On a super Sunday at MCG, Australia dictated terms from start and produced an extremely comprehensive final performance to inscribe their name as five-time winners of the Cricket World Cup. Once Brendon McCullum was taken in the very first over, New Zealand couldn’t recover as Australians applied pressure. Except Grant Elliot and Ross Taylor, none of the other Kiwi batsmen could stand to the fiery Australian bowlers. Clarke’s men held unwavering sway over their neighbors, who were playing their sole World Cup match outside their national boundaries. To the credit of the Aussies, they played their last two matches against teams, who topped their pools with unprecedented record of any World Cup. Against India too, the Australians had played with unstinted focus and they repeated the form against New Zealand in the final. Viewers felt cheated because they had to endure a patently one-sided game, in which one side played a second fiddle from the time the World Cup Final got underway. In their Pool-A league match at Auckland last month, New Zealand had laid Australia low with great bowling performance and despite hiccups towards the end, maintained their unblemished winning record. But the promise of the final game going to the wire was sadly belied on March 29, 2015, when Australia bowled out New Zealand for a paltry 183 in 45 overs and then came out to finish the game with a 7-wicket win with more than 100 balls remaining.
New Zealand supporters must have felt great, when McCullum got lucky with the coin toss and aptly chose to take the batting option. Every time that happened previously, New Zealand had ended with mountainous scores. But when it mattered most, they failed and went into a drag. The drama began in the first over from Mitchell Starc, after Martin Guptill had taken a single and brought McCullum to face Starc. In his characteristic way, the Kiwi plunderer had a go at 149 kph from Starc and missed. He did the same to the second delivery that came a shade slower. However, Starc came up with a beautiful ball that ripped off the seam and swung dangerously. The tentativeness from McCullum resulted in a late movement of his bat as the fuller ball went through to peg back McCullum’s off stump. Starc was in the seventh heaven as he launched into a celebratory run. The entire MCG rose on its feet as Australia had accounted for one of the most explosive batsmen in the world.
McCullum’s first-over dismissal shocked the Kiwi batsman to an extent that they failed to recover. Guptill and Kane Williamson went into their shells and New Zealand could only muster 31/1 in 10 overs. Guptill had taken 31 balls for his 14 runs and Williamson 26 for 11 runs. In the 12th over, Michael Clarke made an unexpected bowling change. He brought Glenn Maxwell. While that surprised the critics, it surprised Martin Guptill even more as an innocuous looking straight ball went through and castled him. There were frenzied celebrations on the ground and the jam-packed stands. Australia were firmly in control with two of New Zealand’s most prolific World Cup performers had gone out of the reckoning. The slowdown that had settled became worse, even as Ross Taylor arrived. But all he could see immediately was the back of his more illustrious partner. Kane Williamson played a trifle too early to Mitchell Johnson and his feet were grounded. All he could manage was a straightforward lobbed catch back to Johnson. The score of 41/3 in 13 overs was too demoralizing for a side that had set its eyes on the coveted first-time trophy. Clarke had already taken off Maxwell and continued with his pace bowlers, who were making life difficult for the Kiwi batsmen. But to the credit of Taylor and Elliott, they did their best under the circumstances. They refused to be cowed down and carved out a 111-run fourth-wicket stand by the 36th over. While New Zealand wanted them to continue, the luck deserted them. Taylor fell after scoring 40 off 72 balls in the 36th over to make it 150/4 for New Zealand. Afterwards, though Elliott held one end, wickets had begun to tumble. After scoring an extremely nicely compiled 83 off 82 balls, Elliott lost his wicket and New Zealand innings folded at 183 in 45 overs.
Australians must have brainwashed before the start of their innings about the pitfalls of chasing low targets but David Warner did not appear to pay heed despite losing his partner in the second over. Playing as nonchalantly as ever, Warner went for everything that came on his bat and added 61 runs with Steve Smith for the second wicket. Warner fell to a short banged-in delivery as he went for the pull and holed out to deep square leg. Clarke came to join Smith and the two accomplished batsmen played very sensibly. They had all the time to reach the target and therefore they avoided all risky adventures. After adding 112 runs for the third wicket with Smith, Clarke fell as Australia’s third wicket. At that point, Australia required just 9 runs for victory. Smith and Watson finished the task as Australia recorded their fifth win in World Cup finals.
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