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The Zulu error

The first game in this 2003 World Cup was always going to be a very important game for the hosts South Africa. No host country has yet won the World Cup unless you refer to Sri Lanka winning the Asian World Cup as a host country doing the job.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2003 01:30 IST

The first game in this 2003 World Cup was always going to be a very important game for the hosts South Africa. No host country has yet won the World Cup unless you refer to Sri Lanka winning the Asian World Cup as a host country doing the job.

Most pundits had South Africa as big favourites against the West Indies and why not, the West Indies, although they beat India in India recently, haven't really been setting the world alight with their cricket away from the Caribbean.

The West Indies though, have grown in confidence over the last 18 months or so and were quietly confident of putting up a good show. It didn't look that way after the first 20 overs as they slipped to 49/2 with Lara at the crease and not looking like the Lara of old or a man in form. But Lara came alive and got a lot of help from some young contenders to the crown.

Two years ago, 49/2 would have meant less than 200 runs in the 50 overs for the Windies, this time it translated to 278, setting the South Africans 279 to win in just 49 overs. Their slow over rate cost them the penalty of one over, it was a very costly over.

As we all know, the 278 turned out to be enough but only just. The arguments will continue as to whether the West Indies need to play another specialist bowler and in the latter stages of the South African innings, the West Indies captain must have wished he had another specialist bowler up his sleeve.

It was always going to be a risk playing just the three and with Pedro Collins not having the best of days, the situation was even more difficult for the captain. Then he had to bring back Dillon a few overs earlier than ideal, as surely he would have loved to have him bowling at the end.

The important thing I suppose is the end result and it's one that the West Indies wanted and really deserved after showing the spirit and character to come back from adversity while batting. But they still have to look back on this game as far from a total success, there is work to be done.

There was some good cricket played during this first game but there was also some very poor cricket at times and from both teams. The most telling,and probably because it was the last major incident, was the poor judgement by Klusener on his dismissal to stand his ground and not cross to make sure Ntini was not the man going to be on strike for the next delivery. That aside though it was a fitting start to the tournament as a more exciting game with fluctuating fortunes could never have been had.

First Published: Feb 11, 2003 01:30 IST