| Hayden nurses his broken big toe in Hamilton. The injury has cast a cloud on his World Cup outing. (AFP)
Feb. 20: A team score of 183 brought India the World Cup 24 years ago. Today, a personal 181 by Matthew Hayden wasn’t enough for his team.
Someone, somewhere, has raised the bar.
Rivals smirking at mighty Australia’s loss of face would be wise to do a reality check — it could happen as easily to them.
For, the bar wasn’t raised all of a sudden at Hamilton, where New Zealand today sprinted past the Aussies’ 346, just two days after making a target of 337 look small.
Signs that run chases would never be the same again have kept appearing over the past few years.
The highlight has been South Africa’s 438 for 9 last March after Australia had smashed their way to 434. That overtook New Zealand’s successful chase of 331 against Australia the previous year.
The Indians will have their own memories, having let Inzamam-ul Haq’s Pakistan come to within five runs of a 350-run target at the start of a showpiece series in March 2004.
While the Australians have suffered most, India has its own lessons to learn from the Hamilton humdinger.
One, getting the top order counts for little if you can neither polish off the ones who follow nor choke the runs at the death. New Zealand had been 41 for 4 before their middle and late orders snatched the game.
Two, big chases often end with victories by one or two wickets, and the tail-enders need to not just bat but hold their nerves.
Three, forget the power-play period and the slog overs; it’s the middle overs that count.
His team four down in the 10th over and the asking rate nearly 7.5, Craig McMillan smashed a hundred off 67 balls mostly with the field spread out. His quick scoring in partnership with Peter Fulton (51) and Brendon McCullum (86 not out) in the middle of the innings cut the ask down to about run-a-ball in the crucial closing overs.
Viv Richards would have had such heroics in mind yesterday when he hinted that his and Collis King’s legendary hitting in the 1979 final was now passe. By today’s standards, “batting was far more conventional those days”, the Master Blaster said.
So forget 1983. And 1975 when, facing England’s 334 in the inaugural World Cup match, Sunil Gavaskar settled for 36 not out off a full 60 overs because the target seemed impossible.
And remember not to go berserk if Sachin Tendulkar betters his current highest of 186 in the West Indies, or Mahendra Singh Dhoni outdoes Saeed Anwar’s record 194.
As Hayden now knows, it may not be enough.