2006 review: Australia breaks through

Australia, which had not reached the final of the previous four competitions, won the title for the first time and skipper Ricky Ponting attributed it to team effort. 

The jubilant Australian team with the trophy.   -  K. R. Deepak

Brian Lara suspected that his team may have been overcome by stage fright against Australia in the title match of the ICC Champions Trophy at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai. 

Unseasonal showers had delayed the start of the final by almost three hours and in the end, the West Indies — competing to defend the trophy it had won defeating England in the 2004 final at The Oval in London — flattered to deceive after a blazing 49-run start from Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul and was shot out for 138 in two and a half hours. Australia, which had lost the league match to the West Indies by 10 runs, flexed its muscles to win the title for the first time. A jubilant Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, said: “We were desperate to win and again the players showed the character to be the best. It was a commanding display by our team.”

Australia, which had not reached the final of the previous four competitions, had a whiff of the title when left-arm seamer Nathan Bracken rocked the top-order and once he removed the in-form Gayle, the West Indies innings collapsed like a pack of cards. Gayle made 37, Chanderpaul 27, and Dwayne Bravo 21, but the rest fell for single digit scores. Glenn McGrath and Shane Watson ripped apart the middle order, including the wicket of Lara, who had recovered from a back spasm on the eve of the final.

Fast bowler Jerome Taylor, who had taken a hat-trick in the league match against Ponting’s team at the same venue, sent back the Australian captain for a duck, but Shane Watson (Man of the Match in the final) and Damien Martyn took their side past the finishing line. 

A victory in a little over two hours, by eight wickets and with 41 balls to spare in the final reduced to 35 overs, reflected Australia’s supremacy, but the team’s behaviour — virtually pushing Sharad Pawar (the then BCCI President) off the stage — did not go down well with those who were witness to the unseemly act, especially by Martyn. Pawar did not seem to be affected by the Australian team’s conduct: “It was a small thing, a stupid thing. I don’t want to react,” said Pawar.

Controversy surrounded the final with the West Indies absenting itself from the ICC Awards function that was held the previous night and Ponting wanted the ICC to take action against Lara’s team. “Obviously, it’s all just to do with their preparation and what they feel is their best preparation to be right for the game. That’s what they decided to do, but it will definitely be looked at by the ICC. There will be some sort of breach there I would imagine, but that’s for them to decide. We all had to go. No choice. No option,” said Ponting. 

The low-scoring final was in keeping with the scores put on board in the four previous league matches. The final was affected by rain, but the Cricket Club of India, which spent a lot of money to equip the stadium with floodlights for the tournament, could not get the pitch prepared to enable the batsmen to make runs freely. The ICC’s pitch consultant Andy Atkinson was commissioned and he used some glue to bind the surface and to make it last for 100 overs. 

The home team, led by Rahul Dravid, began well, defeating England inJaipur by four wickets. The seamers, Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan, and off-spinner Ramesh Powar played their part by taking eight wickets and skittling out England for 125 in 25 overs. India struggled before Yuvraj Singh played a defiant unbeaten knock of 27 off 61 balls in 88 minutes. Tendulkar had made 35 off 41 balls. 

India lost to the West Indies by three wickets in Ahmedabad and thereafter to Australia in Mohali. A freak leg injury while warming up playing kho-kho ruled out Yuvraj Singh for the match in Chandigarh, his hometown. India’s total of 249 was easily overtaken by Australia.

Australia, West Indies, South Africa and New Zealand advanced to the semifinals. 

Gayle scored a sparkling unbeaten 133 off 135 balls (17x4, 3x6) as the West Indies beat South Africa by six wickets. And in the second semifinal, Australia rallied splendidly to post 240, after the loss of Adam Gilchrist and Shane Watson with only four runs on the board. Brett Lee, McGrath and Bracken made New Zealand slip to 35 for six before Jacom Oram (43) and Daniel Vettori (79) took their side’s score to 206.

Gayle proved to be a big hit collecting 474 runs, including three centuries — against Bangladesh (104 not out), England (101) and South Africa (133 not out). Another West Indian, Jerome Taylor, took 13 wickets, the highest haul of the tournament.

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