Monday 20 November 2017 / 08:29 PM

Will's World Cup diary – Aussies' final rout

Aussie whitewash at the ’G

Australia are Cricket World Cup champions for the fifth time, comprehensively outplaying New Zealand to win by seven wickets in front of 93,013 supporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

It was the dream final showdown: co-hosts, fierce rivals and the two best teams of the tournament. But ‘Big Brother’ triumphed over the overachieving, previously unbeaten final debutants, with Michael Clarke’s charges prevailing in a manner so convincing it would have exceeded even the most pessimistic Kiwi’s worst fears.

Black Caps captain and talisman Brendon McCullum was removed in the first over and the day hardly improved for the underdogs from that point. Australia’s clinical, unremitting display with the ball saw New Zealand skittled for 183 in 45th over.

Save for one early setback, Australia’s chase unfolded without a glitch. David Warner, Steve Smith and Clarke knocked off the modest target with almost 17 overs to spare. James Faulkner took man-of-the-match honours for his 3/36, beating out a hot field that included Clarke, Mitchell Johnson and man-of-the-tournament Mitchell Starc.



Starc sets the tone

Has there been a more emphatic tone-setter in a big World Cup match? As per usual, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum looked to take the bull by the horns: winning the toss, opting to bat, charging and swinging at everything. But Mitchell Starc was up to the challenge, beating McCullum twice before rattling his stumps with an out-and-out peach. The wind hadn’t gone out of the Black Caps’ sails – their hull had cracked and they were rapidly taking on water. The pendulum barely swung an inch from that point on. Starc has many years at the top level in front of him, but the fifth delivery of the 2015 final will take some topping as the pinnacle moment of his career. Picking up the player of the tournament honour was just reward for a magnificent six weeks from the 25-year-old.

 

Haddin’s screamer

The headlines and social media posts involving Brad Haddin will predominantly focus on his petulant behaviour behind the stumps – which is a shame, because his sensational catch to dismiss Ross Taylor was arguably the true turning point of the final. Taylor and Grant Elliott had put on 111 for the fourth wicket and a 250-plus score was beginning to materialise. Haddin’s low, outstretched grab was the first of three wickets to fall for just one run, while the Black Caps’ last seven tumbled for a paltry 33 runs.

Clarke bows out in glory

While it would have been fitting for Michael Clarke to strike the winning runs in his last ODI – or at least be out there when Australia clinched victory – when he was bowled for a sparkling 74 with only nine needed, it gave the crowd (and the Kiwi players, who graciously congratulated Clarke as he left) an opportunity to show their appreciation for the skipper. Clarke’s triumphant walk towards the throng was the most poignant and spine-tingling moment of the final. As he hoisted the World Cup trophy, the memories of supposed attempts to blackball his return to the team seemed a million miles away.



Elliott proves his worth

Grant Elliott was brilliant in a badly beaten side. A controversial inclusion pre-tournament ahead of young Test gun Jimmy Neesham, the 36-year-old South African native has sealed his place in New Zealand cricket folklore with his unbelievable semi-final heroics and his stoic innings that gave the Black Caps a glimmer of hope in a disastrous final – scoring 84 not out and 83 respectively.

Arrogant few ruin it for the rest

If there was a negative to draw from the final – besides the lack of a close, classic contest – it was the victors’ histrionics as a procession of vanquished Black Caps batsmen made their way back to the dressing room. Brad Haddin’s mock-clapping after the tournament’s top run-scorer Martin Guptill was bowled was juvenile; Mitchell Johnson eyeballing retiring legend Daniel Vettori was classless; Haddin and James Faulkner’s send-off for Grant Elliott, after the semi-final hero had played so brilliantly for his 83, was an embarrassment.

Aggression and intimidation is a key factor in this Australian side’s success – it got them over the line again on the biggest stage of all. But, gee, wouldn’t it be great if they employed those elements without the insolent tagline? It sullies the sportsmanship and humility consistently shown by the likes of Smith and Clarke.

While any backlash will matter little to all but the more sportsmanship-minded Australians, it’s little wonder few outside these shores can genuinely applaud the triumph of a team that shows such a lack of respect for their opponents.

 

 Legacy to live on despite heavy defeat

Australia are deserving champions and stepped up when it mattered most, but for many the standout memory will be of New Zealand’s unprecedented drive to the final, playing an electrifying brand of cricket that lit up the tournament from the opening clash with Sri Lanka to the epic semi-final win over South Africa. For so long an inconsistent, unfancied team that can jag the odd win over the world superpowers, the Black Caps’ performances at Test and ODI level in the last 18 months has them ranked among cricket’s genuine heavyweights. The way McCullum and his charges carried themselves throughout the tournament was also a terrific advertisement for the way the game should be played.

 

Omen trilogy

If you were a Kiwi supporter on Sunday with any sense of superstition, you would have had that sinking feeling well before Clarke and Smith’s partnership made the result a fait accompli. The New Zealand Warriors lost their 20th anniversary match 24-16 just prior to the final, while the A League-leading Wellington Phoenix were pumped 3-0 by Sydney FC as the Black Caps’ innings was falling apart.

Stud of the day

Faulkner was named man-of-the-match for his superb 3/36 – picking up the key scalps of Taylor, Corey Anderson and Elliott – but carrying on like a douchebag doesn’t get you the Stud of the day nod. Starc gets the last gong of the World Cup. It was his removal of McCullum that set Australia on a path to victory, while he also claimed Luke Ronchi and generally terrorised the entire Black Caps batting order in taking 2/20 off eight overs.



Looking ahead

Everyone is a bit cricketed-out after the marathon six-week World Cup to end a lengthy and memorable summer. But it will all roll around again soon enough, with New Zealand and Australia both touring England midyear before the trans-Tasman rivals face of in a Test series during the summer that could potentially be more riveting and close-fought than the Ashes. 

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