Most great teams have brilliant opening pairs. If England had Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe in the 1920s, the West Indies had Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes in the 1980s. In One-day Internationals, Sachin Tendulkar formed super duets with Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag.
For the Australians, Matthew Hayden combined in famous left-handed opening partnerships with Justin Langer in Tests and Adam Gilchrist in One-dayers. Hayden hit big time only when he was nearly thirty years of age, pulverizing bowlers around the world. The success of Australian teams for the best part of a decade was in no small measure due to these brilliant opening pairs.
A big man and a big-hitter, Hayden briefly took away the record for the highest score in Test cricket from Brian Lara. His big moments in the World Cup came in 2007 when he scored the fastest hundred, hit Australia’s top-score and logged up the highest aggregate at a strike-rate of more than a hundred.
Hayden began his World Cup stint in 2003. As Australia continued their unparalleled winning streak, he made a quiet start against Pakistan. A devastating Wasim Akram dismissed him as well as Gilchrist before they could make any impression. It was left to Andrew Symonds to play a career-launching knock.
Another sub-continental team, India, presented a small target. Hayden and Gilchrist raised 100 in 17.3 overs. While Gilchrist fell for 48, Hayden remained unbeaten with 45 off 49 balls with a four and sixes off Javagal Srinath and Harbhajan Singh. He brought up victory in the company of skipper Ricky Ponting.
In a truncated, rain-interrupted game against the Netherlands, Hayden opened with Jimmy Maher in the absence of Gilchrist. He put up half-century partnerships with Maher, and with Damien Martyn for the second wicket. Hayden, though, was strangely subdued while scoring 33 off 60 deliveries with 4 boundaries.
With Gilchrist back, the pair hoisted 89, chasing Zimbabwe’s 246 for nine. Hayden was dismissed after another cameo of 34 off 39 deliveries with 5 boundaries.
The mismatch with Namibia produced one of the most lopsided results in the history of the World Cup, and also the opportunity for Hayden to string together his highest score of the tournament. He hit up 88 runs off 73 balls, slamming 9 fours and 3 sixes. His second-wicket stand with Michael Bevan was worth 78 runs.
It was a spicy contest with England in more ways than one, with Andy Bichel doing a star turn. Then as another Andy, Caddick, struck back at the Aussies, reducing then to 48 for four, Hayden departed after scoring just one run.
As Gilchrist blazed away in the super-six face-off with Sri Lanka, Hayden contributed 22 to an opening stand of 75 in 12.2 overs.
A rampant Shane Bond had Hayden caught behind by Brendon McCullum for 1. Bevan and Bichel once again conducted a rescue act with the bat, and Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee hit back at the Kiwis with the ball.
In the next game. Hayden and Gilchrist seemed set on devouring the Kenyan bowling, raising 50 in 5.5 overs, but Hayden fell for 20 off 14 balls, all his runs having come from boundaries.
Hayden scored another 20 runs in the semi-final against Sri Lanka.
In the final, Gilchrist’s blade once again tore the bowling to shreds, and the pair raised a perfect foundation of 105 runs in 14 overs for Martyn and then Ponting to decimate the Indian bowling and bat them out of the game. Hayden, though, was once again dismissed when set with 37 runs to his name. It sounds like an oxymoron but Hayden played a side role in a big show. It was not the archetypal Hayden as he managed just one fifty off a minor side in 11 innings and an average of just 32.80 as his team went about winning all its matches. Gilchrist was the dominant partner in every way. It was, however, a team effort by Australia in the 2003 World Cup, and Hayden did contribute his bit in wresting the title.
It was a different tale in 2007. Australia were no longer the dominant side, and Hayden was fortunate to make his way back into the team after being dropped. It was then a surprise that not only did the team sweep away everything like a hurricane, Hayden’s bat did all the talking in a most emphatic manner.
Even though the Aussies took on only a minor team like Scotland in the opening match, they must have been pleased with their performance in all the departments. Hayden raised 91 with Gilchrist in 17 overs, and then 48 with Ponting. He was dismissed for 60, having faced 73 deliveries and hit 6 fours and a six.
The openers then hoisted 73 in 11.5 overs against Holland, the other minnows in Group A. Hayden, though, was able to score just 29.
Then came the last group match against South Africa at Warner Park, Basseterre. The opening pair was in a belligerent mood right from the start. Hayden straight-drove Shaun Pollock to the boundary off the last delivery of the first over. In the next over Gilchrist on-drove Makhaya Ntini to the fence. It was a great wicket with the ball coming on the bat nicely, and the batsmen able to hit through the line.
In the following over Hayden struck Pollock for two beautiful boundaries on either side of the wicket. It was Gilchrist’s turn next. He drove Ntini through the covers for consecutive fours. In the fifth over Hayden square-cut Pollock to the boundary, and then slammed two successive sixes over mid-wicket and long-on. The fifty of the innings was hoisted inside five overs. They quietened down a bit but only just, probably having realized how good the wicket was and told themselves not to throw away their wickets.
Hayden raced to his half-century off 37 deliveries with a boundary off Andrew Hall to long-off. In Hall’s subsequent over, Hayden glanced one to the fine-leg fence and slammed the next fiercely over long-off for a six, bringing up Australia’s hundred in 13.3 overs. Gilchrist looked subdued in comparison but was still going at a-run-a-ball. Finally, Gilchrist was deceived by a slower ball from Charl Langeveldt and holed out to Herschelle Gibbs at backward-point. They had put on 106 in 14.5 overs.
There was no respite for the bowlers from the rampaging willow of Hayden. He smashed three boundaries off Langeveldt’s next over. Ponting also got into the act. By the end of the 22nd over, Hayden had reached 94 off 64 deliveries. He had to get his hundred off the next two balls to beat John Davison’s record. Graeme Smith came on to bowl, and Hayden played the first ball gently. He then went down the wicket to the second one and crashed it straight for a six. Hayden had broken the record in inimitable style. A World Cup hundred off 66 balls.
He then fell in a manner similar to his opening partner, hitting a Kallis delivery into the hands of Gibbs. His 101 had come off 68 balls with 14 fours and 4 sixes, one of the most explosive knocks ever played in the competition. Australia knocked up their highest score in the World Cup.
The belligerent bully took on hosts West Indies in the super-eights from where he had left off in his previous rollicking knock. This time, though, the start was slow. Hayden had not scored in 16 balls when Gilchrist departed for 7. He then got into stride, putting on 66 with Ponting. Hayden raised his fifty from 72 balls with a straight drive to the boundary off Chris Gayle. He added 98 for the third wicket with Michael Clarke. Having hit Marlon Samuels for a straight six, Hayden got to his century off the same bowler. He had taken 110 deliveries to reach his second successive hundred.
Then with six overs left and Australia approaching 250, Hayden went for the jugular. He banged Jerome Taylor over long-on for a six, hit the next ball over cover to the boundary, and blitzed the following delivery straight into the stands. Nineteen runs came off that over. In the succeeding over Hayden scored two boundaries off Samuels to overhaul Andrew Symonds’ highest World Cup score for their country, and in celebration lofted the next one on the on-side for a six. In the process, he reached his 150 off just 137 balls.
After a break for rain, Hayden holed out to long-off. He had hit up 158 from 143 deliveries and blasted 14 fours and 4 sixes. His sixth-wicket partnership with Shane Watson yielded 63 runs from 6.2 overs. Australia logged up 322 for six. Hayden won his second successive man-of-the-match prize. He was understandably elated, “I said when I got dropped a couple of years back that I didn’t feel I was ready to let the game go - that world-class players play both forms of the game. I'm just very happy that it’s coming off right now. It’s a special side to be a part of - and it’s never meant to be an easy thing to play for Australia.”
Bangladesh were in no position to offer a fight to the all-conquering Aussies. Hayden and Gilchrist brought up a 10-wicket triumph, racing to 106 in 13.5 overs in well under an hour. Hayden scored 47 off 39 balls with 3 fours and 3 sixes, and Gilchrist hit 59 from 44 deliveries, striking 8 boundaries and one over the ropes.
England set a target of 248. The opening duo posted a half-century stand, and Hayden knocked up 41 runs, leaving the rest of the task this time to the later batsmen.
As Ireland managed a grand total of 91 runs, and with some of the others not getting the opportunity to bat, Michael Hussey, was sent in to open with Gilchrist, and Symonds at one-drop, which is all Australia needed.
Their alliance restored after Sri Lanka managed 226 runs, the pair hoisted 76 runs off 11.5 overs, with Vaas, Muralitharan and Malinga on the bench. Hayden departed after lashing out 41 runs from 30 deliveries, having rocketed 5 boundaries and 2 over the ropes.
Their last super-eight encounter with the Kiwis saw Hayden once again in irresistible form. Gilchrist went for 1, but Ponting helped Hayden add 137 for the second wicket in just 21.5 overs. Hayden brought up his fifty off 53 balls. He slammed Vettori for three consecutive boundaries and clobbered Scott Styris for a huge six in the next over. Soon he drove the same bowler to long-on to reach his third hundred of the tournament, only the third after Mark Waugh (1996) and Sourav Ganguly (2003) to score so many in the same World Cup.
It was also the 100th hundred in this premier event since its inception in 1975. Hayden needed just 96 balls to reach the mark, his tenth in One-day Internationals. He fell for 103, having negotiated 100 balls and struck 10 fours and 2 sixes. Australia piled up 348 for six and completely swamped the Kiwis. Hayden wrested his third man-of-the-match award of the tournament.
After South Africa had totalled just 149 runs in the semi-final, Gilchrist was out for 1 for the second successive time. But Hayden featured in two useful stands with Ponting and Clarke. He was out for 41 and by then Australia were well on the way to their fourth consecutive World Cup final.
It was a Gilchrist blitzkrieg on the big day, a carpet-bombing of the Sri Lankans in a truncated game. Hayden contributed 38 runs in an opening partnership of 172; that is how breathtaking the star wicketkeeper’s innings was. By the time bad light ended play, Australia were far ahead and jubilantly lifted the ICC World Cup for the third time running.
It was a brilliant tournament for Hayden, with the highest aggregate of 659 runs, just 14 runs short of Sachin Tendulkar’s record in all World Cups. Hayden achieved the top-score of 158 for his country, hit up three hundreds, all against major teams, the fastest hundred, a blistering strike-rate of 101.07 and average of 73.22, all of which added up to one of the most dazzling batting performances in this big event.
He ended up just 13 runs short of 1,000 runs overall in the World Cup with an average above 50 and strike-rate in excess of 90. Matthew Hayden played a key role in taking Australia to the very pinnacle, one of the most ferocious destroyers of bowling in history.
Matthew Hayden’s World Cup batting and fielding record:
Matches: 22, Highest Score: 158, Runs: 987, Average: 51.94, Strike-rate: 92.93, Hundreds: 3, Fifties: 2, Catches: 7
Also read - Highest Individual Score in World cup