On this day: March 23, 2003: Ricky Ponting smashes 140 not out against India as Australia lift World Cup
Australian captain decimates Indian bowling to set up 125-run win in Johannesburg
It was the absolute peak of Australian cricket. The 'Invincibles' were the defending champions at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and unlike the 1999 edition where they battled their way into the final, here they were the dominant side throughout the tournament.
Their opponents in the final were Sourav Ganguly's Indian team who had found a fresh lease of life after a poor start to the tournament. Their bowling attack of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Javagal Srinath and Harbhajan Singh went from strength to strength as the tournament went on and were seen as the only team capable of stopping the Australian juggernaut.
Then came the final, which was played on March 23, 2003, in Johannesburg. India decided to bowl first in conditions that offered help to the quick bowlers. But after an over-enthusiastic first over by Khan, Australia were all over India like a rash.
Australian openers Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden added 105 runs for the opening wicket and after their dismissals, captain Ricky Ponting took over.
'Punter' hit a majestic 140 not out from just 121 balls with four fours and eight sixes while Damien Martyn scored 88 as the Aussies piled on 359-2 in their 50 overs. The match was done and dusted.
Still, India's batting line-up was strong and in-form, raising hopes of a fightback. Virender Sehwag did provide it, hitting 82 from 81 balls and taking the fight to the Australian camp. But the Australians were never going to let their foot off the gas. Sehwag was run out by Darren Lehman and with that, India's resistance ended.
Australia won the final by a massive 125 runs after they bowled India out for 234 in one of the most one-sided World Cup finals. Pace great Glenn McGrath finished with 3-52, including the early wicket of Sachin Tendulkar.
Former Australia coach John Buchanan called Ponting's knock "one of the finest innings in World Cup history".
"You'd go a long way to find better," Buchanan said. "As captain ... leading by the front and leading by example, taking the attack, both to the spin and the quick bowlers of India at the end of a long tournament. Probably hard to go past that one."
Ponting was more than happy as he had led from the front and played one of the best knocks of his career when it mattered.
"As the captain, it was my turn to stand up and I walked off 140 not out, having shared a record partnership with Damien Martyn at the time and posted 360 in a World Cup final. You're walking off there and you're thinking, 'Well that's done, game over – we've stood up here'."
For India, it was a bitter pill to swallow as it was one of their best limited overs side ever assembled. However, the core of that team formed the backbone of the 2011 World Cup side that lifted the 50-over crown in Mumbai.
Updated: March 23, 2020 09:00 AM