In a World Cup of power and pace, Team Australia were too strong, too powerful, too professional. The Kiwis had taken wings to shape their finest run ever to the summit. However, in the crucible of the MCG they were not at home, their cleverness and their deft touch with the bat no compensation for the early fall of their most powerful hitter, Brendon McCullum.
The last batsman in their line-up, the South African emigre Grant Elliot, ensured they would avoid the ignominy of too low a World Cup final total. Any ominous signs seen in 183, which is the total with which India made history in 1983, evaporated once David Warner flexed his batting muscles. There was none of the seam and swing movement of New Zealand to be had from the Kookaburra’s in Australia’s unforgiving atmosphere and pitch.
The steady hand of Steve smith on the rudder was insurance against any kind of panic in the chase. The Test captain has stood there like a rock all summer and a World Cup title at his age is something to savour. And yet this victory, as well as the ease of it, was owed to awesome threesome of left arm quicks – Mitchell Starc, James Faulkner and Mitchell Johnson – and maybe in that order with Starc being the one who bowled the brilliant fullish length in the vey first over to beat McCullum’s bat and hit the off stump.
It is the power of pace that set up this win on a very good batting pitch on which 300 was gathered in all World Cup matches by teams batting first. Falukner, who said the surface was slow to begin with, exploited its increasing pace best in the power play overs, knocking the resistance out after the breakthroughs provided by Starc and, quite extraordinarily, by the irrepressible Glenn Maxwell who bowled Guptill with a traditional off break.
Four years ago, the quarter final against Australia had been India’s toughest assignment. Even on the slow surface of Ahmedabad, the Aussies challenged the home team and favourites. Yuvraj Singh swung that game with what was clearly the most crucial innings of the game. Down Under, they returned the compliment, beating India with a lot left in the tank after having had some trouble in getting past Pakistan in the quarter final. India did not have the pace of Wahab Riaz to test them even if the short-pitched ball brought them back with a few wickets in the middle game.
Where McCullum may have let himself down after having set such high standards in terms of aggressive captaincy in backing his bowlers with a clutch of close catchers was in removing a second slip too early. Warner may have fallen had Vettori still been there instead of being moved back outside the circle. The Kiwi captain was back in attack mode a little late as he placed a catching square leg for Warner and had him tested with a short ball that grew on him. But by then the innings had flowered enough.
There was an engaging passage of play as Michael Clarke came in to Test match fields with seven men in catching positions. With tension suddenly returning to the game, Smith allowed the ball to ricochet off his legs into the sumps only to be reprieved by the hard grounds of Australia seeing the stumps stand so firm that the bails were not dislodged. That was probably the last sniff New Zealand had before the cold professionalism of the batsmen eased the path to victory, a fifth for Australia and a fourth in the last five World Cups.
Clarke, after his final ODI, joins Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting as a World Cup winning captain and the world has four years in which to plot how to break this Australian strangelhold on the game's most coveted trophy and snatch the $4 million prize money that goes with it these days....