Rolling back the calendar by 14 years, the SuperSport Park at Centurion on this day saw one of the most insane batting fireworks in the history of World Cup cricket.
It was a pool B game between two-time champions West Indies and qualifier Canada at the World Cup 2003 – co-hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. After their narrow win over the hosts South Africa in the tournament opener at Cape Town, the Carl Hooper led side lost to New Zealand followed by a wash-out against Bangladesh. So their match against Canada was a must-win game.
Canada, on the other hand, surprised everyone by beating Bangladesh dramatically in the opener, but later swallowed the bitter pill against Kenya and Sri Lanka – the latter lasting just two hours with Canada recording the lowest-ever ODI total of 36. So it was high time that the North American nation – that was rich with immigrants in their squad – pull their socks up to put up a relatively stronger fight against the Test-playing nations in fray, if not, avoid going down in such an embarrassing manner.
Putting in to bat by Hooper, Canada promoted Ishwar Maraj up the order to open with John Davison. The first over of Mervyn Dillon to Maraj went almost a maiden – the only one run coming from a wide. In the first three overs, the pair added just six runs, before Davison decided to break free – smacking Pedro Collins for a four and a six off consecutive deliveries. 15 came off the Collins’ over followed by another 12 in the next from Dillon – Davison, who had first-class experience from his although not so remarkable stint at Australia – putting three successive deliveries to the fence.
After Dillon was pestered for another 15 off his fourth, Hooper decided to dispense him with Vasbert Drakes but to no avail – Davison welcomed the change with 13 (including two no-balls) thus reaching his fifty off just thirty balls. The mayhem kept continuing – Canada making 77 in first 10 overs and the 11th over from Drakes giving them another 16 – and the spectators had enough before their eyes in the first hour of the game with the potential of an upset. However in a relief for the Windies, Collins – in the 12th over – dismissed Maraj who scored just 16 of the opening partnership of 96.
Davison was joined in the middle by the Caribbean born Desmond Chumney – as skipper Hooper ended pace from both end by bringing himself into the attack. Later, he inducted Chris Gayle to change Collins for an all-spin attack – but with not much success apart from bringing down the run-rate slightly as Canada still sitting pretty in the driver’s seat at 149/1 in 20 overs. Meanwhile, Davison completed the then quickest century in World Cup in just 67 balls – reaching the milestone with a six off the last ball of the opening over of the second spell from Dillon.
Unable to make inroads, Hooper surprisingly handed the ball over to Wavell Hinds – the gamble proving a master-stroke. The slow-medium removed Chumney off the last ball of his first over and Davison off the first ball of his second. The explosive opener – who was twice dropped on 50 and 78 apart from a few inside edges sparing the stumps – finally fell on 111 after his 76-ball innings was mesmerized with eight boundaries and six over it. From there on, Canada kept on losing wickets at regular wickets – with Drakes running through their lower order and thus picking up a fifer in the process. Since Chumney’s departure, the associate nation could only make 47 in 22 overs – their innings finally closing at 202 with 7 overs remaining.
In reply, the explosive West Indies batsmen well understood the importance of keeping up a healthy net run-rate for a top-three finish among the seven teams in their pool for a qualification to the Super Six stage. Gayle and Hinds started the proceedings – with the latter taking the first plunge for a 14 off Davis Joseph. Gayle – who kept relatively calm – perished early in the fifth over itself making way for the prolific Brian Lara to take off the baton. After taking his first wicket, Joseph once again bore the brunt of the Caribbean batters – with Lara and Hinds – squeezing 21 out of his fourth over making the Canada captain Joe Harris abandon him for the rest of the game.
The Barbados-born Nicholas Ifill was greeted with 17 off his first – Hinds thus reached his fifty off 24 balls in the process, eclipsing Tom Moody’s earlier 28-ball feat to becoming the quickest in World Cup history. The Hinds’ feat perhaps spurred his partner at the other end who shattered the record inside the next five minutes to go better by a ball following the most expensive over of the day and also the then history of the tournament – Lara vanquishing left-armer Barry Seebaran for 26 although the final ball of the over did produce a dot.
With both the fastest and the second fastest fifty in their kitty, West Indies stood firm at 119/1 at the end of the first 10 overs. Davison now came up with the ball and in the third delivery itself avenged himself of Hinds – whose 31-ball 64 with 10 fours and 3 sixes finally came to an end. Ramnaresh Sarwan joined Lara – and after a brief partnership, another Caribbean-linked in Nicholas de Groot went through the southpaw’s defence. Lara’s hour-long fireworks too came to an end – his 73 came off 40 balls and was studded with 8 fours and 5 sixes.
With 26 shy from a win, Sarwan and Hooper ensured there were no further hiccups as they reached the finishing line on the third ball of the 21st over – thus winning the game massively. Afterwards, West Indies lost to Sri Lanka narrowly and the share spoils from the earlier weather-spoilt Bangladesh encounter hurt them the most eventually as they fell two points short of New Zealand and thus failed to qualify for the next round. Already out of the tournament, Canada lost both of their remaining games heavily.
Brief scores: Canada – 202 (42.5) Davison scoring the quickest WC ton off 67 balls; West Indies – 206/3 (20.3) Hinds scoring the quickest WC fifty off 24 balls, Lara breaking the record in the next over – fifty off 23 balls
Photo by Percita