On this day in 2003: Ricky Ponting blows India away in World Cup final
- Ricky Ponting scored a whirlwind 140* that led Australia to a famous World Cup win.
- Ponting's effort also saw him raise the then-highest individual World Cup score.
India's journey to the final of the 2003 Cricket World Cup was nothing short of a fairytale. Under the captaincy of southpaw Sourav Ganguly, the Men in Blue clinched five wins from six group stage matches to make the Super Sixes stage.
India were pitted against Kenya, Sri Lanka and New Zealand in the last six stage, where they picked up comfortable wins to cruise into the semifinals.
Facing off against Kenya for a spot in the summit clash, a fine century from skipper Ganguly and a half-century from dashing opener Virender Sehwag took India to 270/4 from 50 overs. In response, Kenya could only manage 179, handing India a massive 91-run win.
India only needed one more win to seal a memorable World Cup win, but the hurdle ahead was a massive one: an in-form, unbeaten Australian side.
Ganguly won the toss and decided to put Australia in to bat early on, a move that proved to make all the difference at the end of the day. Australian openers Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden got off the blocks with an aggressive approach to pile pressure on India.
After the duo brought about a century stand, it took a fine spell of bowling from Harbhajan Singh to dislodge both the openers within the 20th over. With Australia looking to continue the early momentum, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn joined forces in the middle.
Martyn, batting with a broken finger, donned the aggressor's role early on in the partnership, while Ponting took his time to settle down and read the conditions at hand.
By the 39th over, Ponting had taken 74 balls to get to his fifty, but twin sixes off Harbhajan Singh opened the floodgates for the Australian skipper. At the end of the 40th over, Australia were 250/2 and still had Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan and Andrew Symonds waiting for their chance to apply the finishing touches.
Off the last 10 overs, Martyn played just 21 balls and scored 24 runs, with Ponting seamlessly switching gears and sending the Indian bowlers to all parts of the ground.
It took Ponting just 29 balls to get from 50 to 100, sparing none of the Indian bowlers on that day. The Australian skipper's blitzkrieg took his side to a commanding 359/2 from 50 overs, culminating in a then-record 234-run stand between Martyn and Ponting.
Ponting finished unbeaten on 140 off just 121 balls with four fours and eight sixes and in the process broke Sir Viv Richards' record for the highest score in a World Cup match.
Needing to chase down 360 for a win, India boasted of formidable batting lineup, but on the day, the Men in Blue got off to a poor start. Glenn McGrath removed Sachin Tendulkar in the fifth ball off the first over to set the cat among the pigeons in the Indian camp.
Sehwag and Ganguly stitched a 54-run partnership to stabilise the chase, but with Ganguly and the next man in, Mohammad Kaif removed in the space of four balls, India were staring down the barrel.
An important 88-run partnership ensued between Sehwag and Rahul Dravid which seemed to give the Indian chase some direction, but an untimely run-out sent Sehwag back for an 81-ball 82. India needed 213 runs from 157 balls with Yuvraj Singh joining Dravid at the crease.
The duo kept chipping away at the runs before Dravid was castled by Andy Bichel for 47 in the 32nd over and soon Yuvraj perished for 24 in the 35th over. At that stage, the writing was on the wall with only Dinesh Mongia and the bowlers to follow.
Andrew Symonds picked up two wickets in two overs that exposed the Indian tail in the 38th over, and it took less than two more overs for the Aussies to skittle out India for 234 as they celebrated a well-deserved 125-run win.
India's quest to pick up their second World Cup win since 1983 came to a screeching halt, and it was a Ricky Ponting special that brought about his first World Cup victory as captain.Published 23 Mar 2020, 08:59 IST