After seven weeks, the world’s third-most-watched sporting event finally reached its conclusion at the famed Kensington Oval in Bridgeport, Barbados. Australia has been completely dominant in this tournament but when they faced Sri Lanka in the Super Eights, the Tigers rested two of its premier bowlers, so there was still a bit of intrigue.
But in the morning of the final, there was also a bit of rain. It looked like the delay would be short. Australia won the coin toss and elected to bat. But then the rains came down again. Eventually, when it did clear up to play, the umpires declared that the match would be shortened to 38 overs, which in retrospect was a bit of a mistake.
When it did begin, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden came to the crease for Australia. And while Lasith Malinga was able to keep the openers at bay, the same can’t be said for Chaminda Vaas and Dilhara Fernando. 22.4 overs into the innings, Hayden was sitting on 38. Next ball, he’s wicket was finally taken.
But Gilchrist went on, and while a World Cup final in any sport rarely establishes a new superstar, it does have a tendency to make legends. 1998 Soccer World Cup final, Zinedine Zidane. 2003 Rugby World Cup final, Jonny Wilkinson. 2007 Cricket World Cup final, Adam Gilchrist.
129 minutes, 104 balls, 13 fours, eight sixes, 149 runs. A place in Australian sporting lore.
After his dismissal, Ricky Ponting made 37. Andrew Symonds made 23. Australia finished 281 for 4.
A short break and it was Sri Lanka’s turn. Upul Tharanga didn’t help the cause making only six but then, Sanath Jayasuriya, the 37-year-old master batsman and Kumar Sangakkara. In his final competition, Jayasuriya made 63. Sangakkara made 54. Sri Lanka had a chance.
Then this final took a turn for the ridiculous. With intermittent rain stoppages, the required runs kept being adjusted under the Duckworth-Lewis Method. It really didn’t matter since Australia was taking wickets and the required run rate just kept going up.
But then, perhaps the defining moment of this World Cup. It was the end of the 33rd over of what was now scheduled to be 36. It was becoming very dark in the stadium which had no floodlights. Sri Lanka needed 63 runs from 18 balls. Australia was counting down the balls while tributes were being spoken for their bowling legend Glenn McGrath who had just finished his final duties for his country.
The umpire went to speak to the batsmen Malinga and Vaas and apparently asked them if they wanted to ‘take the light’, in other words, concede the match due to bad light. The indication was that they did, touching off celebrations both on the grounds and the land down under.
But they didn’t. Umpire Aleem Dar came into the area where Australia was celebrating. Ponting had a look of disbelief. The presentation ceremony stands were ordered off. The commentators were outraged.
Three overs, that no one in the stands or the commentators had enough light to see, were played. Sri Lanka ended 215 for 8. Australia finally did get to lift the trophy in darkness while cricket officials wiped the egg off their faces. What a way for this to end.
It was a dominant performance for the three-time World Champions. No matter how this tournament went, that can’t be ignored.
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