|The World Cup final being played in darkness at the Kensington Oval on Saturday. (AP)
April 29: You must be kidding Mr Umpire, Ricky Ponting thought.
Here he was, celebrating a World Cup victory with teammates, and suddenly Aleem Dar walks up to him and says with a straight face: “It looks like you’ll have to come back tomorrow and play three overs.”
Good joke mate, haha. Except that it wasn’t one.
Ponting, though, didn’t have to wait till this morning to savour Australia’s third straight World Cup win.
Instead, the two teams were forced into three overs of meaningless play in pitch darkness after the Austra-lians had technically won the match.
Overzealous officialdom had succeeded in scripting a fittingly farcical end for World Cup 2007 after having spoiled the entire tournament for cricket fans with its contempt for common sense.
Umpires Steve Bucknor and Dar started it all when they offered the light to the Lankans who were 206 for 7 off 33 overs chasing a revised target of 269 off 36.
As Chamara Silva and Russel Arnold walked off, the Australians hugged each other —till Ponting turned around to look at Dar with disbelief.
“I actually thought he was having a bit of a joke with us to try and stop our celebrations or something,” he later told reporters. To Dar, he said: “Mate, we’ve played the 20 overs, we’ve finished the game.”
And right he was, as match referee Jeff Crowe admitted today, owning blame for the goof-up.
The rules say that if both sides have completed 20 overs, an unfinished match will be decided by the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene came to the rescue, offering to play out the remaining three overs.
By the time the game resumed, Glenn McGrath, in his last match for Australia, had grabbed a stump. The organisers were erecting the podium and the 30-yard-circle markers had been removed.
The scoreboard, for once refusing to be an ass, had flashed “Congratulations Australia.”
And night had fallen on the Kensington Oval.
The Australians agreed to bowl only spinners, which Jayawardene described as a “goodwill gesture”. But the wait for the end was prolonged when Dar referred a run-out to the TV umpire. He then signalled a wide (the bowler probably couldn’t see the stumps).
“As head of the match-controlling unit, I own up responsibility (for the farce),” Crowe said. “It’s a human error.”
The umpires were guilty of another serious lapse: it turned out they had failed to inform the Lankans that their original target of 282 off 38 overs had been revised.
“It was a little bit disappointing way to end a World Cup,” Ponting said.