Five years after that packed ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2015 final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Player of the Match James Faulkner remembers the match against New Zealand like it was yesterday.
Mitchell Starc had set the tone for Australia early by cleaning up New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum in the first over with a trademark yorker, and New Zealand were soon reduced to 39/3 in front of a vociferous home crowd in Melbourne. Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor mounted an incredible fightback for the Kiwis, before Faulkner stole the show with three wickets.
At 150/3, New Zealand had looked on course for a challenging total, but Faulkner broke the 111-run partnership by ensnaring Taylor with a slower ball to have him caught behind. "Taylor was starting to be a bit more aggressive, but it was just a gut feel to start with a slower ball," Faulkner recalled in an interview with cricket.com.au, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the win on 29 March. "It didn't come out where I wanted it at all. I was trying to get it slow and wide but not as full as that."
Faulkner then removed the dangerous left-hander Corey Anderson first ball with a sharp yorker. That too was a deviation from the original plan that got him the wicket, he revealed. "The plan for Anderson was 'don't bowl full to him, especially early'. I don't know what happened. I just had a rush of blood and wanted to knock his pegs over or blow his foot off.
"The crowd was up and about and the adrenaline was pumping. I thought, 'Stuff it, I'm going to have a crack here'. "It went away from what our plan was, but I dunno, those things can happen. It was going to be for just one ball, and it worked out, thank God!"
With Elliott still in the middle and eyeing a potential hundred, Australia still couldn't rest easy. That is until Faulkner removed him for 83 with another slower ball. "He threw the kitchen sink at it and that was the end of him. [I] gave him a little bit of a send-off … yeah, definitely did. But I've spoken to him since then, we've shared a couple of beers."
Faulkner's efforts were instrumental to Black Caps collapsing to 183 all out, but the early wicket of opener Aaron Finch unsettled nerves in the Australian camp, with Faulkner's thoughts going back to the group stage game against the same opponents when Australia had been bundled for 151. "When Finchy got out, it sent a little bit of shockwave through the group. 'Is this like Auckland again?' But once Pup (Michael Clarke) got going, we ended up doing it easily."
Faulkner was named the Player of the Match for running through New Zealand's middle order, but he said winning the World Cup was a more special feeling. "Winning the World Cup was 10 times better than winning Player of the Match. When we received the trophy and Pup lifted it up on stage: unreal, awesome. The walk around the ground as well, seeing friends and family, I was seeing people who'd bought tickets I hadn't seen for years, it was surreal."
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