Monday, March 24, 2003

World Cup final wrap up

Sorry for the delay on this. I spent some time paying too much attention to the oscars, and I also have had a Blogger problem or two. (I have had to write this entire post twice. Grrrr).

In any event, the final. I went and watched this in the Walkabout pub Shepherd's Bush. On the Hammersmith and City line from Hammersmith, I met up with a groupt of Australians going to the same place. I said hello, and we talked about the match, and I predicted an easy Australian victory. I said I thought Australia would score 280, and India about 180. I also said that I thought that Ponting was due a big innings, and the conditions in Johannesburg (unlike Port Elizabeth) would suit him. One of the other Australians said loudly that Ponting was just a bloody Tasmanian, and nothing should be expected from him.

In any event, I reached the pub. I was a little late, and five overs had been bowled. Indian capain Ganguly had sent Australia in, and they had scored 38 runs off five overs. Gilchrist continued hitting the ball around the ground and to and over the boundary.

This went on smoothly until the 14th over. Harbhajan Singh bowled the first ball to Gilchrist. There was a deflection, a noise, the ball went to slip and Ganguly claimed a catch. The umpire gave it not out. The replay showed that the ball missed the bad, deflected off the thigh, and then bounced before Ganguly caught it. Clearly it was not out, and clearly Ganguly knew this. Extremely poor sportsmanship, particularly considering the extremely good sportsmanship from Gilchrist in walking against Sri Lanka. Gilchrist on that occasion announced it was time we starting taking people's word about whether they took catches and the like. By today's evidence, Gilchrist is some distance from reality, sadly. People who criticised his decision to walk against Sri Lanka will use this as justification for their arguments, sadly.

Gilchrist was rattled by this, and got a bit of a rush of blood to the head and attempted to hit Harbhajan out of the ground. He gave a chance off the fifth ball of the over, and was caught going for a big swing and hitting it up in the air off the last ball of the over. 1/105 off 14 overs. A great start, none the less.

Australia then lost Hayden in the 20th over off Harbhajan Singh. 2/125 off 19.5. At that point, Martyn joined Ponting. At first, Ponting looked a little out of sorts, and Martyn looked in form. The two pushed the run rate at about a run a ball, scoring 100 runs off about 17 overs, to take the score to 2/226 off 38 overs. Martyn at this point had scored 56 off 58 balls and Ponting 49 off 72, with only one four. At this point, it was time to boost the scoring rate. And Ponting suddenly, and amazingly found his touch, and started hitting enormous sixes. By over 44, he had hit five of them, and he had taken his score to 95 not out off 98 balls. (Martyn at this point was on 71 off 70). Ponting then slowed down for an over or two, in order to make sure he completed the century. Clearly, a century in a World Cup final as captain was very important to him. Upon getting the century, he started up again, and ended up with 140 not out with eight sixes and four fours off 121 balls. Martyn managed 88 not out off 84 balls, with eight fours and one six. He would no doubt have also liked a century in a World Cup final, but Ponting had most of the strike in the last ten overs. All in all, Australia managed an amazing 2/359
off their 50 overs, their best ever score in a one day international. At this point, the match was close to over. India needed to do something miraculous to win. Even if Tendulkar played at his best, this was very likely too many runs.

I had written repeatedly before the match that the duel between McGrath and Tendulkar would be crucial to the match. However, it only lasted five balls. Tendulkar pulled the fourth ball of the innings for a cracking four, and then hit the next ball up in the air when attempting to repeat the shot, but misjudging it. McGrath took the catch off his own bowling. Ganguly then came in and joined Sehwag, and Sehwag went for the bowling. After about 10 overs, the clouds appeared to be closing in. There was a discussion of what rain would mean. In a sane world, the mach would simply continue the next day, but for some reason the ICC cannot give this to us. We have to have a situation where the Duckworth-Lewis rule is used if we get between 25 and 50 overs, the match is replayed if we get rain before 25 overs but play is possible tthe next day, and the match continues the day after that if we get less than 25 overs today, but tomorrow is a complete washout. As to why the rules have to be this complex, I do not know. The commentators announced around the 10 over mark that in the event of a 25 over match, India would need 1/135 off the 25 overs to be declared the winner. There has been discussion of this elsewhere, and I have said my piece there. I do not think was as easy a target as some people do. What happened in the event was the Lee got Ganguly and McGrath got Kaif, to reduce the score to 3/59 off 10.3 overs, which would have made the required target (a lot) higher. And the loss of more wickets in chasing such a target was almost certain to happen, which is why it was not as unfair as it seemed to some people. After 17 overs, India were 3/103, with Sehwag still batting extremely well. The players went off due to rain for 30 minutes, but the game resumed with no loss of overs. Sehwag continued batting well, until Lehmann ran him out brilliantly for 82 off 81 balls.

This came in the middle of a period in which Australia somewhat oddly lost the plot a little in the field. They don't often do this: their fielding is normally superb. Ponting missed a difficult catch at slip, and Hogg missed another difficult one at point. There was no shame in either of these, but Australia often do take great catches. Then, Martyn missed a sitter at midwicket and Symonds missed a relatively easy one at mid on. Not like the Australians at all, and in the end only temporary. Dravid was bowled by Bichel, and after being given a number of chances, Yuvraj Singh was well caught by Brett Lee and Mongia was caught by an absolute blinder of a catch by Martyn, redeeming himself. This took the score to 7/209 off 35.2. At this point, Australia were home, and it was just a matter of wrapping it up.

Back in my world, at this point someone came up to me and said hello. It was one of the people I had met on the train that morning. Apparently he was a Tasmanian and his mates had been taking the piss with him for being a Tasmanian when I had joined their conversation. I had inadvertently taken his side by praising Ponting. This guy shook my hand and complimented me on my good call. Oddly, while Ponting is a Tasmanian, he lives in my home town of Wollongong as his girlfriend or wife (I forget which) is studying at the university there (of which I am myself a graduate), so there is some sort of a connection there, as well).

Back in the match, Symonds got another wicket with his next over, and then Ponting brought Lee and McGrath back, and they finished things off, getting India out for 234 off 39.2 overs. Australia won by 125 runs, winning the World Cup for the third time.

Oddly, though, I wasn't that impressed with Ponting's captaincy in the field. Admittedly, when you are defending 359 you do not have to do that much in the field, but I think he got his bowlers muddled up a little. If this Australian.side has a weakness, it is the lack of a good all rounder. Australia play four specialist bowlers (Hogg, McGrath, Lee, and Bichel) and they have to then make up ten overs from Symonds, Lehmann, Ponting, Martyn, etc. A key test of Ponting's captaincy skills is whether he can get 10 overs out of this lot without conceding too many runs. Yesterday he had Lehmann bowl one very expensive over early, which Sehwag hit all over the place, and then went back to his specialists, bowling out Bichel and Hogg. He therefore found himself at the end of 35 overs still needing nine from his part time bowlers. This compelled him to bowl Symonds from one end and Lehmann from the other. As it happened, Symonds was successful, and a fair few wickets had fallen by that point anyway, so he did not end up needing a full ten overs from the part timers. However, if say Sehwag and Dravid had still been batting, we would have one of those periods where the fielding captain has no option but to keep feeding easy bowling to good, set batsmen. (This happened in New Zealand's game against Australia when Bond finished bowling, for instance). Ponting needed to get through at least three or four more overs from his part timers prior to 35 overs, but he didn't. Ponting would no doubt say that if the wickets had not fallen he would have done things differently, or that given the size of the Australian score it didn't matter, but I don't quite see it that way. As I can see it, Ponting made an error. I cannot see Steve Waugh making the same error. (Waugh was always very imaginative in his bowling changes. Ponting is more predictable).

Still, an absolutely great performance by the Australians. They win two World Cups in a row, and become the first side to win three in all. They will be very pleased with the way in which they won ever game, and in particular with how they won in Port Elizabeth in tricky situations that did not suit them. It was particularly impressive that after they lost some of their top players either temporarily or permanently, the less well rated players like Symonds and Bichel really came through. Plus it is also impressive that every player in the side performed when needed. There were no real standounts: just great cricket from everyone.

Well, that wraps up my World Cup coverage. I have enjoyed it greatly, but cricket coverage will drop from now on. Australia's tour of the West Indies starts in a fortnight, and I will cover this. I have promised to post an explanation of the Duckworth/Lewis rule, but I am yet to deliver. I will do so at some point, but right now I am not sure quite exactly when. The Duckworth/Lewis rule is quite similar to what I would come up with if I were designing a rain rule myself, but it is derived in such a way to make its workings rather opaque. I can think of a different but substatially equivalent formulation that would be much easier to understand, but somewhat sadly I think that my chances of getting the ICC to replace the Duckworth/Lewis rule with the Jennings rule are not high. In any event, my explanation of Duckworth/Lewis will eventually come. Well done to the Australian team. I have had fun.

No comments:

Blog Archive