It was to have been a titanic showdown. Instead, the World Cup final became an epic of a letdown. Forget going the distance, it lasted a mere 59.1 overs.
There was little passion and one team?s pride was in tatters.
Loads of credit to Australia for regaining the World Cup after 12 years. Surely, it?s not their fault that Pakistan have ensured most will remember this afternoon for reasons other than a no-holds-barred final.
In fact, so quick was Pakistan?s annihilation, by eight wickets, that Jack Russell, the former England wicketkeeper, had to re-arrange his work schedule. He even skipped the customary wine and sandwiches at the break.
Commissioned by NatWest to capture the winning moment on canvas, Russell was, like the rest of the cricket fraternity, stumped by Pakistan?s incredibly early finish ? posting the lowest-ever total in a World Cup final, 132.
Between strokes, then, there was little time to breathe. The ?ask? for Russell became even stiffer as Adam Gilchrist (a sizzling 54 off 36 deliveries) and Australia got off to a flyer.
Clearly, the Australians didn?t wish to succumb to the small-target syndrome.
Just the other evening, Akram had brushed off a suggestion that the Australians are, in the mind, tougher. Steve Waugh?s response had been a laugh. Today, Steve literally had the last laugh.
?We lost to a team which played better,? acknowledged Wasim Akram, adding that having made the final ?was in itself an achievement.?
The latter comment, one assumes, was for the benefit of those who?re now bound to revive allegations that Akram won?t find pleasing.
Thanks to the elements, the potentially cracker of a match began 30 minutes behind schedule, but Pakistan?s innings ended even before the designated close!
Thirtynine overs and it was all over. Even a miracle wouldn?t have helped Akram realise the dream of his life.
Having opted to bat, a minimum of 225 is what he would have been hoping for. Pakistan finished with too few runs to give their bowlers any chance against an opposition boosted by two terrific wins in the run-in to the final.
Akram was praying the law of averages would trip Australia. Today, the Australians, now unbeaten in seven games on-the-trot, proved they are immune.
?Appalling batting. What was the need to go for shots so early? That?s not the way to handle the pressures of a big final,? Imran Khan, the only Pakistani captain to have lifted the World Cup, told The Telegraph.
A couple of good deliveries, juice in the Lord?s wicket, some impetuous shots. Each played a part. But the telling difference was the Australian catching.
Breathtakingly outstanding were Mark Waugh (Wajahatullah Wasti), Steve (Abdul Razzak) and Ricky Ponting (Saqlain Mushtaq). The truism that catches win matches came alive as probably never before.
Of course, Pakistan can (rightfully) claim Inzamam-ul-Haq became a victim of David Shepherd?s misjudgment ? Hansie Cronje and Inzamam now have something in common ? but who can they blame for the other dismissals?
Tentative for every minute of his stay, Wasti was the first to depart. The in-form Anwar then played on and Pakistan were quickly on the mat: Two down for 21. Down the order, even Moin Khan didn?t deliver. But he can?t every day, can he?
Doesn?t help to largely rely on two batsmen ? Anwar at the top; Moin lower down.
Akram himself played a poor shot, aiming to send Man of the Match Shane Warne beyond the Grace Gate. If it was desperation-induced, it showed how beaten the Pakistanis were even before their innings ended.
Warne was fantastic yet again, but the spell which set the day?s agenda was by Glenn McGrath ? his first, 6-3-6-1. Warne, incidentally, matched the Mohinder Amarnath (1983) and Aravinda de Silva (1996) feat of being adjudged MoM both in the semi-finals and final.
Predictably, Lance Klusener was voted Player of the Tournament (281 runs and 17 wickets). Our very own Rahul Dravid finished as the No.1 rungetter (461), even though India didn?t make the semi-finals. Among bowlers, the honour went to Geoff Allott and Warne (20 wickets each).
There wasn?t any award for the best captain. But, if there was one, Steve Waugh would have collected his second cheque and trophy of the day. Akram would have finished runner-up there as well.