Ball One – Australia, given less than three weeks to prepare in England having arrived straight from a hard fought four Tests / seven ODIs tour of the Caribbean, started slowly with Steve Waugh (in interview) claiming that they needed to relax more. Action from their group match against a raucously supported Pakistan at Headingley, suggests that a fired-up Wasim Akram, in helpful conditions, had rather more to do with it and that Australia did well to lose by just the ten runs. Like all great tournament teams in any sport, Australia showed that they could learn from early matches and improve as they progressed.
Ball Two – If you think the format for World Cup 2011 isn’t good, in 1999 Australia and South Africa played two matches separated by four days. Fortunately, both were testosterone-fuelled classics. In the final match of the Super Sixes, Steve Waugh rode his luck (Hershelle Gibbs’ dropping the World Cup) to get his side over the line with a display of self-belief that infected both teams and reverberates to this day.
Ball Three – In the first semi-final, the firepower of a young and very quick Shoaib Akhtar and Wasim Akram on his adopted home ground of Old Trafford, proved far too much for New Zealand, five of whose batsmen had their stumps splattered. With the bat, the much under-rated Saeed Anwar stroked his way to a century, as Pakistan cruised their way through to the final at Lord’s.
Ball Four – Things were rather different in the other semi-final played at Edgbaston, England’s most intimidating ground. The pace and craft of Pollock, Donald and Kallis kept taking wickets and Australia, despite a deep batting order, could only find one partnership over fifty and post 213 – twenty or so below par. South Africa found scoring difficult against Warne especially, and were always behind the clock (Kallis spent 30 overs making 53, Cullinan nine overs making six) leaving much for their all-rounders to do. But they had done well through the tournament with Lance “Zulu” Klusener, in particular, scoring heavily and quickly from Number 8. As is etched into World Cup folklore, South Africa didn’t quite make it, choked by the pressure. What a match though.
Ball Five – Long forgotten now, but would things have been different if Hansie Cronje had not been given out caught off his boot by the much over-rated David Shepherd? Those things happen in a game, but it was a poor decision, even by Shepherd’s standards, and it meant that the team most in need of leadership, had lost its leader. The UDRS would have reprieved him and (most likely) rewritten cricket’s history.
Ball Six – With lots of Pakistan shirts on show in Tooting, hopes were high for the men in green on a glorious mid-summer London day. It wasn’t to be, as the force was with Australia and Pakistan never came to terms with the occasion. The men in gold and green bowled, caught and batted like World Champions – and that’s what they’ve been ever since.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999.