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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Australia crowned World Champions for the 3rd time

Australian cricketers celebrate their victory in the cricket World Cup against India at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, March 23, 2003
©Reuters
 

March 23, 2003 - Australia beat India all ends up in the 2003 ODI World Cup final to win their second successive World Cup, with skipper Ricky Ponting leading the charge with a stroke-filled unbeaten 140.

After the 2003 World Cup final between India and Australia concluded, the bottom line was: Australia 359 for 2 in 50 overs (Adam Gilchrist 57, Ricky Ponting 140*, Damien Martyn 88*) beat India 234 in 39.2 overs (Virender Sehwag 82, Rahul Dravid 47; Glenn McGrath 3 for 52) by 125 runs. While Sachin Tendulkar ended the tournament as the Man of the Series, Ricky Ponting's Man of the Match mattered much more.

 India and Australia had been the two most successful sides of the 2003 edition in the lead up to the final. India, who had been out of form before the tournament, turned it around, winning 9 out of 10 matches before the D-day. Unfortunately, for them, they came up against Australia who had been unbeaten. In fact, the Aussies were hardly given a run for their money except by England, and to some extent, by New Zealand.

Still, anything could have happened on the big day. But, from the time Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly put Australia in after winning the toss, perhaps because India had lost batting first in the league match, it was advantage Australia. To add to that, Zaheer Khan, who had formed an impressive pace trio with Javagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra, lost the plot in the first over itself. 

Zaheer began with a no-ball, bowled another no-ball, gave away five wides (one plus a boundary behind the keeper) and was hit for four, leaking 15. Javagal Srinath looked more composed at the other end, but that did not remain for long as Australia raced to 66 without loss after 8 overs with the opening pair of Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist running riot.

Harbhajan Singh gave India two breakthroughs by dismissing both Gilchrist and Hayden but that was all for the day for the Indian bowling. Skipper Ricky Ponting played the innings of his life (140*) along with Damien Martyn (88*) who overcame a broken finger as the two plundered runs at will to register a partnership of 234 in 30 overs. Australia posted a mammoth score of 359 for 2 in their allotted 50 overs, leaving a huge mountain to climb for the Indian batsmen.

 Whatever hope remained for India to stage a gutsy fightback evaporated quickly as their talisman Sachin Tendulkar gave a return catch to Glenn McGrath off a short-pitched delivery on the fifth ball of the innings. One wicket led to another as India could never set themselves for a late launch.

Virender Sehwag hit 82 off 81 balls to take the fight to the Australians but once a direct throw from Darren Lehmann caught him short of the crease at the non-striker’s end in the 24th over, even Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh could not have been expected to pull it back from there on. For Australia, McGrath, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds were the wreckers-in-chief and India were bowled out for 234 in the 40th over with its star-studded batting line-up surrendering arms.

Damien Martyn, who represented Australia in 67 Tests and 208 ODIs and was one of the crucial spokes in Australia's World Cup wheel, later said that the team "went into the 2003 World Cup with a mindset of winning every game." 

"We believed in ourselves that we could beat India and posting a huge first innings total was half the job done. Even in India's run-chase we never took it easy after Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. India had a lot of other good guys in the line-up apart from Tendulkar and we knew that with a good wicket and outfield on offer anybody could chase down a target on a given day. We just tried to keep doing what we had done through the whole World Cup and we did it in the Final," says the cricketer-turned-commentator. 

After West Indies, Australia became only the second team to win consecutive World Cup titles and went one better in 2007.

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