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Are 400 plus totals here to stay?

Witnessing the 'Smashing Sunday' match between South Africa and Australia was like watching cricket on steroids, writes Sunit Kaul.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 12:22 IST

The year is 1996. Bob Woolmer on the sidelines of a high-scoring match declares somewhat nonchalantly, "most of the matches in future will be 300 plus totals.'

Next day, his quote appears in all dailies and as expected he incurs the wrath of cricket pundits. People ridicule him for being weird and scoff at his bizarre statement.

"How can sides score 300 regularly… he's gone bonkers!" was one sharp snub from a respected former cricketer.

Yet after a plethora of ODIs that have been played since then, an astonishingly large number of 50-over match-ups had scores over 300. The same cricket pundits that minced no words while jeering Woolmer had to stuff cotton wool down their throats.

Bob must have been smug and even secretly sneered behind his critics for their lack of wisdom, but not even in his wildest imagination could he foretell what happened on 'Smashing Sunday'.

The year is 2006. Australia, in a yet another show of utter intimidation, clinically takes apart the hapless South African bowling. Jacques Kallis disappears for 70 runs in six overs and as the innings reaches its crescendo, a flustered Roger Telemachus concedes 19 runs from four consecutive no balls.

And for the first time in cricket history, a side posts a score of 434 runs, breaking all records.

South Africa, who play with permanently etched 'chokers' tag up their sleeves, was in the midst of defeat and not for the first time about to squander a winning position in the series.

Nobody fancied Proteas to even give a fight, let alone win the match. Aussie punters betted astronomical sums of money on their side romping home without a fluff.

Before Sunday, no side had scored more than 400 in an ODI in 40 years, how could it be done twice in a day?

Yet they did it!Gibbs' song of redemptionand some enterprising batting by the tail pulled off a pulsating victory in series finale, scoring 438 runs with one ball to spare.

People in the crowd wept, unable to believe they were there at the greatest one-day game ever and that their side had actually won.

With 872 runs hammered in 99.5 overs (like watching cricket on steroids!), it won't be too outlandish to suggest that run surges like these may occur often in the future.

Stats don't lie; the average total scored in an ODI from a side has creped up in the past 5 years. From just 227 runs in 1990's to 284 in 2000s, the leap screams for attention.

Going by the numbers, Sunday's record could well be history!

Come year 2009, Pakistan may set India 446 runs to chase and India riding on experienced Yuvraj and Sehwag could well hunt down the target with one over to spare.

For South Africans though, the game may have buried the corpses of that fateful 1999 World Cup semifinal, but more so it has shed the notion that they are nothing but a bunch of chokers.

The South African newspaper Johannesburg Star had a loud headline that summed it up to perfection, "438/9… Australia, choke on this!"

First Published: Mar 17, 2006 12:22 IST