Rajan's Wrong 'Un: Hair, flair and hot air...The men whose exploits lit up this tournament

World Cup Diary
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The Independent Online

Innings of the tournament

Kevin O'Brien

Has a better World Cup knock been played? Sporting absurd hair, O'Brien scored the fastest ever World Cup hundred as Ireland bludgeoned their way to the highest successful run-chase in the tournament's history. His first 50 took 30 balls; his second, 20. He was finally run out on 113 off 63 balls. And if an Irishman ever hits a ball harder than his 102-metre six off Jimmy Anderson, Dublin's the capital of Egypt.

Most glorious farewell

Ricky Ponting

What a hero. He broke a telly in a fit of anger, suffered badly with delayed flights, confounded his critics with a brilliant 104 in the quarter-final defeat to India, was out playing one of the few reverse sweeps of his career – and then resigned as captain. But that knock showed why, Tendulkar and Lara aside, he's the best batsman the modern game has seen.

Most inglorious farewell

Shoaib Akhtar

Shorn of his locks and looking gaunt, the fastest of all bowlers was thumped around by Kiwi Ross Taylor, and fell out of favour for having a go at keeper Kamran Akmal, who dropped Taylor twice in one over. "Do you want me to cry?" he asked assorted journalists. "Playing for Pakistan was a dream. Yes, a dream."

Top tear-jerker

Steve Tikolo

Talking of tears, Kenya's greatest cricketer bowed out with a measly 10 against Zimbabwe. It threatened to be an anti-climactic end for a man who embodied his country's contribution to the sport. But as he left the middle for the final time, the Zimbabweans rushed to shake his hand, and Tikolo could restrain the waterworks no more.

Promising youngster

Tim Southee

As this column has noted, the Kiwis regularly produce exhilarating pacemen whose careers are sadly curtailed by injury (Geoff Allott, Shane Bond). Let's hope Southee stays injury-free. Quick and equipped with an excellent wrist action for the outswinger, his 18 wickets at 17.33 prompted coach Allan Donald to declare him a potential great.

Shot of the tournament

Hiral Patel

The sight of huge Aussie paceman Shaun Tait is enough to turn the stomachs of the most established batsman, but not Canada's 19-year-old Hiral Patel. With Australia determined to register their 34th consecutive World Cup victory, Patel rocked back to the first ball of the third over and slashed him for six over cover. Look it up on YouTube.

Most obvious foreign ringer

Trent Johnston

With apologies to Pakistani, sorry, South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir, I must report that when Trent Johnston walked out to bat for the Irish at the death against England, a senior colleague asked: "Trent Johnston, I wonder how Irish he is." Wikipedia promptly told us he was born in Wollongong, New South Wales. You know, just west of Galway.

Special commendation for English affability

Geoffrey Boycott

Early on, the Yorkshire terrier defied Delhi police who tried to confiscate his sandwiches. Boycott, who's had throat cancer and doesn't eat spicy food, told them: "I'm taking my bloody sandwiches in." Weeks later, when Michael Yardy flew home with depression, Boycs said Yardy was "not good enough" for the top level, and said Yardy must have been reading his comments. Pride in a countryman's pain: how very English!

Overheard Whisper

Muttiah Muralitharan and Jacob Oram

"Pssst... the one that got you was a chuck."

Amol Rajan's 'Twirlymen: the Unlikely History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers' is published by Yellow Jersey on 5 May