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It never happened before in WCs

Australia were never seriously threatened which is an unprecedented achievement for a champion, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: May 01, 2007 12:53 IST
Atul Sondhi
Atul Sondhi

In 2007 World Cup, the lowest run-margin by which Australia won was 53 (in the rain-truncated final), and the victory with least number of wickets to spare came against England, Sri Lanka (Super Eight match) and South Africa. And they came with seven wickets still in hand.

It was an accomplishment Australia can justifiably be proud of as never before did a team dominate a World Cup the way Australia did it this time round.

1975: The West Indies were favourites to take the crown but Australia were an equally dominating team. In the final, the battle of titans was equal to the pre-tournament hype. But for five run-outs, something a far cry from the running between the wickets of the present Australian team, Australia could have well won the Cup. There was also a time in the title match when the West Indies, batting first, were precariously placed at 50 for three, before Lloyd’s tremendous century took them to a huge 291.

1979: One of the biggest scares the West Indies received in a World Cup till date came in the semifinal against Pakistan at Oval. Pakistan were at one stage on 176 for one, just 118 runs away from the eventual target of 294. It was only the brilliance of Collin Croft which save the West Indies as he snared three top wickets of Zaheer, Majid and Miandad for just 11 runs. It was as tough a semifinal as any. In fact, in 1975 edition too, the West Indies had won a group match against Pakistan just by one wicket.

1983: There were challenges all the way for India after West Indies’ humiliation in the first match-the twice champion’s first ever loss in a World Cup.

India later won against Zimbabwe but suffered two massive defeats against Australia and the West Indies. At 17/5 at Tunbridge Wells against Zimbabwe, their dream looked all but over before Kapil played that herculean knock.

In final too, India were on the receiving end most of the time but once Richard’s resistance was snapped, pendulum swung India’s way. It was a fairytale ride, but never a smooth one. India never looked like winning the Cup till they actually did it.

1987: Australia were described the dark horse and the dark horse eventually won. But even here, the journey was far from smooth. They won their first match by just one run against India, and lost the second. Even in the semifinal and final, it was touch and go for them.

While an umpiring decision, a run out of Dean Jones very early in his innings that was not given, helped them to a reasonable total of 267 in the semifinal at Lahore, getting's moment of madness reversed the tide in the final and swept the first ever Cup victory to the shores of Australia. While they won the semifinal by 18 runs, final was even more close with seven runs separating the winners from the losers.

1992: This World Cup, played as just one round robin group of nine teams, was probably the most competitive till date. New Zealand and England shot up in the lead from the word go while Australia, despite home advantage, were doomed to despair following two consecutive losses to New Zealand and South Africa, and thereafter to England and Pakistan.

Pakistan, after some early shocks which saw them winning just one match out of their first five, rattled three wins in a row which ended Australia’s and West Indies' chances. In Semis, they again looked like losing to co-host New Zealand before Inzamam’s 60 off just 37 balls helped them overhaul New Zealand’s score of 262.

Again in the final against England, they had lost their first two wickets with just 24 on board, but thanks to some composed batting from Imran and Javed, and some lusty blows in the end from Inzamam and Wasim, they reached a score of 249, which even a strong England side boasting of names like Gooch, Hick, Stewart, Lamb and Botham could not overhaul.

1996: It was Sri Lanka’s show all the way but they could well have lost the semifinal in the very first over of Srinath. At the end of that fateful over, they were two down for just one run and still managed to eke out a win. The match which looked sealed in very first over with Jayasuriya out, ultimately ended tragically for the hosts.

Again in the final, putting Australia into bat looked to have boomeranged and at halfway stage, the Aussie were 137 for one before some adventurous stroke making got them down to earth. Again, chasing 242, Sri Lanka lost their first two wickets very early, and looked in trouble before the collective genius of Gurusinha, Ranatunga and Arvinda de Silva took them through.

1999: The South Africans were the likely champions, and not the Australians. Certainly not after losing their first two matches against New Zealand and Pakistan. But Steve Waugh’s grit, so much evident in the final super-six encounter against South Africa, inspired everybody to glory. The semifinal against South Africa was a seesaw affair, with that memorable tie propelling Australia into the final against Pakistan. The final, however, turned out to be the most one-sided in the history of the Cup.

2003: It looked a very easy ride for Australia in the end. They went unbeaten in matching the West Indies feat of bagging two successive trophies. But in at least two matches they were severely tested.

In a group match at Port Elizabeth against England, chasing a modest score of 204 they were 48 for four at one stage before England succumbed to a pressure they were not accustomed to – the pressure of winning.

But the real problem for Australia came up in the semifinal against Sri Lanka. They were at one stage 51 for three before Symonds’ 91 got them to 212. However, the Australian bowling measured up to the huge challenge of containing Lanka.

2007: So it is the first time a team has won the World Cup virtually untroubled by any team. A feat as laudable as the hat-trick of titles.

ht epaper

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