Invincible Australia on Top of the World; Ponting and Martyn Run Show as India Offer Little Opposition
Dickson, Mike, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: MIKE DICKSON
THIS World Cup began for Australia with the drama of Shane Warne being expelled but ended with something much more predictable - crushing victory.
With the curious exception of dear old England, nobody can lay a glove on these Australians at the moment, and in yesterday's final it appeared that India were almost too intimidated to try. Despite brave words beforehand, they were overawed by both occasion and opposition, meaning that the final sadly went the way of so many other no-contests in the 2003 World Cup.
Driven by a magnificent century from Ricky Ponting, the defending champions amassed an impregnable 359 for two that gave them a 125-run triumph on dismissing India for 234.
Australian players seem to excel on some sort of rota basis, and this time it was the skipper and Damien Martyn, whose tournaments had previously been slightly subdued, who took the match way out of reach. In none other than the World Cup final they helped post their country's biggest-ever total in one-day cricket and Ponting made the biggest batting contribution in such a game, eclipsing Viv Richards' 138 in 1979 at Lord's.
His last 90 runs came in 47 balls, thanks to eight sixes, on a day that began with a favour from Sourav Ganguly and got better from there.
The main business of this winter for Australia ended exactly as it started, with them getting the benefit of a poor decision by the opposition captain to bat second after winning the toss. Ganguly's choice was almost as illogical as that of Nasser Hussain in the first Test at Brisbane last November. It similarly smacked of caution and, as at the Gabba, any hope that the bowlers would exploit any significant early movement was misplaced.
Much of the improvement in India's bowling has been down to the discovery of two talented left-arm pacemen, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan, to supplement the efforts of Javagal Srinath, but of the trio only Nehra emerged with any credit yesterday.
Albeit in wonderful batting conditions, Khan had a particular nightmare whose tone was set in a freakishly bad first over. It lasted 10 balls and, by the end of it, Australia were flying on 15 for nought, a situation that developed into 80 for nought off the opening 10.
The departures of Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden invited the chance that Australia might be reined in, but instead there developed the most superbly paced partnership.
The presence of Martyn was another instance of the Australians getting everything right. He had been very doubtful with a broken index finger and, despite passing a fitness test, there must have been every temptation to stick with a side which had fared perfectly well without him in the semi-final. Yet he was duly recalled and responded with an unbeaten 88 that was beautifully crafted, in perfect contrast to the brutality of Ponting.
By the time they had finished their work only an act of God or Tendulkar, or less likely Duckworth-Lewis, was going to save India. …