Four years after mauling India in the 2003 World Cup final, Australia returned older, wiser and stronger to take their domination to another level, winning all 11 games to clinch the trophy for a record third time. All of which belied some concerns going into the tournament, which arose when they were whitewashed 3-0 in New Zealand just one month before the World Cup started…
Michael Hussey: It was pretty much a second string team (in New Zealand). Yes, we were disappointed to lose but still played pretty decent cricket over there. We knew we were going to get some big name players back into the team. Once we arrived in the West Indies for the World Cup, we were a little bit on the edge. So we made sure we went in as hard as we could in the practice games.
I remember one against England in particular we played really well. Everyone was playing as close to their best as they possibly could. We really hit the ground running in the tournament. Obviously the games against Scotland and the Netherlands we were expected to win but we still had to go out and do the job. But our confidence had already been sort of built up by the lead-up games.After beating both Scotland and the Netherlands by more than 200 runs, Australia came up against South Africa in their final group game. This was their first meeting after the famous 438-run chase the year before, and for a brief period it looked like history might repeat itself with South Africa cruising towards a target of 378.
Hussey: We had a great rivalry against them. We obviously had good wins against lower teams but this was our chance against a proper top flight team just to see where we were at. It was a fantastic game of cricket. It could have gone either way in the end but a couple of little things went our way and we were happy to get over the line. I think the one that turned it our way was the run out of AB de Villiers. It might have been Shane Watson right on the boundary, dived, saved one, picked the ball up and threw it back in and ran out de Villiers (with a direct hit). Once we got him, I thought we got a little bit comfortable.
Australia went on to win the game by 84 runs, taking them into the Super Eights in confident mood. But the tournament was marred by the shocking demise of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer shortly after the Asian side’s exit. Quite dramatically, India had also made an early departure.
Hussey: I didn’t know Bob Woolmer personally but we were just absolutely shocked and I guess….. I’m not sure anger is the right word but we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. How could this be happening at a Cricket World Cup? It was just disbelief really. Probably a lot of emotions: shock, disbelief, anger and then hurt really for the team and plus his family as well.
We expected India to go pretty deep in the tournament. With the calibre of players they had it was unbelievable to see them go out earlier.