JOHANNESBURG: Australia’s cricketers displayed their hard-nosed professionalism yesterday to beat India by 125 runs and become the first team to win the cricket World Cup three times.
The defending champions crushed a gallant India team for its 17th consecutive one-day win and ruthlessly rewrite the cricket records.
Two years after the Test squad won 16 successive Tests under Steve Waugh to set a new benchmark, Ricky Ponting’s limited-overs squad has become the envy of the cricket world.
It has remorselessly crushed any challenge encountered from nine different teams during the 52-match event to win the tournament it had first won in 1987, and then in 1999.
Australia has won the World Cup under three different captains, Allan Border, Steve Waugh and now Ponting.
Border’s team beat England by seven runs at Eden Gardens in Calcutta on Nov.8, 1987, and Waugh’s lineup beat Pakistan in a lopsided final at Lord’s in 1999, when it won by eight wickets.
While its bowling has set a new standard in limited-overs cricket, the batting for once came to the forefront of its success in front of a capacity 31,779 spectators.
Skipper Ricky Ponting played a majestic 121-ball innings for Australia’s first hundred in five World Cup finals.
His 140 not out enabled him to join an elite group – West Indians Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd and Sri Lanka’s Aravinda de Silva – as the only batsmen to hit centuries in a World Cup final.
Ponting’s was also the highest individual innings, surpassing Richards’ unbeaten 138 in the 1979 finals against England at Lord’s.
He finished the tournament with 415 runs to lead the Australian batsmen, followed by Adam Gilchrist (408), Matthew Hayden (328), Andrew Symonds (326) and Damien Martyn (323).
Ponting’s effort was the catalyst for Australia’s strong batting as he rallied the innings in the company of Martyn, who scored 88 not out.
Ponting led from the front with a savage attack on India’s pace attack which went wicketless for the second match against Australia.
Australia’s top order batting had been lackluster in the tournament, but peaked yesterday after openers Gilchrist and Hayden gave a kickstart with a 105-run opening stand.
It was Australia’s second big stand in 11 matches and couldn’t have been better timed.
While India looked stiff and overawed by the occasion, Australia, boasting six players with previous finals experience, launched a calculated assault.
Ponting, crowned his one-day career in glorious style and smashed eight sixes and four boundaries in his second hundred in the tournament.
To the credit of a young captain, who took over from Waugh just over a year ago, he has been the inspiration behind the success of players like Andrew Symonds and molded the lineup to one of the best one-day outfits.
What makes the success more sweet for Ponting and his Team Australia is that they have attained the glory without three original squad members – allrounder Shane Watson, fast bowler Jason Gillespie and legspinner Shane Warne.
While Watson was diagnosed with a stress fracture, Warne failed a drug test and was banned for 12 months, and Gillespie suffered a tendon damage and returned home. – AP