/ 29 April 2007

Ponting: ‘I’ll never forget this day’

Australia captain Ricky Ponting celebrated a third successive World Cup triumph in Barbados on Saturday and admitted it was an achievement that will live with him forever.

”I will never forget this day,” said Ponting after the 53-run win over Sri Lanka in the Kensington Oval final that was cut short by the rain and ended in confusion. ”It’s an amazing feeling to be involved with this group of players and I’m especially proud of our achievement.”

Australia won all 11 matches they played at the World Cup and have not lost a match in the tournament since the 1999 edition in England. ”We played unbelievable cricket in this World Cup. We didn’t have a close game at all in the competition and that’s all credit to the guys.”

The victory was set up by a final record score of 149 by Adam Gilchrist, who set the platform for the 281-4 total off a rain-reduced 38 overs.

”Gilly was the difference today,” said the skipper. ”But all the players have kept challenging themselves and the results have been getting better.”

Gilchrist admitted a third successive World Cup triumph was an incredible achievement for the all-conquering Australians who came in to the tournament having lost two consecutive series to England and New Zealand.

”It was really pleasing to do it on an important day. I’ve been getting a lot of starts, 30s and 40s, but hadn’t converted and that was really frustrating,” said Gilchrist after a final marred by rain.

”It’s terrific. The guys have worked so hard. It’s been a really satisfying tournament for us and a great way to say goodbye to Glenn McGrath and [coach] John Buchanan [who are both retiring]. It’s closure for some really great careers.

”It’s been a great campaign because there were lots of question marks over our character coming into the World Cup.”

The final ended in farce when Sri Lanka batsmen Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga walked off with three overs left after being offered the light in the gathering gloom.

The Australians celebrated victory and even the podiums were brought on to the pitch for the presentations, but umpires Steve Bucknor and Aleem Dar ordered the match to be finished in appalling conditions.

”Gilly was brilliant. He took the game away from us,” said Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene. ”We got to the point where we were keeping up, but then another cloud came along. Australia were just too good for us. They were very professional. It was a tough ask with the weather and we were chasing the game.”

McGrath finished his career with a third World Cup winners’ medal, but admitted he will not have second thoughts about his decision. ”I’m pretty happy with the way things have finished,” said the veteran fast-bowler who finished with a record 26 wickets in the Caribbean tournament and 71 in his World Cup career.

”I think that with retirement just around the corner I enjoyed things even more. It’s been a long career and I have loved every minute of it. I’ll miss playing and the guys, but it will be nice to spend time with my family.”

Australia coach John Buchanan admitted his team are a class above everybody else. ”It’s like day and night between us and the rest,” he said. ”It’s a fairytale to win three World Cups in a row. It really is an unbelievable achievement and it’s due to the team and the support team.

”We have great players, and when you have great players this is what happens.” — Sapa-AFP