The first match of World Cup '03 pitted host South Africa vs the Windies, in a rematch of the 1996 quarterfinal. Seven years had gone but the result and the protagonist stayed the same. Brian Lara hit a superb 116 & his second fifty came off just 43 balls.
Greatest CWC Moment - 43 Days to Go
The 2003 edition began with an impressive opening ceremony, and 14 teams had gathered in the picturesque Cape Town. All eyes were on Lara, who was making a comeback to international cricket after being out for five months due to injury.
West Indies captain Carl Hooper won the toss and decided to bat on a sunny day at Newlands in Cape Town. The move appeared to backfire initially as the West Indies was soon two down with just seven runs on the board by the end of the seventh over, losing both Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds, the openers, to Shaun Pollock.
CWC Greatest Moments, 43 days to go
Lara walked in at No. 3 with the scoreboard reading 4 for 1 in five overs, which became 7 for 2 by the end of the seventh over. Joined by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Lara had the task of not just rebuilding the innings, but also picking up the flagging run-rate.
In the rebuilding phase, West Indies made steady progress, with Lara adding 102 runs for the third wicket with Chanderpaul, in which the younger partner contributed 34. Lara reached his half-century off 78 balls with a boundary off Lance Klusener, and from there he upped the ante.
There was an array of the trademark flourishing drives and rasping cuts, as the next 50 runs off Lara’s blade took only 43 balls. The 24,000-strong sold out home crowd rose to applaud his genius when the century was raised, and by the time he was dismissed for 116 off 134, the West Indies total was 215, with the best part of five overs left.
"I've worked hard for four or five months. I told myself that I had to push and shove myself to get to the front of this young, talented side. It (the innings) was important in the context of the tournament.”
Brian Lara, after the match
Ricardo Powell (40 off 18 balls) and Ramnaresh Sarwan (32 off 15 balls) ensured the platform that was built with such care was used as a perfect launchpad to plunder runs in the last few overs as West Indies ended up with a very healthy 278 for 5.
What happened next:
South Africa had to chase the total in 49 overs, docked an over due to a slow over-rate. The host had a long batting line-up, which meant that even though a strong start had been followed by a middle-order wobble, it had the wherewithal to mount the chase.
Lance Klusener, hero of the previous World Cup, hit out from No.8 after the score read 204 for 7 to take his side close to the finish line. With nine needed off the 49th and final over, Klusener fell in the third ball which allowed the West Indies to snatch a three-run win.
“(Brian) Lara was out of touch to start with, but he played himself back into form and then his strokeplay burst over the scene like a firework display.”