition finals between Australia & SL (1st & only instance in CWC history). Captain Ricky Ponting elected to bat first as Australia featured in their 4TH consecutive finals. With help of incredible knock of 149 by Adam Gilchrist, which was the then highest score for any batsmen in a World Cup Final (surpassing Ricky Ponting’s 140* against India in 2003), Australia registered 281/4 at end of 38 overs after the match overs was being reduced post the start was delayed due to rain. The veteran pair of Sri Lanka – Kumar Sangakkara & Sanath Jayasuriya kept the competition alive by adding 116 runs for the 2nd wicket. However, further addition of rain-forced error cost the Lankans heavily as the D/L method awarded Australia a win & 2nd consecutive WC victory by a margin of 37 runs in the Finals. Glen McGrath was awarded the “Player of the Series” as the undefeated streak of 29 matches for Australia extended further for the time being till the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
It was truly the most dominant era for any cricketing nation in the history of the gentleman’s game and the Aussies were at the helm of it.