The ICC ODI Cricket World Cup came to African continent in 2003 for its eighth edition. South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya hosted the 2003 edition with South Africa getting the lion’s share of matches. However, Zimbabwe and Kenya were facing security issues which led to two forfeited games.
England decided to forfeit their game against Zimbabwe in Harare and the Kiwis also decided not to travel to Nairobi for the game against Kenyans. The 2003 World Cup had 14 teams, 2 more than the 1999 edition. Just like in 99, the group-stage was followed by the Super-Six format.
Hosts South Africa were in group B with Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies and the two associates, Kenya and Canada. The Canadians returned to the World Cup after 24 years.
Defending champions Australia were in group A with England, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and the two associates Namibia and Netherlands completing the line-up, the Namibians were making their maiden World Cup appearance.
In the opening match of the tournament, hosts South Africa lost a tight game against the Windies. Batting first, the West Indians were struggling at 67/2 after 25 overs, Brian Lara after a slow start played a delightful innings of 116 and with lower order finishing strongly, the Windies ended up at 278.
South Africa in reply lost wickets regularly but Lance Klusener played a brisk knock at the end and thus made the match an interesting one, West Indies sealed the win with Klusener’s wicket in last over as they won by 3 runs.
Against New Zealand at Wanderers, Herschelle Gibbs scored a brilliant hundred but Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming replied with a composed hundred to win the game for his side by 9 wickets.
South Africa convincingly won against Bangladesh, Canada and Kenya but still needed to beat Sri Lanka in the last group game to qualify for the next stage.
Marvan Atapattu’s century at Kingsmead gave Proteas 269 to chase under the lights. As the rain arrived, miscalculation of Duckworth and Lewis equation by Proteas led their exit in a disappointing way. With 40 needed from 5 overs, the match ended in a tie on DLS method and once again South Africans exited from a World Cup in circumstances full of drama.
Sri Lanka suffered an upset defeat at the hands of Kenya but won 4 matches in the group to qualify for next round. Against Bangladesh, Chaminda Vaas took a hat-trick in first over of the match.
New Zealand forfeited points against Kenya and lost against Sri Lanka but won the remaining 4 matches to make it to the Super-Sixes. West Indies lost against New Zealand and Sri Lanka but it was the rain against Bangladesh which cost Windies qualification. The points gained from the forfeited match against New Zealand and the upset win against Sri Lanka enabled the Kenyans to qualify for the next round.
Bangladesh finished at the bottom of the table as they took points only from the rain-affected game. Canada succeeded in registering a win, against Bangladesh courtesy a five-wicket haul by Austin Codrington.
Defending champions Australia suffered a massive blow when star spinner Shane Warne failed a drugs test on the eve of their first match which ruled him out of the tournament. However, Australia regrouped to dominate rest of the teams with sheer brilliance.
Andrew Symonds struck a fantastic hundred under pressure against Pakistan at Wanderers to set up an easy win.
Aussies hammered India by 9 wickets in Centurion and avoided a certain defeat against England to win by 2 wickets as the Kangaroos won all their six group matches.
India though lost badly against Australia but otherwise played fantastic cricket to finish with 5 wins. Sachin Tendulkar played a classic innings of 98 against arch-rivals Pakistan and India maintained their 100% World Cup record against Pakistan.
England beat Pakistan in a heavily one-sided affair but the points forfeited against Zimbabwe proved vital in England’s elimination.
Pakistan performed poorly as they won only against Namibia and Netherlands, the match against Zimbabwe was affected by rain. Shoaib Akhtar bowled 161.3 km/h delivery against England, the fastest in cricket history and Wasim Akram completed the 500-wicket landmark against Netherlands, the first bowler to do so in ODIs.
Zimbabwe qualified for the Super-Sixes courtesy wins against Namibians and Dutch and points gained from England’s forfeiture and also from rain-hit game against Pakistan. The Dutch beat Namibia to have some consolation.
In the Super-Six stage, each team played a match against every team from other group. Australia had no trouble in qualifying for the semis as they beat Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Kenya with some bold cricket.
Against New Zealand, the Aussies were struggling at 84/7 but the mighty Aussies proved themselves the World Champions by scoring 212 and then winning by a margin of over 100 runs.
India had no trouble in securing the semi-final berth as they won all their 3 matches with ease. Kenya continued their fairy tale as victory against Zimbabwe in Super-Six was enough for the African nation to qualify for semis.
Sri Lanka was the fourth side to qualify for the semis, a solitary win in Super-Sixes ultimately proved enough for the Islanders. New Zealand and Zimbabwe bowed out of the World Cup with one and zero win respectively in Super-Sixes.
The semi-finals saw Australia facing Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth and India against Kenya in Durban. Australian batting line-up showing vulnerability throughout the tournament struggled at the top in semi-final. An unbeaten 91 by Andrew Symonds enabled Aussies to finish at 212.
The Australian bowling attack defended 212 comfortably as even the inclusion of eight genuine batsmen in the XI didn’t help Sri Lanka. Australia were clearly ahead when the rain arrived as they won 48 runs on DLS.
Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly led India to the semi-final win against Kenya with a brilliant hundred.
23rd of March 2003 was the day when World Cup final was played between Australia India at Wanderers in Johannesburg. Sourav Ganguly decided to bowl after winning the toss, a decision which irked the Indian fans very much.
Ricky Ponting played a captain’s knock of 140 not out as he and Damien Martyn registered a big partnership of 234 as a humongous total of 359/2 was registered by the Aussies.
Glenn Mcgrath took the prize wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in the very first over and though Virender Sehwag fought bravely for his 82 but the target of 360 was well beyond the reach of Indians. Australia won by 125 runs to become the second team after West Indies to win back-to-back titles.
Ricky Ponting was adjudged man of the match for his majestic 140 and Sachin Tendulkar with 673 runs was declared as the player of the tournament. The master blaster was the leading run-scorer of the tournament whereas Chaminda Vaas took most (23) number of wickets in the event.