Cricket World Cup history: Graeme Smith, ups a…

Graeme Smith always shouldered a lot of responsibility as the opener and leader of the team..

When the 2003 World Cup came around, Graeme Smith had been on the international circuit for just about a year. He was not a regular member of the South African playing eleven, though, with Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs opening the batting for South Africa. However, the way that he not only cemented his place in the side but also became captain, is evidence of his immense talent and dynamic personality. 

Starting out in 2003

The southpaw’s opportunities were few when the cricket carnival came to his nation. Smith got his chance in the match where two brilliant hundreds were hit against New Zealand . He helped the first centurion, Gibbs, raise 60 in an opening stand inside 10 overs. Smith was dismissed for 23, and Gibbs went on to hammer a superb 143. The Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming repaid the compliment amid rain, as he carved out a magnificent 134 of his own to upstage the hosts.

The next appearance was in the face-off with Canada, with Kirsten dropping down to No. 3. Amazingly, the minnows created a flutter, with their opening bowlers dismissing the seasoned Gibbs, Kirsten and Jacques Kallis cheaply. South Africa slid to 23 for three. Smith got together with Boeta Dippenaar to salvage the innings. They put on 109, which set the side on its way to a competitive total and an easy victory. Smith scored 63 off 79 deliveries with six boundaries.

Everything hinged on their last Pool B match. Sri Lanka set a stiff target, putting up 268 for nine on the board. Smith and Gibbs provided just the right platform, raising 65 in 11 overs. Then, the first delivery from a spinner, Aravinda de Silva, consumed Smith. He scored 35 off 34 deliveries with five boundaries.

Wickets began to fall at regular intervals just as the weather started looking ominous. In a horrible blunder, the Proteas assumed the par score by the Duckworth-Lewis method to be the winning one and ended up tying the game they needed to win. For the second successive World Cup, South Africa exited by way of a tie in heart-breaking circumstances. Smith had performed fairly well for a newcomer who was in and out of the side.

Things changed dramatically for Smith as he was handed the captaincy after this tournament at the age of 22, the youngest in his country’s history. Suddenly, he emerged as a larger-than-life character. His willow too kept pace with that growing stature.

Flashes of brilliance in 2007   

Graeme Smith showed flashes of brilliance in the 2007 World Cup, averaging almost 50.

It was an onerous task for skipper Graeme Smith in the Caribbean in 2007. The first match, though, was a picnic in Warner Park. Heavy overnight rain had left a drenched outfield that curtailed the match to a 40-overs-a-side game, which was just as well for the Dutch. A.B. de Villiers returned to the quiet of the dressing room off the second delivery, but Smith and Kallis enjoyed themselves in a 114-run stand in 18.4 overs. Smith slammed 67 off 59 balls with six fours and 2 sixes. Kallis hit an unbeaten 128 off 109 balls.

There was a shower of sixes, a total of 18, unprecedented in a one day game.. Every batsman had his fill. Herschelle Gibbs lashed seven, including six of them in a Daan van Bunge over. Mark Boucher raced to the fastest World Cup fifty in a mere 21 balls, a record that another wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum soon broke by one delivery, and then went even faster in 2015. All the seven bowlers were hit for sixes. Holland crumbled to a heavy defeat.

After restricting another minnows Scotland to 186 for eight, Smith and de Villiers plundered 134 runs in 15.5 overs. De Villiers was out for 62, but Smith went on to score 91 off just 65 balls with 13 fours and a six. This was to be his highest in the World Cup. His side won by seven wickets with only 23.2 overs bowled.

The awesome Aussies got down to some big hitting of their own when the two teams faced up. Matthew Hayden belted the fastest century of the World Cup in 66 balls, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke got nineties, and the reigning champions hit up 377 for six, their highest total in the World Cup.

Smith and de Villiers were not prepared to throw in the towel. They went after the bowling, raising 160 in 21 overs. De Villiers was run out for 92. Smith then started cramping, and with his score on 72 and South Africa on 184 for one after 25.1 overs, he had to retire hurt. The momentum of the innings was broken and wickets began to tumble soon. Smith returned to the crease but could add just two more runs. His 74 came off 69 balls with 9 fours and 2 sixes. South Africa were bowled out for 294 off 48 overs.     

Smith-Kallis stand tall, Malinga knocks out four in four

In the super-eight stage, the Proteas were faced with a target of 210 in the humdinger against Sri Lanka. After de Villiers fell for a duck, Smith and Kallis put on 95 in 16.2 overs. The crafty Muttiah Muralitharan had Smith caught behind for 59 off 65 deliveries with 7 fours and a six. Kallis scored 86 but Lasith Malinga captured an unprecedented four wickets off successive deliveries, to leave South Africa precariously placed at 207 for nine. Somehow the last pair managed to carry South Africa over the line.

Ireland were able to muster 152 runs in a rain-curtailed 35-over match. After de Villiers had fallen for his second successive duck, Smith and Kallis put on 70 in 11.4 overs. Smith departed for 41 off 45 balls, having struck sic boundaries. South Africa triumphed by seven wickets.

Smith ran into a bad patch as his side went on a roller-coaster ride. In a tournament in which the minnows provided many stunners, Bangladesh put up 251 for eight. South Africa struggled from the moment Smith fell for 12. They collapsed to 184 off 48.4 overs.

Next, Smith was dismissed for 7, but the Proteas made amends against the West Indies. De Villiers led the charge with a big century.Troubles continued to mount for Smith. He fell for 1 in the reverse at the hands of New Zealand.

Corrective action was required once more, and this time his bowlers, as well as batsmen, rose to the occasion. England were dismissed for 154 in 48 overs. Smith raised an opening stand of 85 with de Villiers. He carried his side to a nine-wicket triumph off a mere 19.2 overs, carving out an unbeaten 89 off 58 deliveries with 13 hits to the fence.

There had been an air of uncertainty during that period about Smith’s batting as well as his team’s performance, dazzling one day, dismal the next. They were pitted against the invincible Australians in the semi-final. The worst fears came true as the Proteas were skittled out for 149 in 43.5 overs. Smith was bowled for 2, and none of the others got to fifty.

The defending champions cantered to a seven-wicket win in 31.3 overs. Whether it was a clinical performance by the Australians, or whether the South Africans were brought down by their fickle form, the fact is that Graeme Smith’s men were not good enough to reach the final.

Smith had shown flashes of brilliance but was inconsistent as a top-order batsman – and captain at that – in a major tournament like this. Often he lost his wicket when he should have carried his team through

Disappointing 2011 World Cup

Graeme Smith’s bat did not fire in the 2011 World Cup.

Graeme Smith would not look back at the next World Cup in 2011 with much satisfaction. Under his charge, a good performance in the league stage led to the all-too-familiar choke in the quarter-final. With the bat, he played a series of cameos, which only served to put the middle-order under pressure.

The start, however, was comfortable. A fine all-round bowling effort caused the West Indies to pack up for 222 in 47.3 overs. Though two early wickets fell, Smith was associated in a 119-run partnership with AB de Villiers, who scored a brilliant unbeaten century. While de Villiers was the aggressor, Smith held his end up. He was bowled for 45, attempting to hit across the line, having negotiated 78 deliveries and hit 2 fours. South Africa cantered to a seven-wicket win.

Facing veritable pushovers The Netherlands, Smith scored 20 in a 51-run opening stand with centurion Hashim Amla. A hundred by de Villiers helped raise a mammoth total of 351 for five. Holland were bowled out for 120 in under 35 overs.

The thrills provided by the English team in this tournament spanned their face-off with South Africa too. They folded up to the Proteas spin at Chepauk for just 171. Smith and Amla were on track, raising the 50 in 12.2 overs. With the score on 63, Graeme Swann made one turn and jump, grazing Smith’s glove on its way to wicket-keeper Matt Prior. He was gone for 22, and wickets continued to tumble. South Africa were all out for 165, pipped by 6 runs.          

The Indian top-order was brilliant but South Africa did well to restrict them to 296 when it seemed they would pile up a monumental total. Dale Steyn bowled with fire to capture five wickets. Smith seemed to be picking up the momentum with Amla but holed out to mid-off for 16. Most of the other batsmen, though, contributed to the cause and South Africa were home with two balls to spare in an extremely tense finish.

After two high-pressure encounters, it would have been a respite facing qualifiers Ireland, though they could not be taken lightly. Smith was run out for 7 but South Africa won easily.

Smith looked in good nick against Bangladesh, raising the fifty of the innings in alliance with Amla in the ninth over. With more landmarks in the offing, Smith stepped down the wicket to Mahmudullah but was beaten as the ball dipped and spun away, stumped by Mushfiqur Rahim. Smith’s 45 came in 68 balls with four boundaries, the total at that stage being 98. South Africa went on to amass 284 for eight. Bangladesh were skittled for 78 in 28 overs, the lowest that South Africa had bowled out any team for in the World Cup.

Yet another cameo, yet another choke

South Africa were favorites in the quarter-final. They restricted New Zealand to 221 for eight. Amla succumbed to spin and uncertain bounce in the first over. Smith and Kallis progressed well, bringing up the half-century partnership in 11 overs. Smith then played a careless slash to be caught behind square off Jacob Oram, who was now on the way to a star turn that stunned the Proteas. Smith had played yet another cameo of 28 off 34 balls with the help of 2 boundaries.

In hindsight, he might pin down his team’s fall to his own folly, which also caused him to miss out on a worthwhile score in the tournament. Soon, wickets began tumbling regularly and, like 1996, they crashed out when they looked good enough to clinch the title. It was not a tournament Smith would look back with pride at.    

Overall he has a fairly reasonable record in the World Cup, though it dipped considerably in 2011. His strike-rate, which was nearly 100 earlier, slipped to 86.35. For an opening batsman not to have scored a century in 20 innings is probably reflected in his sub-40 average. To be fair, Smith has been outstanding in international cricket overall, particularly in Test matches, and what is most significant is that with him at the helm South Africa reached the top in all forms of the game.

Graeme Smith’s World Cup batting and fielding record:

Matches 20, Highest Score 91, Runs 747, Average 39.31, Strike-rate 86.35, Fifties 6, Catches 15

World Cup History: Andrew Flintoff – Emulating…

Andrew Flintoff under-performed in the World Cup, just like his great predecessor, Ian Botham.

Cricket throws up some uncanny coincidences. Two of England’s most explosive allrounders did not perform, particularly with the bat, in the World Cup as well as their status in the international game warranted. Their figures in the premier tournament are remarkably similar. Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, burly, multi-faceted, dominant, attacking batsmen, penetrative pacemen, brilliant catchers, came to the fore only with the ball in cricket’s showpiece event, and that too sporadically. 

Remarkably similar World Cup records of Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff 

Let us examine their record in the World Cup. In 22 matches Botham scored 297 runs at an average of 18.56 and strike-rate of 62.39 with one half-century and a highest of 53. In 18 matches Flintoff scored 263 runs at an average of 18.78 and strike-rate of 67.95 with one half-century and a highest of 64.

Botham took 30 wickets at an average of 25.40, economy-rate of 3.43 and a best of four wickets for 31 runs. Flintoff took 23 wickets at an average of 23.21, economy-rate of 3.93 and a best of four wickets for 43 runs. Flintoff’s statistics are almost a replica of Botham’s. These two giants are not ranked amongst the leading allrounders of the World Cup, because of their underwhelming batting record. 

Flintoff was always hailed as a successor to Botham. If anything, he is even bigger in size than the legendary Somerset superstar. But his early forays were not so successful, leading to cynicism and smirks in several quarters. In fact his huge frame and bulk were a cause for mirth and there were serious doubts about the emergence of another Botham. Flintoff’s poor performances in the 1999 World Cup only confirmed the opinion of the sceptics. The big boy looked a misfit on the international stage. 

A moderately successful 2003 World Cup

Gradually Flintoff found his feet. He had established himself by 2003. After the walkover to Zimbabwe was an undistinguished game against Holland, in which he was out for a duck. He scored 21 off the trundlers from Namibia and took two wickets for 33 in his 10 overs.

In their first match of consequence, versus Pakistan, Flintoff shared a 42-run sixth-wicket partnership in 10 overs with Paul Collingwood. He got 26 of those runs. As the Pakistani batting crumbled, Flintoff had Younis Khan snapped up by Alec Stewart behind the stumps, and later shattered the stumps of big-hitting top-scorer, last man Shoaib Akhtar. Flintoff returned with two wickets for 37 runs off 9 overs. England registered a 112-run win. 

Andrew Flintoff celebrates the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in the 2003 World Cup.

When things got tougher, Flintoff came up with a stellar allround performance in adversity. As the incomparable Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag gave India a flying start, raising 60 runs inside 10 overs, Flintoff struck. He caught Sehwag off his own bowling. Sourav Ganguly helped Tendulkar maintain the momentum, but Flintoff dismissed the maestro for 50. The Indian batsmen had the measure of almost every other bowler, but Flintoff was most economical. He conceded just 15 runs off his 10 overs, with two maidens, his best analysis of the tournament. India posted 250 for nine wickets.

Andrew Flintoff scored 64 in adversity against India.

England batted under lights and never looked like mounting a challenge. Flintoff came in at 62 for five in the 19th over with left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra in devastating form. He attacked the bowling as wickets fell all around him. Andy Caddick helped him in a 55-run ninth-wicket stand. Flintoff finally fell for 64, his highest score in the World Cup, having struck 5 fours and 3 sixes, and negotiated 73 deliveries. Soon England were all out for 168.         

The dramatic clash with Australia was dominated by Andy Bichel but the start provided no inkling of the excitement to follow. The English openers Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight hoisted 66 on the board before the 10th over was up. Then the histrionics began. In the space of eight overs the scorecard read 87 for five. Bichel had accounted for four of these. Flintoff joined Stewart and the two added 90. He became another Bichel victim, caught behind by Adam Gilchrist for 45. England finished on 204 for eight at the end of 50 overs. Bichel ripped out seven wickets for 20 runs in his 10 overs.

Australia themselves were in strife at 135 for eight in the 38th over when Bichel allied with Michael Bevan in a desperate partnership. They battled hard and brought it down to two runs required off the last over. Flintoff had not taken a wicket in his 9 overs, having conceded 21 runs. He was handed the ball by skipper Nasser Hussain. The first two balls produced no run, then Bichel took a single. Off the fourth delivery Bevan got a boundary to clinch a gripping encounter.

England were now out of the tournament. Personally it was a fairly satisfying performance by Flintoff, devoid of any brilliance or heroics. He had got some runs and a few wickets at a very economical rate but the spark was missing.

Reckless behaviour and a few sparks with the ball in the 2007 World Cup

It was a catastrophic opening clash with New Zealand in the 2007 World Cup. Flintoff was dismissed first ball, failed to get a wicket and England were trounced.

The disasters continued for Flintoff. A late night binge got him into troubled waters in more ways than one, and he was dropped for the picnic with Canada. He was back to take on Kenya, probably a chastened man and picked up the wickets of top-scorer Steve Tikolo and old warhorse Thomas Odoyo. 

It was time for Flintoff to enjoy himself at the expense of surprise entrants into the super-eight league, Ireland. He scored 43 and shared an 81-run fifth-wicket stand with Collingwood in 17 overs. Then he had fun with the ball, bagging four wickets for 43 runs in 8.1 overs, his World Cup best.

The game with Sri Lanka was a humdinger. Flintoff bowled well, capturing the wickets of opener Upul Tharanga, Chamara Silva and Chaminda Vaas, giving away just 35 runs in his 10 overs. Sri Lanka posted 235 runs. When Flintoff came in to bat, the match hung in the balance with England on 126 for four after 30.5 overs. But he was dismissed for 2, and the team lost by 2 runs when the overs ran out despite a late-order fightback. 

Australia were in supreme form, and it was a grievous outing for Flintoff as well as his side. There was respite against Bangladesh and an opportunity for Flintoff to display some fireworks off his chunky bat. But again there was a cataclysm against South Africa.

The last super-eight match was nothing but Brian Lara’s farewell, with neither side in a position to advance. Flintoff bagged the wickets of openers Chris Gayle and Devon Smith after they had piled on the runs. Lara was run out, and Flintoff had a hand in the run out of the last two batsmen as the West Indies were dismissed for a round 300. England snatched a thrilling one-wicket win off the penultimate delivery, but Flintoff’s contribution was just 15.

Andrew Flintoff’s bowling gave some respectability to his World Cup figures.

It was a largely colourless act by Flintoff. He was the backroom boy rather than a star performer, a lacklustre effort in a lacklustre team. Overall his 23 wickets at an average just above 23, and an economy-rate just below four runs an over look impressive on paper but do not reflect the fact that he failed to make the sort of impact that an allrounder of his calibre should have. It was indeed the Botham story all over again.

Andrew Flintoff’s World Cup record:

Matches: 18, Highest Score: 64, Runs: 263, Average: 18.78, Strike-rate: 67.95, Fifty: 1, Catches: 6

Wickets: 23, Average: 23.21, Best: 4/43, Economy: 3.93

World Cup History: Andrew Symonds – gifted and…

Australia won both the World Cup tournaments in which Andrew Symonds played in 2003 and 2007.

Every now and then an immensely gifted player comes along but fails to realise his potential due to a flawed personality. The awesome striker of the cricket ball that he was, Andrew Symonds should have achieved so much more, particularly in Test matches.

He floated from one controversy to another, made news more for his unseemly behaviour on and off the field than will his chunky willow, and eventually disappointed hordes of fans of his big-hitting prowess. Like a George Best or a Shoaib Akhtar, Symonds squandered the gifts that he was bestowed with.

Scintillating unbeaten 143 on World Cup debut

In the World Cup, though, Symonds blazed a fiery trail that was a vital component in the wresting of titles both times. The great Wasim Akram aided by the pacy Shoaib Akhtar put Australia on the mat straightaway in the 2003 clash with Pakistan. Symonds joined skipper Ricky Ponting at 86 for four in the 16th over. They added 60 in 13.4 overs before Ponting fell, having completed his half-century.

Symonds brought up his fifty off 60 balls, and as if to celebrate, hit Shahid Afridi for 4 fours in an over soon after. He put on 70 with Brad Hogg before the latter was run out for 14. Symonds had taken to Afridi, and he slammed the leg-spinner for his 15th boundary to raise his first century in one-day internationals. He needed just 92 deliveries to reach the coveted landmark, and rocketed the next ball again to the fence. His stand with Ian Harvey was worth 54.

By now Symonds was in top gear. He hit Akram for two consecutive boundaries, and in the next over blasted Waqar Younis for a six. After bowling three deliveries in that 49th over, Waqar was ordered out of the attack for bowling two beamers at Symonds. In the final over he crashed Akram too over the ropes. Symonds returned unbeaten on 143 off only 125 deliveries with 18 fours and 2 sixes. This was at the time the highest score by an Australian in the World Cup.

Andrew Symonds hammered the Pakistani bowlers on first appearance in the World Cup.

He took Australia to 310 for eight with one of the most audacious displays of power hitting. After having notched up just two half-centuries in 54 ODIs, Symonds had finally lived up to the potential everyone knew he had for years. In the process he bailed out his team in a crucial opening encounter. Pakistan were shell-shocked by this fearsome counter-attack and folded up for just 228 runs. The only choice for the man-of-the-match prize was Symonds.

Ian Chappell said of him later:

I think it’s the fear factor he puts into the opposition because Symonds can clear the boundary on a regular basis. He is going to create some run outs for you. He’ll take a blinding catch and he has been very, very tidy with the ball now for a long time. He gives you flexibility there.

Symonds did not get the chance to bat in the next three matches. Sent in at No. 4 against first-timers Namibia, Symonds scored 59 off 63 balls with 2 fours and 2 sixes. It was one of the most lop-sided matches in World Cup history. 

Presented with a target of 205 after Andy Bichel ripped out seven English wickets for 20 runs, Australia were given the rough treatment by Andy Caddick, who grabbed the first four scalps in a hurry. Wickets continued to tumble, Symonds fell for a duck, and Australia were in dire straits at 135 for eight. That man Bichel then allied with Michael Bevan to pull off a tremendous victory with two balls to spare.  

Symonds missed the first two super-six games, and scored an unbeaten 33 against Kenya to ring in victory.

A magnificent 91 not out in the 2003 semi-final

Then again, on that difficult St, George’s Park track, it was Symonds at his very best in the semi-final encounter with Sri Lanka. As Australia found themselves in some trouble at 51 for three, he put on 93 with Darren Lehmann.

Even as wickets continued to tumble thereafter, Symonds batted serenely to score a magnificent unbeaten 91 off 118 balls with 7 fours and a six. What a priceless knock it was, could be gauged from the fact that Australia could put together just 212 for seven in their 50 overs.

Symonds played a superb innings in the semi-final.

The Lankans struggled right through and when the rain came they were far short of the target. Symonds was once again the undisputed man-of-the-match.

The final was a one-sided affair. Symonds did not get the opportunity to bat but picked up two wickets for 7 runs as Australia won their second successive World Cup. It was a hugely successful tournament personally too for Symonds with those two tremendous knocks, an average of 163 and strike-rate of 90.55. Andrew Symonds had arrived, finally.

Australia’s brilliant run in the 2007 World Cup 

After missing the first two matches against the minnows in the 2007 event, having had surgery to repair his torn right bicep, Symonds made his appearance in the clash with South Africa. As Matthew Hayden smashed the then fastest century in a World Cup and Australia their highest score in the World Cup, Symonds could manage just 18 runs.

Hayden then hit the highest score for Australia in the World Cup as they took on hosts West Indies in the super-eights. Symonds got only 13 runs this time. He did not get the opportunity to bat against Bangladesh, and scored an unbeaten 28 off the English bowling to usher in an easy win. As Ireland packed up for 91 runs, Symonds was sent in one drop, and all he could do was score 15 not out to bring up another victory.

With the top-order in great form, Symonds did not have much to do in the 2007 World Cup.

It was all too easy for Australia in this World Cup, and Sri Lanka presented no difficulties either. They set a target of 227, and Symonds joined hands with skipper Ponting in an unbroken 106-run stand to take the team home yet again. Symonds hit up an unbeaten 63 off 71 balls with 5 fours and 2 sixes.

As Hayden got his third hundred of the tournament against New Zealand, Symonds scored just 11 in another big Aussie total and consequent facile win.

With all the top-order batsmen in such good form, it seemed as though Symonds’ primary task in this tournament was to take Australia home when they batted second. So it was once more in the semi-final. All that South Africa could total was 150. This time it was Michael Clarke who accompanied him to the winning post. Symonds was undefeated on 18.

In the final it was Adam Gilchrist who took the game away with his pyrotechnics. All that Symonds could do was play another quickfire unbeaten knock. He scored 23 as Australia posted 281 for four. The Sri Lankan challenge faded after a second-wicket century partnership between Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara, long before the light itself faded and the Duckworth-Lewis method drew the curtain on the most eventful and tragic World Cup. 

It was an easy ride for a brilliant Australian team in this tournament. They were hardly stretched and Symonds barely needed to exert himself.

Overall in his two World Cups, Symonds averaged 103, having hit up 515 runs with a brilliant strike-rate of 93.29. Controversies continued to cast a shadow over his career and Symonds’ international career finally came to an end when he had so much more to offer. He finally pressed the self-destruct button.

Andrew Symonds’ World Cup record:

Matches 18, Highest Score 143*, Runs 515, Average 103.00, Strike-rate 93.29, Hundred 1, Fifties 3, Catches 7

World Cup History: Anil Kumble – the enigma wh…

For a long time, Anil Kumble was somewhat of an enigma. He was a scourge on home wickets in India, where the ball generally grips the turf and afforded him just enough turn to beat the batsman. At the same time, he was relatively unsuccessful overseas with his quickish wrist-spin.

That India had a poor record away from home over a long period was in part somewhat linked to Kumble’s inability to strike on wickets not amenable to spin. Even so, he made a tremendous contribution to Indian cricket which, over the years, often turned solely to him to carve out victories.

Challenges faced by even the greatest 

We must also not forget that the peerless Shane Warne failed on Indian pitches and against Indian batsmen. The legendary Dennis Lillee found to his chagrin that it is very difficult to get wickets on the slow, flat tracks of Pakistan. His fearsome partner Jeff Thomson did not relish bowling on the softer English wickets. Doug Walters, a brilliant strokeplayer at home, also found batting difficult on the decks of England where the ball did not bounce as much as he liked.

These are four top-class Australians who have represented world-beating teams. Even the greats struggle sometimes in conditions not suitable to their craft. Let not Kumble, a modern giant among spinners, be singled out. 

The thinker and the fighter that he is, the blemish in his resume was certainly not lost on Kumble. He continued to strive and ultimately learnt to vary his flight and pace, mastered the googly, and added guile to the accuracy and venom that he always had. The added potency, allied to the emergence of young pacemen, made India a force to reckon with overseas too. 

In addition to his fine bowling in the World Cup, Kumble scored with his fielding, or more specifically, catching. He took the highest number of 8 catches in the 1996 tournament and is joint-eighth in the all-time list with 14 catches in 18 matches. With the ball, he conjured up many tricks that left batsmen perplexed. 

Kumble’s World Cup journey begins in 1996

Kumble first appeared in the World Cup in 1996 and immediately mesmerised the innocents from Kenya. He picked up his first wicket when he beat Maurice Odumbe on the forward stroke and had him stumped by Nayan Mongia. Having thus broken the Kenyan captain’s 96-run third-wicket stand with Steve Tikolo, Kumble went on to dismiss Hitesh Modi and Thomas Odoyo cheaply. Kenya went into a decline as Kumble finished with three for 28 off his 10 overs.

The West Indies middle-order felt the heat of his sizzling spinners. He castled Roland Holder for a duck and repeated the dose on Roger Harper and Otis Gibson. He took three for 35 in 10 overs as the Indian attack stunted the Caribbean innings.

In the hammering at the hands of an emergent Sri Lanka, Kumble was one bowler who made some impression on the marauding batsmen. He put a halt to the plunder by Sanath Jayasuriya, having him taken in the deep by Manoj Prabhakar. Soon he beat Aravinda de Silva in the flight to have him stumped by Mongia. That had the Sri Lankans worried but skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and Hashan Tillekeratne calmly carried them to the stiff target. Kumble conceded just 39 runs for his two wickets in 10 overs in the high-scoring match.

The Zimbabweans too found him difficult to score off as he took two for 33 off 9.4 overs.

Kumble’s three for 48 ended Pakistan’s challenge in the 1996 World Cup.

Kumble played a key role in the dramatic quarter-final. After Venkatesh Prasad had stung the Pakistanis with three wickets, Kumble caused further injury. He trapped Salim Malik leg-before, breaking the 52-run fifth-wicket partnership with old warhorse Javed Miandad. As Miandad battled on, Kumble continued to snipe at the batsmen. He deceived Mushtaq Ahmed into hitting the ball back to him.

Miandad was then run out, and he walked away from the international arena for the last time. The farewell cheers for Miandad had barely died down when Kumble trapped Ata-ur-Rahman leg-before. Kumble finished with three for 48 off 10 overs as India stormed into their third semi-final in four successive World Cups. 

The semi-final petered out like a firecracker that refuses to burst and just fizzles out even as onlookers watch in anticipation of it exploding in a blaze of light and sound. Kumble failed to make much impression on the Sri Lankan batsmen though he dismissed the brilliant Aravinda de Silva who played a superlative knock in the shadow of stunning early reverses at the hands of Javagal Srinath. Nevertheless, Kumble’s tally of 15 wickets was the highest in the tournament, to go well with his 8 catches.

India’s indifferent show in the 1999 World Cup

Kumble toiled in the 1999 World Cup but India’s campaign fizzled out in the super-six stage.

The cold and damp climate in late spring and early summer in England has never been kind to spinning fingers, and wrists. So was it for Kumble in 1999. He took two for 41 in a distressing defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe, dismissing Alistair Campbell and Guy Whittall in quick succession.

As India fought back to beat hosts England in the last league match, Kumble knocked the fight out of the middle-order by trapping both Andrew Flintoff and Adam Hollioake leg-before. He took two for 30 in 10 overs. 

Kumble backed up pacemen Srinath and Prasad as India achieved yet another World Cup victory over Pakistan. He surprised Azhar Mahmood with his bounce and had him snapped up by Mongia. That left Pakistan reeling at 78 for five. Finally, Kumble foxed Saqlain Mushtaq, trapping him leg-before as the Pakistani chase tapered out once again. His final tally was two for 43 off 10 overs. That was the last spark before the Indian challenge faded in the tournament. 

Batsmen fathomed Kumble’s predictable bowling

As batsmen around the world increasingly fathomed his predictable top-spin, Kumble did not innovate by developing newer deliveries. Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan prospered in the business because they found new tricks.

The emergence of Harbhajan Singh also left little room in the team, particularly when only one spinner was needed. Consequently, Kumble played only three matches in the 2003 World Cup.

Ironically, he bagged his best haul of four for 32 in the event against Holland but was relegated to the bench for the best part of the tournament. That must have hurt, for we saw a newer version of Kumble after that. He became a more complete bowler and succeeded in overhauling Kapil Dev’s record tally of Test wickets for India.

The 2007 World Cup was a disaster for India and Kumble got to participate only in the picnic with the rookies from Bermuda. He duly picked up three wickets for 38 in 9.1 overs.

The gangly, bespectacled, unathletic spinner scaled unimagined heights

Anil Kumble scaled heights few could have imagined in 1990.

When Kumble began his international career in 1990, who would have thought that a spinner who could not turn the ball, would finish with more than 600 wickets in Test matches, only behind the immortal Muralitharan and Warne, and over 300 wickets in one-day internationals?

To add lustre to these achievements is his feat of capturing all 10 wickets in a Test innings, only the second man to do so after the English off-spinner Jim Laker. That he touched such heights is a tribute more to his determination than the natural gifts that he was blessed with. Kumble is an inspiration to those who strive on and on and achieve wonders by sheer dint of hard work. 

Kumble has etched his name alongside the finest spinners in history. The lasting image is of him wheeling away his accurate wrist-spinners in a tangle of arms and legs.

The popular perception would be that he ranks among the most economical spinners. The irony is that all his top leg-spinning rivals in the World Cup – Abdul Qadir, Mushtaq Ahmed and Shane Warne – have slightly better economy-rates. That is not easy to figure out. And those are the vagaries of cricket.

Anil Kumble’s World Cup record:

Matches 18, Wickets 31, Average 22.83, Best 4/32, Economy 4.08, Catches 14

Cricket World Cup History: Andy Flower, the fi…

Andy Flower is seen essaying his famous reverse sweep

Andy Flower was one of Zimbabwe’s most well-known world-class players. He bloomed early in his career, becoming the third batsman to score a century on ODI debut during the 1992 World Cup. He became the sixth to achieve the feat in the World Cup and also carried his bat through the 50-over innings.

The southpaw’s unbeaten 115 came against Sri Lanka at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, in what was then the highest-scoring match ever in the premier tournament. He put on an unbroken 145-run stand with Andy Waller, which was a World Cup record for the fifth wicket.

Flower’s maiden essay spanning 152 deliveries was punctuated with eight hits to the ropes and one over it. Though Sri Lanka posted a last-over win, with a score of 313, the highest total at that time by a team batting second in the World Cup, the sudden blossoming of Flower caught everyone’s eye.

He might have made a dream debut, but Flower took his time to make a mark as a top performer. He took over the wicketkeeping duties from David Houghton and gradually developed into one of the best batsmen in the world. One of the most difficult batsmen to dislodge, he became a fine exponent of the reverse sweep. During the latter years, Zimbabwe’s fortunes were invariably linked to his performances. 

In the wake of his brilliant debut, Flower played a few cameos in the 1992 World Cup. He top-scored with 30 in a rain-marred game with New Zealand.

He was sailing along on 43 when rain halted the match against India, having earlier featured in an opening stand of 79 with Ali Shah. 

As Zimbabwe registered their first win after 18 straight World Cup defeats, shocking England in the last round-robin match at Albury, Flower snapped up three catches. Andy Flower had established a presence in his first appearance on the international stage. He was his team’s only centurion, highest run-getter and had the best average. 

1996 World Cup, Flower’s second major tournament

This was a sign of things to come, but the 1996 World Cup was a disaster for him. He was already captain and after two failures, dropped himself down to No.5. He continued to disappoint and reached double figures only in the last fixture, in which he managed to put together 28 runs. Oddly, he did not have a single catch to his credit throughout the tournament and affected just one stumping. It was a tournament he would have wanted to forget at once.

Alistair Campbell took over the captaincy in 1999. It was Zimbabwe’s best World Cup to date, thanks mainly to the exploits of Neil Johnson. Flower was now batting in the middle-order. He began well, scoring 34 off 46 balls and featuring in a 66-run fifth-wicket stand with Campbell, taking Zimbabwe to the doorstep of a win over Kenya.

He then hit an unbeaten 68 off 85 deliveries helping the side to a 250-plus total in the exciting and upset win over India.         

As Sri Lanka reduced Zimbabwe to 94 for six, Flower raised a 68-run stand with Stuart Carlisle. He was dismissed for 41 and the side could not put up a challenging total.

He suffered two successive run outs; cruising as he was on the second occasion in a Neil Johnson-inspired victory over South Africa. Zimbabwe advanced to the second stage of the World Cup on fifth attempt. Flower was unable to rise to the occasion in the Super-Six stages but he had played his part in the team’s fine run in the preliminary matches. 

A political end to a glittering career

There was turmoil in 2003. England declined to visit Zimbabwe in view of the prevailing political situation. Flower himself staged a black arm-band protest along with compatriot Henry Olonga over the policies of the government, and bid adieu to Zimbabwean cricket after the tournament. It was a sad way for the stalwart to depart when he still had much to offer. 

Flower had already handed over the big gloves to young Tatenda Taibu. By now he was one of the top-ranked batsmen in the world and, not unnaturally, had his best World Cup. He batted at no.3 in all the matches, save the last. As Craig Wishart pummelled the Namibian bowlers, Flower began with a knock of 39 off 29 balls with 3 fours and a six. 

After England refused to travel to Harare, forfeiting their match, Flower registered his lowest score of the tournament, falling for 22 against India.

As the Australian juggernaut rolled on relentlessly, Andy Flower put on 84 with brother Grant Flower. His 62 off 91 balls was comprised of eight boundaries. Despite a blitzkrieg towards the end by Andy Blignaut and skipper Heath Streak that took Zimbabwe to a near-250 total, the Australians were not tested.

There was respite as Zimbabwe took on Holland next. Though troubled by a groin strain, Flower again top-scored with 71 off 72 deliveries studded with seven fours. This time he combined with Mark Vermeulen and Guy Whittall in half-century stands. Blignaut and Streak again played hurricane knocks to help the team pass the 300-run mark. 

Rain caused the fixture with Pakistan to be abandoned and Zimbabwe reached the super-six for the second successive time. As the New Zealand pacemen exploited the early movement and bounce on the Goodyear Park track, Flower put on a resolute 54 for the second wicket with Wishart. Then wickets tumbled and Flower himself was run out by a Nathan Astle throw for 37. Zimbabwe crashed to 98 for five but Streak once again featured in a late-order revival. The Kiwis, though, were too strong in the end.

The match with Kenya was a frustrating experience for Flower. It was a vital contest but his colleagues flopped miserably. He scored 63 in a 101-ball vigil as the team collapsed to 133 all out. The jubilant Kenyans stormed into the semi-finals.

Flower made his farewell appearance in international cricket as the fired-up Sri Lankans made a charge for the last semi-final berth. The Lankans logged up 256 runs, and with Zimbabwe losing wickets steadily, Sri Lanka achieved their goal. Flower made 38 off 51 balls, hitting just one boundary, before he was trapped leg-before by another stalwart, Aravinda de Silva.

It was a tame end to a remarkable career.

No Zimbabwean batsman comes even remotely close to emulating Andy Flower’s splendid achievements with the bat. He battled resolutely for a team that struggled for the most part, a side that showed signs only fleetingly of competing with the best, only to slip into a quagmire again and again.

With Flower’s departure there is a gaping void that is not likely to be filled for a long time. There was so much focus on his batting that his role behind the stumps is almost forgotten. He kept wickets unobtrusively and efficiently for close to a decade. No one carried out this onerous dual role with more dedication. 

He scored close to 5000 runs in test matches with an average well above 50, and collected 160 dismissals. In ODI cricket, he notched up 6786 runs at an average of 35.34 and finished with 173 dismissals.

At the end of his career, Andy Flower had a total of 11580 runs from 276 matches, including 82 half-centuries and 16 centuries. Without doubt, Andy Flower is a legend of Zimbabwean cricket and an inspiration to players from upcoming nations.

Andy Flower’s World Cup batting and fielding record

Matches – 30

Batting record – Runs: 815, Average: 32.60, Strike rate: 68.25

Hundreds – 1, Fifties – 4

Highest score: 115*

Catches – 12, Stumpings – 3.

Cricket World Cup history: Sanath Jayasuriya, …

Sanath Jayasuriya

For years Sanath Jayasuriya languished in the lower middle-order. He was mistaken as a utility man meant to wheel his left arm over. He would deliver flat spinners that bothered few international batsmen.

Then during the 1995-96 tour to Australia, that canny Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga sent him out to open the innings, and take along the diminutive stumper Romesh Kaluwitharana for company.

That was the watershed moment in Jayasuriya’s career. A swashbuckling opener was born overnight, and the left-arm spin became only incidental.

Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana reinvented the concept of hitting over the top of the infield in the first 15 overs of one-day matches, pioneered by New Zealand’s Mark Greatbatch in the 1992 World Cup. The Sri Lankan duo carried this forward in the 1996 edition, and Jayasuriya never looked back from there.   

Jayasuriya’s only performance of note in the 1992 World Cup was a knock of 32 off 23 balls with 2 fours and 2 sixes in a vital 45-run fifth-wicket partnership with Ranatunga. Sri Lanka went on to beat Zimbabwe in their first fixture, posting the highest score batting second in the premier event.

In 1996, it was a different story. There was a period in the middle of the tournament when Jayasuriya was brilliant. After the two matches forfeited by Australia and the West Indies, and the easy win over Zimbabwe, India racked up 271 for three. In reply, Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana raised 53 in five overs.

Asanka Gurusinha came in, and by the 15th over the score had mounted to 119. The second-wicket stand realised 76 runs. Jayasuriya hammered 79 off 76 balls, smashing 9 fours and 2 sixes. He made the task very easy for the batsmen who followed, walking away with the man-of-the-match prize.  

There was a run-riot by the irrepressible Sri Lankans who piled up a World Cup record total of 398 for five against the hapless Kenyans. Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana sped to a whirlwind 50 off 20 deliveries. They blasted 83 off 40 deliveries in their exhilarating opening stand.

Jayasuriya hit up 44 off 27 balls, rocketing 3 sixes and 5 fours. That was the platform on which the mammoth total was built. 

Next, Jayasuriya made the quarter-final his own. English captain Michael Atherton’s ploy of opening the bowling with spinner Richard Illingworth seemed to work initially as he castled Kaluwitharana. But Jayasuriya hit four successive boundaries as a counter to the plan.

He then slammed a Philip DeFreitas over for 22 runs, including 2 fours and 2 sixes, equalling the record for the fastest World Cup fifty off 30 balls. He was racing along when he was stumped by Jack Russell off Dermot Reeve for 82 off just 44 deliveries, having slammed 13 fours and 3 sixes.

Gurusinha was, for the most part, a bystander in a second-wicket stand of 101. Jayasuriya was man-of-the-match again.  

Having been dismissed early in the semi-final, Jayasuriya struck with the ball. He broke an ominous-looking stand between Sachin Tendulkar and Sanjay Manjrekar, removing both. As the Indian batting began folding, Jayasuriya sent back Ajay Jadeja for a duck.

He took three for 12 off 7 overs before an unruly section of the crowd brought the match to a premature end.

Jayasuriya played only a bit part in the final, taking two catches to dismiss the Australian openers and claiming a wicket before being run out for 9. But he had done enough to win the Audi car as his player-of-the-tournament award.

Jayasuriya’s blitzkrieg at the top of the order had electrified the event as his jubilant team lifted the Cup.

The conditions in England in 1999 did not suit Jayasuriya’s attacking batsmanship or his one-dimensional spin bowling. Nor was his team at the top of its form.

He played just one innings of note, scoring 39 in a brisk opening stand of 72 with Roshan Mahanama as the defending champions salvaged some pride with a win over Kenya in the last pool match. 

The team went through much churning in the interim before the 2003 World Cup. Ranatunga had gone, Aravinda de Silva had come back for a last hurrah and Jayasuriya was at the helm.

His first match as captain in the premier tournament was memorable. The New Zealand bowlers kept him quiet initially, but he cut loose once he reached fifty. He drove Andre Adams for three boundaries through the covers in the same over.

Jayasuriya blazed his way to his first century in the World Cup and 16th overall in One-dayers. His 170-run stand with Hashan Tillekeratne was Sri Lanka’s best for the second wicket in the World Cup, surpassing his 101-run stand with Gurusinha in the 1996 quarter-final.

Jayasuriya slammed 120 off 125 balls with 14 boundaries, helping his side pile up 272 for seven. It was enough to register an easy win despite some late pyrotechnics by Scott Styris. Jayasuriya earned his third man-of-the-match award in the World Cup.

Bangladesh were trounced by 10 wickets, Jayasuriya scoring an unbeaten 55 off 57 balls with 7 fours and a six. Canada were skittled out for 36, the lowest total ever in the World Cup.

But Sri Lanka ran into trouble at the hands of Kenyan leg-spinner Collins Obuya, suffering an embarrassing defeat. With Kenya now emerging as contenders, the face-off with the West Indies became crucial for both teams in the race to the super-six.

On a wicket that offered encouragement to the bowlers, Jayasuriya gritted it out. Hashan Tillekeratne was his ally in a second-wicket stand of 85. Jayasuriya scored 66 off 99 balls with 4 boundaries, helping his side post 228 for six.

West Indies made a valiant effort under the Newlands lights but finished six runs short. Sri Lanka could heave a sigh of relief.

South African supporters cheered the Sri Lankans for beating the West Indies, for it ensured that their team stayed in the hunt. In the last pool match, the Proteas had to beat the very same Lankan team in order to advance.

The elements contrived to tie the game, Jayasuriya picking up the wickets of Jacques Kallis and Boeta Dippenaar. 

The Aussies were an awesome outfit in this tournament. They gave Sri Lanka no chance in their super-six encounter. Jayasuriya was hit by a nasty lifter from Brett Lee, chipping a bone in his left thumb, adding injury to the humiliating defeat.

Fortunately, the blow was not serious enough to keep him out of the remaining matches. India were the other team in form, and Sri Lanka were beaten again. 

They were, however, able to overcome Zimbabwe easily, making their way into the semi-finals. Jayasuriya captured three for 30 off 6 overs.

The semi-final against Australia was a daunting prospect. The Port Elizabeth wicket had caused batsmen much worry in the tournament and again the Aussie top-order floundered. But Andrew Symonds hit a brilliant unbeaten 91 to carry the side past the 200 mark.

Jayasuriya broke Darren Lehmann’s 93-run fourth-wicket stand with Symonds, and then dismissed Michael Bevan first ball. But Sri Lanka were never in the match thereafter, and rain put a slightly premature end to their campaign.

This was, nevertheless, their best World Cup thus far apart from the sensational 1996 title triumph. Jayasuriya led from the front and had a few personal highs too. In the latter half he did not perform well with the bat but chipped in with the ball.

Under the circumstances it would have been a satisfying tournament for him as Sri Lanka were certainly the third-best side. He relinquished the captaincy thereafter, the pressure getting even to one of the most mild-mannered stars in the game. 

There was a soft opening to the 2007 campaign with an easy victory over Bermuda, without a substantial contribution from Jayasuriya. He then played a superb innings against Bangladesh, racing to his fifty off 43 balls, having already clouted Syed Rasel and Abdur Razzak for 2 sixes each, besides four other boundaries.

His opening stand with Upul Tharanga was worth 98 in 14.2 overs. Rain intervened and shortly after resumption Jayasuriya twisted his knee, retiring hurt at 83, having faced 77 deliveries so far.

He returned to the crease at the fall of the third wicket. He took to Razzak again, slamming him for a six over square-leg to enter his 90s, and then another in his next over to raise his hundred off 85 balls. As if to celebrate he lofted the next delivery over mid-wicket for his 7th six.

The bowler, though, had his revenge immediately as Jayasuriya reverse-swept into the hands of short fine-leg. His innings of 109 included 7 fours as well, and it won him the man-of-the-match award as Sri Lanka coasted to an easy win.   

India were under pressure to win but though Jayasuriya fell cheaply, his side registered an easy victory. Jayasuriya scored a quick 26 off 27 deliveries with 4 boundaries in the super-eight thriller that South Africa clinched by one wicket.

Then followed a brilliant all-round performance against hosts West Indies. He raised his half-century off 47 deliveries, and put on 183 for the third wicket with skipper Mahela Jayawardene in 30 overs. His hundred came off 86 balls.

Jayasuriya finally fell for 115, having faced 101 deliveries and crashed 10 fours and 4 sixes. Sri Lanka topped the 300-run mark, and with the Caribbean side struggling, Jayasuriya bagged three wickets for 38 runs in 8.3 overs to complete a thorough demolition job. He wrested his second man-of-the-match prize of the tournament.

It was now Sri Lanka’s turn to pull off a two-run last-ball win over England. Jayasuriya played another cameo of 25 off 26 balls with four boundaries and one strike over the ropes. 

New Zealand posted 219 for seven in a vital face-off. Jayasuriya added a round 100 for the second wicket with Sangakkara in just under 21 overs. When he was dismissed for 64, his team was well on the way to a comfortable win. He hit 5 fours and a six in his 80-ball knock.

The invincible Aussies duly crushed Sri Lanka, and Jayasuriya fell leg-before-wicket to Nathan Bracken just when he was beginning to fire. In sharp contrast, the Irish were hardly in a position to stretch the Lankans, who were safely through to the semi-finals. 

Though Jayasuriya fell cheaply, Sri Lanka piled up 289 for five. The Kiwis were hardly ever in the game thereafter, and Jayasuriya bagged two valuable wickets for 57 runs off 9 overs.

Adam Gilchrist’s blitzkrieg more or less clinched the final but the Lankans were in the game as long as Jayasuriya was at the crease. He brought up his fifty off 51 deliveries, putting on 116 with Sangakkara in 17.4 overs. His dismissal for 63 began the downward slide, the 67-ball knock comprising 9 hits to the fence.

It was a fine World Cup for Jayasuriya in which he registered his best aggregate of 467 and average of 46.70 at a blistering strike-rate of 98.31. He played some scintillating innings and showed that the power and strokeplay, which for long had been his hallmarks, were still intact.

His team too acquitted itself most creditably, being second-best only to the awe-inspiring Aussies.

Jayasuriya was then the fourth-highest run-getter in the World Cup with 1165 runs at a brilliant strike-rate of 90.66. In all ODIs, he had the second-highest aggregate with 13,428 runs, only behind the peerless Sachin Tendulkar, and at a strike-rate of more than 91 runs per 100 balls.

The name Sanath Jayasuriya is synonymous with scintillating strokeplay. There was no flourish associated with his shots. His steely wrists and powerful forearms ensured that the ball streaked to the boundary or sailed over it with effortless ease.

He had a tight defence too, enabling him to see off stormy periods when the ball was darting about.

Jayasuriya came a long way from his early days as an anonymous bit-and-pieces player. He has been one of the most destructive batsmen at the top of the order in the history of the game. In full flight, Jayasuriya was one of the most thrilling sights in modern cricket.

Sanath Jayasuriya’s World Cup career:

Matches 38, Highest Score 120, Runs 1165, Average 34.26, Strike-rate 90.66, Hundreds 3, Fifties 6, Catches 18

Wickets 27, Average 39.25, Best 3/12, Economy 4.83

Cricket World Cup history: Peter Kirsten, the …

Peter Kirsten was remarkably consistent in the 1992 World Cup in the evening of his career.

How much international cricket lost while South Africa were in exile became apparent by watching Peter Kirsten’s performances in the 1992 World Cup. He was nearly 37 then, but he batted as if in his prime and was a model of consistency.

He was simply thrilled to be at the international stage: “I am just so happy to be here. Everything else is a bonus.” Kirsten played a huge part in South Africa’s maiden campaign in the World Cup wherein they reached the semi-final, and may have made the final as well with better luck.

But Kirsten was not even in the original squad of 20. There was an outcry, and he was included in the World Cup team only after some big scores in the Currie Cup and domestic One-day competitions. He was dubbed an ‘afterthought’. 

Batting in the key No. 3 slot, Kirsten made a fine World Cup debut with his unbeaten 49 as South Africa jolted hosts Australia. He featured in an unbroken 97-run stand with skipper Kepler Wessels as they brought up a nine-wicket victory over the holders.

It was a commendable initiation in the premier event for a man who had spent long years excelling at the first-class level. 

New Zealand, though, were a tough proposition in this tournament, but Kirsten played a fighting innings in adverse circumstances. He hit 90 off 129 balls with 10 fours as his team struggled to 190 for seven in their 50 overs. His fourth-wicket partnership with wicketkeeper Dave Richardson was worth 79 runs.

Kirsten top-scored again with 47 off 81 balls with 5 fours and a six as Sri Lanka pulled off a nail-biting win. His second-wicket stand of 87 with Wessels was in vain as South Africa were unable to put up a formidable total.

But they quickly corrected the anomaly when they took on the West Indies. Kirsten scored 56 off 91 balls and put his side back on track again. 

He missed the encounter with Pakistan, but continued his fine form as he carved out an unbeaten 62 from 103 deliveries off the Zimbabweans. His second-wicket partnership with Wessels yielded 112 runs.

Earlier he did a star-turn with the ball as well, taking three for 31, bagging the man-of-the-match award. Kirsten was initially supposed to be rested for this match; after his brilliant display he came to be known as ‘the magnificent afterthought’.

Kirsten’s two failures came against England, first in the league match and then in the semi-final. On both occasions he scored 11.

In between was a rain-hit match against India, who scored 180 for six in their 30 overs. The in-form Kirsten was sent in to open with Andrew Hudson. They put on 128 to set up a six-wicket win.

Kirsten scored a superb 84 off 86 balls with 7 boundaries to secure another man-of-the-match prize.

Kirsten was undoubtedly the star in South Africa’s splendid return to the international game. His scores of 49 not out, 90, 47, 56, 62 not out, 11, 84 and 11 are testimony to the fact that even in the evening of his career he could compete on even terms with the best in the game.

Such consistency is rare in one-day cricket. That he could achieve it in his first season at the top level reinforced his class and his desire to prove himself at least once before he bowed out. It also left the aficionados wondering what might have been.

Peter Kirstan’s World Cup batting and fielding record:

Matches 8, Highest Score 90, Runs 410, Average 68.33, Strike-rate 66.55, Fifties 4, Catches 2