It is my pleasure to make a small contribution to t5m’s excellent review of the Noughties decade. In this piece I have covered cricket, golf and rugby for the years 2000 to 2004. I will cover the same sports from 2005 to 2009 in a separate article next week. Mostly, I have been serious and straight-laced by reporting the most important events and achievements that happened, but towards the end I have allowed myself to become childish about rugby league and highly partisan about rugby union. It is boring to be neutral about sport, so let me declare unequivocally that Jonny Wilkinson’s drop-goal to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup was the best moment ever, ever, ever!Cricket:
Stump cameras brought new technology to TV coverage, preparing the way for Hawk-eye’s subsequent introduction. Bangladesh became the tenth Test cricket playing nation.
V.V.S. Laxman became the first Indian to score 250 in a Test match as India fought back from following on to win the Second Test against Australia, ending the Australians’ record 16 match winning streak. India went on to win the series 2-1. Sadly Sir Donald Bradman passed away but the great man retains the highest ever Test match batting average of 99.94.
Surrey CCC won the English County Championship in a year rocked by tragedy for the sport: Ben Hollioake died in a car crash, Hansie Cronje died in an air crash while still being investigated over match-fixing allegations and New Zealand were forced to abandon their tour of Pakistan after a bomb exploded outside their hotel in Karachi.
England lost the Ashes 4-1 to Australia, who continued their dominance of world cricket by winning the 2003 World Cup. However, against the run of form, the West Indies won a Test Match against Australia by scoring a world record 418 runs in the 4th innings. 20-20 launched in England as a new format of the game.
Shane Warne became the first spinner in history to take 500 Test wickets. India beat Pakistan in the highest scoring One Day International ever (693 runs), in the opening match of their first Pakistan tour since 1989.
Tiger Woods stamped his mastery on the world of golf, winning three majors in a calendar year: the US Open by 15 shots, a record for all masters, with a tournament record to-par score of -12; the British Open in a record to-par score for all majors of -19 and the PGA Championship with a score of -18.
By winning the US Masters early in the year, Tiger Woods became the first golfer ever to hold all four major titles simultaneously. However, he was unable to hold them all for long, with Retief Goosen winning the U.S Open, David Duval winning the British Open and David Toms securing the PGA.
Tiger Woods continued his dominance of world golf by winning the Masters and the US Open and losing out on the PGA by just one shot. Ernie Els won his third major and first British Open.
Tiger’s stranglehold lost its tightness, with all four major tournaments being won by other golfers. In the women’s game, Annika Sorenstam won the LPGA and the Women’s British Open.
Europe beat the USA 18.5 pts to 9.5 pts in the Ryder Cup, thus retaining the trophy and continuing to defy the American’s dominance of the individual player world rankings.
In the rugby league World Cup, Australia beat New Zealand 40-12 in the final. In rugby union, Italy were admitted to the new Six Nations Championship, which was won by England.
In rugby league, Australia continued their dominance, defeating Great Britain 28-12 in the third and deciding test match in the Ashes series at the JJB stadium. In rugby union, England again won the Six Nations and Leicester triumphed in the Heineken Cup final at the Stade Francais.
In rugby league, nothing much happened according to my information source. Presumably all the players had a year off and enjoyed themselves. In rugby union, the French stole the Six Nations crown from the English and Leicester again won the Heineken Cup. The All Blacks won the southern hemisphere Tri-Nations.
In rugby league, the players must have taken a holiday for a second year running because again my information source draws a blank. In rugby union, Jonny Wilkinson’s drop-goal deep into extra-time won the World Cup for England, by a score of 20 to Australia’s 17. The nation erupts in euphoria. Added to their Six Nations Grand Slam, Martin Johnson’s boys conquer all.
The rugby league boys returned from holiday and were so full of energy that they played a whole host of tournaments: the 2004 World Club Challenge was won by the Bradford Bulls; Australia won the ANZAC Test match against New Zealand; St Helens beat the Wigan Warriors in the final of the GB Challenge Cup and the Canterbury Bulldogs defeated the Sydney Roosters to win the NRL Premiership down-under.
Some rugby union was played in 2004, but England were so triumphant in 2003 that this editor does not want to move on. Jonny Wilko, big Martin Johnson, wily Neil Back … you are still our heroes.