Ponting made sensational debut as Cup skipper
Ricky Ponting's first day as a World Cup captain was one to remember. He made a crucial half-century, then watched with a smile as his personal choice Andrew Symonds hit a scintillating century and all this preceded his most difficult task --- marshalling his forces after receiving some depressing news about one of his star players.
Instead of being the blonde bamboozler Shane Warne turned into the blonde bombshell before a ball had even been bowled at the Wanderers. Having tested positive for a banned substance during an earlier random Australian Cricket Board drug test, Warne opted to return home to prove his innocence, stating; "I have never taken performance enhancing drugs."
Despite that deflating news and the loss of four early wickets, Symonds proceeded to play the innings of his life and resurrect Australia's fortunes. The ferocity of his counter-attack caught Waqar Younis by surprise and when his plan to bowl Australia out failed he had no fall back position. Symonds didn't club a six until the penultimate over, but he did clout fifteen fours in his hundred and therein lies the secret of this timely success.
On so many previous occasions Symonds failed because he tried to hit the ball in the air too often. But in passing fifty for only the third time in his international career, he suddenly unearthed the secret to batting at the highest level.
Not only did Symonds succeed in easing the pain of Warne's departure, he also managed to upset the normally placid Waqar. Having had one of his deliveries deposited over the rope, the Pakistan quick retaliated with his second head high delivery. This was a sure sign he'd lost the plot as a skipper and umpire David Shepherd removed him from the attack.
What had started out as a horror day for Australia and a glorious one for Pakistan had been totally turned on its head by Symonds' fearless stroke play.
Things only got worse for Pakistan. They were docked an over in the chase, then the top order batsmen struggled to cope with Glenn McGrath's accuracy, Jason Gillespie's movement and the fiery pace of Brett Lee. Warne may have been missing but there was no shortage of class with this trio bowling at their peak right from the start of the competition.
Even when the lesser bowlers were introduced the Pakistan batsmen couldn't grab the initiative. They were crease bound against the variety of Brad Hogg and miffed by Ian Harvey's many changes of pace.
Most players resorted to the risky sweep shot against Hogg and in trying to loft Harvey they offered the outfielders a regular supply of catches. They combined for seven wickets, and with Symonds crackling century it had certainly been a rewarding day for the lesser lights in the Australian team. Pakistan had everything in their favour from the moment Warne pulled out of the match and yet they still lost to the defending champions by 82 runs. Some of the Pakistan players had a lot to say before the game about Australia being right for the plucking. They have now discovered that talk is cheap and actions are the only things that count, a lesson firmly driven home by Symonds. (TCM)