29 March 2015
Dominant Australia lifts World Cup for fifth time
Pacers bowl New Zealand out for 183 before Clarke hits farewell fifty in seven-wicket win in final
Michael Clarke holds the trophy aloft as Australia players celebrate winning the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup final.
There is nothing Australia loves more than to strut its stuff in front of its fans. There was no shortage of support as the MCG, bursting at the seams with a record 93,013 fans in attendance, buzzed with electricity well before the toss. Decked up in their yellow tees and wearing their yellow caps with pride, Australia’s supporters prepared for a capital show from their heroes. They were not to be disappointed.
In Michael Clarke’s final appearance as a One-Day International player, Australia showed its class, romping to a big win in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. New Zealand arrived in Australia hopeful of becoming the newest first-time champion. But in the space of seven hours on Sunday (March 29), it was emphatically denied.
Clarke led with the astuteness and assurance of a general who knows his troops are used to overwhelming success. Brendon McCullum, inspirational and enterprising thus far, had a bad day with the bat and, momentarily, perhaps decisively, was defensive as captain. With only 183 to defend, New Zealand’s only option was to bowl Australia out. But when McCullum took second slip out as early as the fifth over and saw David Warner edge Tim Southee exactly through where that fielder had been, the moment had passed.
Australia would have been 23 for 2 at that stage; instead, Warner celebrated the let-off with a succession of boundaries to negate the Trent Boult-Southee threat before ceding centre stage to Clarke.
Clarke’s farewell fifty, a free-flowing innings full of sumptuous strokes, was the icing on the cake as Australia clattered to 186 for 3 and a seven-wicket romp with 101 deliveries to spare. Steven Smith, imperceptibly, brought up a half-century of his own in perhaps his most important but least celebrated knock to date, their 112-run stand a wonderful amalgam of the present and the future. Clarke fell with victory imminent, walking off to his second standing ovation of the night.
It was not just Australia’s fifth World Cup title, it also meant it had won a World Cup in each of the continents where cricket is played. Now, beat that.
Australia’s three left-arm quicks had used different tactics in the afternoon to share eight wickets. Mitchell Starc swung the ball at express pace, Mitchell Johnson was fast and nasty and smart and cunning, and James Faulkner set the cat among the pigeons with cunning changes of pace, especially in the batting Power Play where he picked up two wickets in the very first over. For good measure, Josh Hazlewood extracted appreciable bounce and kept pushing the batsmen back with his nagging length, and there was a bonus wicket in Glenn Maxwell’s first over too as everything Clarke touched turned instantly to gold.
New Zealand had no such riches. Boult did evict Aaron Finch in his first over with customary inswing, but Southee was disappointing in his first spell, allowing Warner to latch on to him. Matt Henry bowled his heart out without much luck, and even as McCullum set innovative, well thought-out fields to Smith and Clarke at the start of their innings, you could sense that a lot of the fight had gone out of him and his side when Warner’s outside edge flew past the vacant second slip.
Warner was eventually caught on the pull but had done enough damage, with a bruising 46-ball 45 in a low-scoring game. With his stand of 61 with the fluent Smith, he had calmed early nerves. Then, Clarke took over. Having walked out to a standing ovation, Clarke bided his time before leaving his imprint with the bat too. A couple of streaky early boundaries gave way to silken smooth drives through the covers and effortless caresses over the straight field. Smith was happy to sit back and watch his captain.
The New Zealand innings lost momentum after the early loss of the tone-setting McCullum. All tournament, the skipper has got the side off to blistering starts, but on Sunday, he didn’t even lay bat to ball. Starc produced an outstanding first over. After Martin Guptill escaped with a single, Starc gave McCullum a terrific working over. The battle lasted only three deliveries, but it was gripping and intense. It was also to be the first defining phase of the final.
Only when Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott, the only batsman that showed fluency, were involved in a 111-run stand for the fourth wicket did the famed New Zealand resolve make its appearance. New Zealand, however, had little to show either side of that 97-minute, 137-ball alliance as its last seven wickets tumbled for 33 in 60 deliveries to a combination of skill and intelligence from the home side. Australia used the short delivery liberally, but the follow-up balls were the one that did the damage. Eight of the ten wickets fell to full balls, testimony to Australia’s game plan that took emotion completely out of the equation.
McCullum could have been out first-ball, an inswinger cutting him in half and narrowly missing both inside edge and off stump. He could have been out second ball, charging the bowler and seeing the ball slide between leg stump and himself on its way to Brad Haddin. He was out third ball, well beaten and bowled by a full ball that screamed past the inside of the bat and pegged off pole back.
It was a dramatic start. Starc went on a celebratory run that finished up at square-leg, his teammates converging on him to show how much that strike, that wicket of McCullum, meant to the team. Already pumped up, that scalp energised the Australians even more. The ball was fizzing around – this was no flat deck – as Haddin repeatedly took it well above his head. Starc mixed his lengths up, Hazlewood got exceptional bounce. Guptill and Kane Williamson had nowhere to go.
Clarke’s captaincy throughout was immaculate. He was always on the lookout for wickets, even when he was cramming the ten overs from Maxwell and Shane Watson before the batting Power Play. Guptill was bowled playing inside the line to Maxwell and Williamson’s innings ended with a return catch to Johnson, once again lifting himself on the big stage.
Faulkner then dug the dagger deeper as the Power Play began, evicting a thoroughly unconvincing Taylor with his first ball, and sending Corey Anderson packing with his third. Taylor’s struggles were ended by a slower delivery that he went reaching for and only managed a nick through to the keeper; as if to showcase his versatility, Faulkner produced a fast yorker two deliveries later to get under Anderson’s bat during a game-turning double-wicket maiden just when New Zealand was bracing for a final assault.
Luke Ronchi’s optimistic, fatal waft in the next over from Starc was further illustration that New Zealand had fluffed the lines in its biggest match. All Elliott needed at that stage was some support. Instead, by the end of the batting Power Play, New Zealand had added just 15 in losing three wickets and whatever momentum that might have been accrued by the Taylor-Elliott duet.
There was no sting in the tail. Maxwell’s wonderful presence of mind and accuracy from midwicket to catch Southee napping and end the innings summed up the difference between the two teams.
Thousands celebrate in Melbourne on Monday
Australia team public event details