(Adam Gilchrist, right, before the sun went down)

Did you have trouble seeing the conclusion of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup? You’re not alone. Though somewhat redeemed by Adam Gilchrist’s stunning 149 off 104 balls, Australia’s 53 run victory over Sri Lanka Saturday under the Duckworth-Lewis Method is unlikely to be remembered fondly by neutrals. From the Times Online :

The final saw a chaotic finish in which Australia were forced to bowl the final three overs in near darkness. The teams had left the field for bad light and umpires wrongly ruled that if they did not return they would have to play out the remainder the following morning.

Jeff Crowe, the World Cup final referee, is hoping the “human error” which turned the end of the showpiece match into a farce does not amount to a resignation issue for him. Crowe admitted last night that the responsibility lay with him for the confusion which led to Australia beating Sri Lanka and celebrating their third successive Cup crown twice over.

Crowe reported that the voices of both on-field umpires Steve Bucknor and Aleem Dar – as well as third official Rudi Koertzen and even the fourth, Billy Bowden – were heard before players from both teams were mistakenly informed that if they did not return from a break for bad light to play three remaining overs they would have to resume on the reserve day instead. Because 20 overs of the second innings had already been completed, the match was over – with no need or provision for using the second day.

With near darkness fast gathering, Sri Lanka – who eventually lost by 53 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis system – had already accepted there was no longer any way they could win. Captains Ricky Ponting and Mahela Jayawardene therefore agreed to bowl only slow bowlers and pat back the ball, before Australia were declared winners for a second and final time.

After a presentation ceremony in which a full-house crowd booed match and ICC officials for their perceived part in such an unsatisfactory ending, Crowe did not seek to explain away his and his colleagues’ errors. “I’m very embarrassed for the playing control team, it’s our mistake,” he said. “These circumstances are very difficult, and it is a bit of a crisis.

“We hope we can learn from this mistake and get it right. They are quite confusing issues to get right, but what we must make sure we do is look at the black print which says the game is over when the 20 overs have been completed. We got our minds clouded over that whole simple issue. It was some voices reiterating when the end of the match was, that tomorrow was the way forward – and that was incorrect.”