Men's ODI World Cup 2019

Ponting's epic 2003 World Cup final ton

Legendary batsman struck one of his best centuries and leads Australia to World Cup triumph on this day in 2003

Cricket Network

23 March 2018, 08:17 PM AEST

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Having gone through the tournament unbeaten, Australia saved their most complete performance of the 2003 World Cup for the final in Johannesburg. 

Sent in to bat by India skipper Sourav Ganguly, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden provided a lightning start before captain Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn combined for a record partnership that all-but secured Australia's third World Cup title. 

Ponting took 74 balls to reach his half-century, hitting just one boundary, before he unleashed an extraordinary attack in the final overs. 

"It had taken me about 70 balls to get to 50," Ponting recalled recently. "And because the game was so under control and we were scoring quickly, I wanted to make sure I was there at the end.

"The 12th man came out and I said, 'Tell the boys to strap the seatbelts on, I'm gonna go flat-out from now and see what happens'.

"I got most of them in the middle from there on in."

Ponting
Ponting salutes his century // Getty

The skipper launched consecutive sixes off Harbhajan Singh in the 39th over before peeling off another six maximums in an impressive display of power hitting. 

He finished unbeaten on 140, with his second 90 runs coming from just 47 balls, while Martyn overcame a broken finger to finish on 88 not out from 84 deliveries.

"As the captain, it was my turn to stand up and I walked off 140 not out, having shared (an Australian 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'."

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Former Australia coach John Buchanan said it was "one of the finest innings in World Cup history, given the situation".

"You'd go a long way to find better. 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," Buchanan said.

Ponting and Martyn's unbeaten stand of 234, which included 55 from the last four overs of the innings, remains a World Cup final record. 

While Ponting's knock is rightly heralded, Ponting paid tribute to the often overlooked efforts by Martyn, who struck an unbeaten 88 from 84 deliveries – with a broken finger, no less.

It was a knock Ponting believes showed "the other side" of the cavalier middle-order batsman's character.

Martyn and Ponting with the 2003 World Cup final spoils // Getty
Martyn and Ponting with the 2003 World Cup final spoils // Getty

"He had a badly broken finger but I was desperate for him to play because he'd played right the way through, he was an experienced player, and ‘Marto’ was one of those guys who, when things got toughest, he was at his best," Ponting told The Howie Games podcast.

"If you think about some of the Test tours to India and Sri Lanka where conditions were hard, he found a way and got it done.

"Most people that looked at him and the way that he played, probably don't see that side of him. They see the other side of him – the arrogance and the swagger and the class with the way that he played.

"But they don't see the other side of him very often.

"I remember going to him a couple of days before the (final) and saying, 'Look, needle it [his finger] for me today, get through training, I'll watch you catch a few balls and hit a few balls, and then when you've finished, look me in the eye and tell me you can play, because I want you to play.'

"The morning of the game I went to him and said, 'Look me in the eye and tell me you can play'.

"He looked at me and said, 'I can play'.

"He went out and played alright – he got 88 not out and it was a special moment in the career."

India's faint hope of victory seemingly evaporated in the very first over of their run chase, when Glenn McGrath removed Sachin Tendulkar for just 4.

Tendulkar
Tendulkar departs in the 2003 final // Getty

A brilliant bowling display and some outstanding fielding eventually secured the win by 125 runs and Ponting celebrated the second of his three World Cup triumphs.

Buchanan – who has the highest winning percentage of matches of any coach in both Test and ODI formats – said his entire squad played a part in the tournament victory. 

"One of the reasons why you win tournaments is the depth of the group that you have, everybody works together to achieve an end point. It was a good group and we achieved some special things," Buchanan said.

World Cup win
Australia's third World Cup triumph // Getty