It had been the World Cup of short balls. On a flat MCG deck, it had seemed bounce would be the bowlers’ major ally. But so cocksure were Australia’s pace phalanx of their quality, they left nothing to the vagaries of the surface, firing balls full, fast and straight to deliver Australia a seven-wicket win and its fifth World Cup in comprehensive fashion, ESPN reports. Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson shared five wickets, having sent down several spells of searing, swinging yorkers between them, and James Faulkner – slower but cannier than the other left-armers – claimed three scalps for himself. In all, eight wickets fell to full deliveries as New Zealand were felled for 183 in the 45th over.
There were early nerves in the chase, particularly when Aaron Finch fell in the second over, but Michael Clarke and Steven Smith stroked fluent half-centuries to run the target down inside 34 overs. Clarke, the departing captain, had a standing ovation when he left the field after his sparkling 74 from 72. Smith, his most likely successor, stayed at the crease to hit the last ball of the World Cup through deep square leg for four. All through the tournament batting sides have broken games open in the final 15 overs of their innings, but Australia bent history in a different direction by blowing through New Zealand’s middle order and tail during the death overs. New Zealand might have harboured hopes of a score of 250, perhaps even 300, when Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor’s 111-run stand had repaired early damage. But when the batting Powerplay came on at the 35th over, Faulkner claimed two scalps from three balls to send the opposition into a nosedive.
His slower ball first took Taylor’s outside edge en route to a diving Brad Haddin, before two balls later, Corey Anderson missed a straight yorker that made a mess of his stumps. Luke Ronchi was caught sharply at slip off Starc early next over, and Daniel Vettori castled by Johnson in the 41st. Elliott had played smoothly for his 82 ball 83, but was forced into a premature attack by the carnage at the other end, and was dismissed by a now-combative Faulkner, before a Glenn Maxwell direct hit found a languid Tim Southee short of his crease to end the innings.
In the end it was a final almost completely devoid of David v Goliath romance. New Zealand had captured neutral support partly because of the spirit with which they had played this World Cup, but all through the final, there were touches of arrogance from Australia to go with their overpowering skill and strength. Brad Haddin’s sniping from behind the stumps was nearly incessant, several New Zealand batsmen had words shot at them as they departed, and the David Warner blows that kick-started Australia’s chase smacked of disdain.
Luck too, favoured 21st century pragmatism over the fairytale. Daniel Vettori, the final’s oldest man, injured himself early in the second innings and could only pivot gingerly through his five overs. Brendon McCullum had attacked relentlessly in the field right through this campaign, but the moment Warner’s assault bent his resolve out of shape, the next ball flew through second slip, where moments before a fielder had stood. Then the final slap in the face in the 15th over: Matt Henry’s ball dribbled onto Smith’s stumps, but did not dislodge the zing bails.
McCullum’s World Cup final innings was a high-octane blur. Starc bowled fast and full, straightening the ball only a touch, but menacingly late. McCullum swung straight at the first, missed, then missed again when he advanced next ball. The third inswinging yorker clattered into the base of off stump. Starc took off toward square leg in celebration, the MCG’s mighty roar in his ears. McCullum left his side at 1 for 1, having been comprehensively outdone. The early wicket helped weigh the New Zealand batsmen down, but Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson were also muted by impeccable pace bowling from Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and later Johnson. They collected only two fours and a top-edged six in the first 10 overs. Having averaged more than seven an over through that period in the tournament, New Zealand were 31 for 1 when the field restrictions expired. Australia’s lively ground fielding ensured even rare loose balls were punished minimally.
Australia grew red hot with the scalps of Guptill and Williamson – the former inexplicably missing an innocuous Maxwell offbreak, the latter spooning a return catch to Johnson in the 13th over. Elliott and Taylor combined to fight the fire, poking the first few runs through the offside with hard hands before Clarke slipped in a few overs from his supporting bowlers to inadvertently ease the pair in. Elliott eventually took another top-edged six and laced a few through the covers to move to a strike rate of around 100. He was the only New Zealand batsman to appear comfortable at the crease while Taylor plodded at the other end. All through the partnership, Australia’s quicks would earn thick edges, but these flew fast and high over the infield. Third man was a productive area for the batsmen.
Trent Boult raised hopes of an upset when in a scorching spell, he caught and bowled Finch to leave Australia 2 for 1. But Warner soon propelled Australia through the early overs, and Australia were not shaken after that. Warner was caught attempting a second pulled four for 45 off Henry, but Smith and Clarke combined to make 112 stress-free runs together to effectively close out the Cup. Clarke was composed to begin with, but a brace of late boundaries – including four consecutive fours off Tim Southee’s 31st over – he sent his side hurtling towards the trophy. He was out soon after for a 72-ball 74, but Smith capped a dream summer by completing his fifty the same over, then sealed the result soon after. When New Zealand were all out for 183, the 1983 World Cup final was invoked. When Vettori began hobbling in what was probably his final international, comparisons with Muttiah Muralitharan’s plight in the 2011 final were made. Australia’s 1999 annihilation of Pakistan came closest to matching the narrative of this game. In the end, the final perhaps fit a 2015 tournament that has seen precious few close contests.