Sir Donald Bradman must be feeling the youngest Australian sports person today. His cricketing sons have brought him and his country a fabulous gift that would ever remain as Australia's most precious sports possession of the century. The Australian cricketers led by 'Mr Cool' Steve Waugh never looked like a champion side during the first week of the World Cup 1999.
Those were the days when South Africa and Pakistan were setting a blistering pace and appeared certain to meet in the final at Lord's. Australia after their victory over the West Indies in the last preliminary round match on May 30 created a chosen platform to build their own palace. And it was certainly a "brick by brick" effort which got the finishing touches this Sunday before a packed gathering at Lord's and, of course, before a bewildered set of Pakistan players headed by Wasim Akram the man who nurtured a golden dream that would now remain only a dream.
The Cup would have been a fitting tribute to Wasim Akram for all his wonderful deeds during his illustrious career. But then his men who were doing anything for the skipper right from the start of this year, failed miserably today, the day when only their collective effort would have enabled Wasim Akram to reach the top of the game's Everest. An unimaginative batsmanship sent the entire team tumbling down from the penultimate cliff. All those who wrote and spoke eloquently to provide a grand build-up to the Pakistan-Australia final, and the the millions of lovers of the game, remained speachless as Australia made the final a pathetic one-sided affair. Steve Waugh after losing the toss to field first, quipped , " I am not unhappy".
Later we realised that Waugh knew about his men better than anybody else. The meticulous manner in which the Australian had done their home work reflected in the way in which they executed their plans on the field. Right from the word "go", there was hardly a period in this "shortest match ever" when Pakistan looked likely to stage a recovery-act. Precisely they appeared like students, after hectic preparation, sitting inactive at the examination hall.
The Australian pacemen Glenn McGrath and Damien Fleming took a wicket each in the fifth and sixth over of the match ( Saeed Anwar and Wajahatullah Wasti) to make it 21 for 2. Then once Shane Warne rolled over a beauty to end the effort of an ambitious Ijaz Ahmed (68 for three in 19.4) many an expert would have visualised Pakistan's collapse. It looked so imminent because suddenly the Pakistan batsmen known for their fleunt stroke-play looked cramped and tensed. That was an ominous sign for a team which solely depend on instinctive play.
Shane Warne did a magificent job ( 9-1-33-4) and would be returning home as the World's proudest and most productive leg-spinner. In this Cup championship which was generally dominated by swing and seam bowlers an orthodox artist like Warne never had a decorated seat. Moreover, Warne, after his shoulder operation, was not believed to be the same old fox of a bowler. But this big hearted giant struck at the right moment for his side in this championship, and, at the end of it all his tally read 20 wickets ( equalling New Zealand's medium-pacer Geoff Allott).
More than that piece of statisitics, it is the courage and conviction shown by this great bowler that would have given immense satisfaction to the purists of the game. He was always enthusiastically ready to come on to bowl as per the wish of his skipper. Be it the early overs or the death overs, Shane Warne bowled like Shane Warne. There lied the greatness of this star performer and any captain would love to possess a Shane Warne in his side. No wonder Warne today got the man of the match award. Glenn McGrath battled as fiercely as ever and returned figures of 9-3-13-2.
That the Pakistan innings lasted just 39 overs would tell for the feeble challenge offered by their batsmen to the ever-trying Australian bowlers. No bowler did a mistake today. Fleming was no doubt costly (6-0-30-1) but that did not matter as Paul Reiffel (10-0-29-1) and Tom Moody (5-0-17-2) bowled their hearts out and Steve Waugh was the happiest leader. A victory target of 133 runs never drives anybody's imagination crazy. Will the Australians be bundled out for lesser total? Are not the Pakistani attack is about the best in this championship when it comes to class and variety?. TheAustralian openers Adam Gilchrist (54 off 36 balls, 8x4, 1x6) and Mark Waugh (37 not out off 51 balls) answered those questions emphatically by picking up 74 runs off 10 overs without being separated.