Australia © AFP
Australia won the ICC World Cup 2003 in comprehensive fashion © AFP


The Rainbow Nation got its first taste of the ICC World Cup in 2003. It was an outstanding moment in their history, given that it had been only a shade over 11 years since their return to international cricket. International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to increase the number of teams to 14. By then Bangladesh had also got Test status; the Associate Nations to make it to World Cup 2003 were Kenya, Namibia, Netherlands, and Canada.

The format of the tournament remained the same, but two extra teams increased the number of matches from 42 to 54. Zimbabwe hosted all six of their league matches (three at Harare, three at Bulawayo); England declined to visit Zimbabwe as a form of protest against the Robert Mugabe Government, and gave a walkover to Zimbabwe. Nairobi were also allotted two matches, against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Kenya got a walkover when New Zealand did not visit them on security grounds.

The walkovers turned out to be crucial, as both Zimbabwe and Kenya reached the Super Sixes. Since Sri Lanka and New Zealand both qualified, Kenya went in with full points, and a win against Zimbabwe ensured them a spot in the semi-final; they remain the only Associate Nation to reach the top four.

Drama unfolded before the World Cup in both Indian and Australian camps. While Indian players ran into a controversy with sponsor logos (the Indian team sponsor clashed with the tournament sponsor), Shane Warne missed the entire World Cup after he tested positive in a drug test before the tournament.

There was more controversy during Zimbabwe’s first match of the tournament, against Namibia at Harare. Andy Flower and Henry Olonga donned black armbands as they took field as a protest against the Mugabe regime. Both men left the country and pursued cricket careers elsewhere following the World Cup.

South Africa started the tournament in familiar fashion, with that man Brian Lara delivering the knockout punch. They also bowed out on a low because they miscalculated the Duckworth-Lewis numbers. Both England and Pakistan were knocked out in the league stage, as were West Indies.

Australia played in spectacular fashion, winning all 11 of their matches without being bowled out once. They were troubled by England and New Zealand, both matches being played at St George’s Park, but eventually won in both. Though India won nine of their 11 matches, two one-sided defeats (including one against Australia in the final) tell the story: there was daylight between Australia and India, and probably more daylight between India and the others.

Classic matches

Shoaib Akhtar breaks 100-mph barrier

John Davison’s fastest World Cup hundred goes in vain

Crafty Chaminda Vaas prevails over rampant Ramnaresh Sarwan

Sachin Tendulkar’s 98 destroys Pakistan’s artillery

South Africa fail again, this time on calculations

Batsmen help Brett Lee triumph over Shane Bond

Australia survive Aasif Karim scare

Semi-final: Adam Gilchrist walks

Final: Ricky Ponting-Damien Martyn show decimates India

Final: Ricky Ponting mauls India to defend title


– World Cup 2003 saw the number of teams being increased to 14, and the number of matches to 54.

– World Cup 2003 was the second edition to be hosted in the Southern Hemisphere (after 1992) and the first in Africa.

– World Cup 2003 was hosted by three countries, of which Kenya made it to the semi-finals, Zimbabwe to the Super Sixes, while South Africa could not go past the group stage.

– South Africa and Sri Lanka played what has been the only tie decided by the Duckworth-Lewis system in World Cup.

– Chaminda Vaas and Brett Lee claimed hat-tricks. Vaas still remains the only bowler to take wickets off the first three balls of a One-Day International (ODI); he also took another wicket that over.

– Canada’s 36 against Sri Lanka remains the lowest score in a World Cup.

– Australia became the first team in the history of World Cup to win 11 matches in a single edition of the tournament. India also won nine, two more than the seven Australia had won in 1987 and 1999 and New Zealand in 1992.

– India lost to Australia twice, but won their remaining nine matches.

– Kenya remain the only Associate Nation to reach the top six, and eventually the top four.

– Sourav Ganguly equalled Mark Waugh’s feat of three hundreds in the same World Cup.

– Adam Gilchrist became the first wicketkeeper to effect 20 or more dismissals in a single World Cup.

– Ricky Ponting became the first fielder to take 10 or more catches in a single World Cup.

– The wicket of Nick Statham of Namibia was Wasim Akram’s 500th in ODIs. He was the first bowler to the milestone.

– Not only did Shoaib Akhtar cross the 100-mile barrier in the World Cup, he also scored 43 in the same match; it remains an ODI record for a No. 11 batsman.

– Canada’s appearance in World Cup 2003 after a hiatus of 24 years remains a record.


Most runs: Sachin Tendulkar (673), Sourav Ganguly (465), Ricky Ponting (415)

Most wickets: Chaminda Vaas (23), Brett Lee (22), Glenn McGrath (21)

Highest team score: 359 for 2, Australia against India, New Wanderers, March 23

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