With the 2019 edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup set to begin in May, we look back at the most memorable moments from the tournament’s four-decade-long history. You can read the entire series here.


Moment No 22

For many a Indian fan, March 23, 2003 will be unforgettable (not in a good way) for the first overs in each of the two innings at the World Cup final hurt the Indians.

First up, when Sourav Ganguly asked Australia to have the first use of the pitch and put scoreboard pressure on India, (why, Dada?), Zaheer Khan bowled an over from hell.

All the nervous energy in his system came out in the wrong way and he ended up bowling a wayward over that cost 15 runs. As if that was not enough, he sledged the Australian openers Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden. That did not go down well.

Fifty overs later, it was another first over that drove a dagger through the hearts of the Indian fans. After hitting a four, Sachin Tendulkar mishit a short-of-length ball from Glenn McGrath to be dismissed for 4. Sure, we can all say a game of cricket is never over till it’s over, but deep down all of India knew that was it.

In between those two heartbreaking moments, there was an innings of absolute brilliance that gave Australia their second successive World Cup triumph: a captain’s innings of 140* from Ricky Ponting.

An innings of two halves

After a century opening partnership set the tone for the Australian innings, Ponting and Damien Martyn joined hands in the 20th over. They would, as it turned out, not be separated till the end.

It did not begin that well for Ponting, who is famously a poor starter — get him early, or pay the price.

In what would be India’s best phase with the ball, thanks to Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra, Ponting took his time to settle in. At the other end, Martyn had raced off the blocks, which provided breathing space for the Aussie captain. While Martyn Reached his half century off just 46 balls, Ponting needed 74. And in that period, he had hit one four.

Little did India know what was to follow.

Aided by the fact that India missed a trick in not bombarding him with spin (especially how well Harbhajan had started his spell, picking up the wickets of both Gilchrist and Hayden), Ponting made the most of the time afforded to him. Once he reached fifty in the 39th over, it looked like a switch was flicked on. Interestingly, it was also immediately after a close LBW call against him was turned down by Steve Bucknor. It was as if Ponting knew he had to just explode from there on.

After taking 74 balls for his first fifty, Ponting took just 29 deliveries to get from 50 to 100. The last 17 balls yielded 40 runs as he finished with a stunning 140* from 121 balls. All of the eight sixes he hit that day came in the last 11 overs, starting with two on the trot off Harbhajan in the very over he reached his half century. That over was enough for Ganguly to take Harbhajan out of the attack and not bring him back.

The man known as Punter, knew where to place his bets as he took apart the Indian pacers from there.

Highest individual scores in World Cup finals

Player Runs (balls) Fours / Sixes
Adam Gilchrist (vs Sri Lanka, 2007) 149 (104) 13, 8
Ricky Ponting (vs India, 2003) 140* (121) 4, 8
Sir Viv Richards (vs England, 1979) 138* (157) 11, 3
Aravinda de Silva (vs Australia, 1996) 107* (124) 13, 0
Mahela Jayawardene (vs India, 2011) 103* (88) 13, 0
Clive Lloyd (vs England, 1975) 102 (85) 12, 2

“It had taken me about 70 balls to get to 50,” Ponting is quoted as saying about that innings by cricket.com.au. “And because the game was so under control and we were scoring quickly, I wanted to make sure I was there at the end.

“The 12th man came out and I said, ‘Tell the boys to strap the seatbelts on, I’m gonna go flat-out from now and see what happens’. I got most of them in the middle from there on in.”

Ponting and Martyn’s unbeaten stand of 234, which included 55 from the last four overs of the innings, remains a World Cup final record. It was the Australian record at the World Cup for any wicket, until Steve Smith and David Warner added 260 against Afghanistan in 2015.

Among the many records set that day, the eight sixes hit by Ponting were the most ever in a World Cup final, only equalled once since by a maruding Gilchrist in the 2007 summit clash.

It was only the fourth century scored in the tournament’s final, and once again, bettered only by Gilchrist’s 149 four years later.

Ponting, then, broke a 24-year-old record held by Sir Viv Richards, who would have been proud of the swagger that the Aussie star displayed with the bat that day in Johannesburg.

That final will forever be remembered in India for Ganguly’s decision-making, some shoddy bowling, a brave fightback from Virender Sehwag but the day truly belonged to only man: Ricky Thomas Ponting.

Watch the highlights of that innings here:

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