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Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 17:09 GMT

Cracks show in World Cup

By Martin Gough
BBC Sport

Andy Bichel is surrounded by celebrating team-mates A tournament intended to celebrate all things African ended up as a celebration of all things Australian.

There was a sense of anti-climax as Ricky Ponting's men swept all before them to become the first side ever to go through a World Cup undefeated.

At least, after the arguments over which sides deserved to reach the later stages, organisers got a final involving the best team and the best-supported team in the world.

After the excitement of the opening match, though, close games could be counted on the fingers of a single hand.

Even though Australia were rarely close to defeat, it was exhilarating to witness their progression through the tournament.

But the enjoyment to be had, in sporting near-perfection, was not enough to paper completely over the cracks apparent in the eighth ICC showpiece.

A 54-game tournament seemed stretched to snapping point with three former champions knocked out in the first round.

Kenya's achievement in reaching the semi-finals cannot be over-stated.

The East Africans beat three Test-playing nations along the way and gave a far-from-easy ride to both of the finalists.

But they lacked the mass appeal that Pakistan, England or West Indies would have brought to the final stages.

RAIN-HIT MATCHES

  • Group A
    Zim 340/2 (50 overs) bt Nam 104/5 (25.1) by 86 runs
    Aus 170/2 (36) bt Holl 122 (30.2) by 75 runs
    Zim v Pak 73/3 (14) - no result
  • Group B
    NZ 229/1 (36.5) bt SA 306/6 (50) by 9 wkts
    Ban 32/2 (8.1) v WI 244/9 (50) - no result
    SA 229/6 (45) v SL 268/9 (50) - match tied
  • Semi-final
    Aus 212/7 (50) bt SL 123/7 (38.1) by 48 runs

    Australia showed there could be no off-field excuses for not going the whole way, but fans in England, the Caribbean and at home in South Africa could all be forgiven a good whinge.

    Debates over the staging of matches in Zimbabwe clouded the start of the tournament, and especially England's participation in it.

    Whatever the rights or wrongs of teams playing in Harare and Bulawayo, most felt players should never have been forced to worry over the issue in the first place.

    Bad weather, and how to deal with it, is always a contentious issue when there is everything at stake.

    West Indies were effectively robbed of a Super Six place by the bad weather that washed out their match against Bangladesh.

    But those who criticised the lack of a reserve day for all group matches failed to consider the equally-chaotic possibilities if teams' schedules had been thrown haywire.

    South Africa only had themselves to blame for the miscommunication which led to their tied match with Sri Lanka, and another heart-breaking World Cup exit.

    But it was still a shame the Rainbow Nation did not get the chance to cheer their side through the second round.

    That second round brought a fortnight of limbo, when teams went through the motions knowing already who was most likely to reach the semi-finals.

    Nasser Hussain's men are inconsolable In a revision to the Super Six of four years ago, teams carried through a point for each first round win over non-qualifiers, making Australia, India and Kenya almost certain to progress.

    Only New Zealand, their own campaign blighted by the forfeited match in Nairobi, were mourned as casualties of the second round.

    Super Six may be consigned to history before 2007, when 16 teams could be involved and there will be even more organisational headaches as the tournament is spread throughout the Caribbean.

    But it is the intensity of battle, rather than the actions of the authorities, which determines how long a World Cup will last in the memory.

    CWC 2003 was hardest hit by the failure of any side to come close to stopping the Australian juggernaut.



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    Related to this story:

    Duckworth hits back at SA (06 Mar 03 |  South Africa )
    Bacher: World Cup too long (22 Mar 03 |  World Cup )
    England out of World Cup (04 Mar 03 |  England )
    Plans take shape for Caribbean Cup (10 Mar 03 |  World Cup )
    West Indies: Where it went wrong (05 Mar 03 |  West Indies )

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