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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Champions showed no chinks in World Cup

The Australians covered every front leaving no escape route for anybody, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2007 13:41 IST


After Chappell-Hadlee series, which Australia lost three-nil and Coach John Buchanan was roundly criticized for the listless show, he remained unfazed.

It is important to find out where there are some deficiencies, he said, adding, “I would rather find out now than some time (in a crunch situation) in the West Indies’’.

In the end it turned out that the Australians had covered all possible grounds after that mishap. So many things clicked simultaneously for them apart from their superb athleticism on the field, reflected so well in their fielding.

No holds barred attack

The Australians believe in attacking relentlessly. It starts with the opening pair and percolates down to the middle order. If twothree wickets in heap do arrest the momentum, then it is called a rare occurrence in the Australian cricket! Both their openers Gilchrist and Hayden had tournament strike-rates of above 100 at the end of their eleventh, and the most important match.

But only strike-rates cannot be enough. They also have to have big scores to back their resolve. All four top order players had 400 plus scores. Hayden, Ponting, Gilchrist and Clarke got to bat in 39 innings combined, were undefeated seven times, and averaged 65 per innings. It was tough to beat such team.

Exceptional Middle and Lower Order

Symonds, Hodge, and Watson did not get to bat too many overs in most matches, still they managed strike rates comparable, and at times better, than most frontline batsmen. While Symonds made his 189 at run-a-ball, Watson with his 145 at a strike-rate of 171 and Hodge with his 152 at a rate of 130 fully paid back the trust reposed in them.

Hussey was the only failure, but with such depth in batting, it did not really matter. That three of the bowlers, Tait, McGrath and Bracken, did not get to bat tells its own tale.

Fearsome foursome

Their attack was as much varied as Sri Lanka’s, including the part-time bowlers. How Clarke castled a Jayasuriya going strong was probably the title clinching moment for the Australians, with threat of rain looming large at every moment.

Accurate Glenn ‘’Pigeon’’ McGrath, the highest wicket-taker of the tournament at 26, never took a four-wicket haul but delivered consistently. He took a record five three wicket-hauls in a remarkable show of consistency.

Bracken’s left arm swinging deliveries played havoc with the opposition. His deadly accuracy rattled Smith’s stumps and the spirit of the South Africans in the semis. Tait’s speed and ability to take initial blows, never allowed the Australians to worry about Brett Lee.

And then there was the underrated Hogg, whose deception was decisive in testing times, fetching him 21 wickets. His economy at four was fantasfor a spinner bowling in the middle overs. Supposed to be a weak link turned out to be equally lethal!

It was the confidence in his bowlers’ ability which prompted Ponting to bat first against New Zealand despite having lost setting score last three times. The bowlers paid back by helping Australia whip the Kiwis by 215 runs.

These bowlers had also reduced their semifinal to a farce in first ten overs by taking five South African wickets for just 27 on board.

Belief in their strengths

Winning the toss and opting to bat in a final likely to marred by rain does need some resolve. Rain did not fall in the middle of the Australian innings, nor did it threaten to. But if it had with Lankans chasing say round 150 in 22-23 overs?

Ponting believes that his team can walk out of any situation, bruished but not beaten. At times it can be called overconfidence, but it serves his team more often than not.

Since the opposition too is made aware of their self-belief, it creates the kind of aura that is difficult to beat. Even an experienced campaigner like Vaas, himself a World Cup winner, starts bowling outside the leg stump!

Expect the unexpected

With Malinga and Vaas bowling the first few overs, everybody thought Malinga will be the target. It turned out to be Vaas! Probably that was something not many in the Lanka think-tank had anticipated.

Was not it surprising that accurate McGrath came as first change bowler, unlike in the semifinal against South Africa!

For big games, the Australian’s plan A includes some elements of Plan B too. That is the beauty of their approach to a game, where they have won virtually everything.

Luck with Weather and Injuries

To win such a big tournament, one needs a little bit of luck as well. Australian bowlers kept their fitness level till the very end. Symonds too got into the thick of things very soon and Hayden’s broken toe recovered too quickly for challengers’ discomfort.

Then in the final, when chasing a big total, cluttered mind is the last thing that one needs. But the mind of Jayasuriya and Jayawardene got cluttered with the thoughts of the intimidating weather. They were the key batsmen with Sri Lanka going strong at 145 for two. But their dismissals in space of 11 runs effectively ended the run chase.

Sri Lankans are no chokers. They did threaten briefly but Australia’s bad day never came in the tournament. Their Plan A always worked which made it next to impossible to beat them.

First Published: Apr 29, 2007 15:13 IST