Australia on Sunday clinched the coveted ICC Cricket World Cup for the fifth time, thrashing New Zealand by seven wickets to provide a perfect farewell gift to skipper Michael Clarke, who played a key role with a 74-run knock in his final ODI appearance.
After the bowlers produced a clinical performance skittling out New Zealand for 183, the stage was set for the Australian captain, who used the platform to the fullest with a stylish 72-ball innings as the hosts regained the trophy winning the match in 33.1 overs ending an eight-year wait.
The moment Steve Smith (56) hit the winning runs, the entire Australian team was out in the ground delirious in joy celebrating the very special achievement.
All performers yearn for a stage as grand as the World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Clarke got his walking out as a hero with the entire MCG giving him a standing ovation once he was dismissed after getting his team to the doorstep of victory.
It was a touching sight to find all his teammates standing at the boundary line to greet him.
Clarke added 112 runs in the company of his deputy Smith (56) and it looked as if the skipper was passing on the team’s baton to his heir apparent.
Having announced his retirement from ODIs a day before the finals, it was a free-spirited Clarke in action.
The drives flowed from his bat, the footwork was as immaculate as ever and so was the manner in which he charged out to the spinners. Each and every shot was greeted with thunderous applause by the capacity crowd.
There were 10 fours and two sixes in his final ODI innings. Clarke had the Herculean job of checking his emotions and carrying on with the business of guiding his team to victory after losing openers Aaron Finch (0) and David Warner (45). And the skipper was up for it with.
Earlier, a collective display of disciplined bowling from the Australian bowlers helped them restrict a nervous New Zealand to a paltry 183 in 45 overs after Brendon McCullum opted to bat.
A mid-innings collapse which saw New Zealand lose their last seven wickets for only 33 runs in 10 overs effectively ended their hopes of putting up a respectable total despite semi-final hero Grant Elliott’s gutsy innings of 83 off 82 balls.
Ironically, this is the second time that a team in a World Cup final was bowled out for 183 after India in the 1983 final against West Indies, which they won by 43 runs.
Seamer James Faulkner’s brilliant change-ups during the middle overs saw him end with impressive figures of 3/36 in 9 overs as the Black Caps collapsed from decent 150/3 after 35 overs to 183 all-out in 45 overs in about an hour.
This was after Elliott along with Ross Taylor (40) had added 111 runs for the fourth wicket after the visitors were tottering at 39 for three.
Faulkner was well complimented by the two Mitchells — Starc (2/20 in 8 overs) and Johnson (3/30 in 9 overs) — who had the opposition batsmen in trouble with pace and movement on a lively MCG track.
Starc bowled a brilliant delivery first up, to get rid of Brendon McCullum, who was out without scoring. McCullum charged and missed out on a couple of balls dug short and the result was full delivery at the base of off-stump which the batsman had no answer.
Guptill, at the other end, got a freak six when his intended pull off a Josh Hazlewood short delivery flew behind the wicketkeeper for a six. Before that, he had hit a copybook square drive.
Both Guptill and Williamson were cautious during the first 10 overs in which New Zealand scored 31 runs as they got rid of the impetuosity that brought about McCullum’s downfall.
The best shot during that particular phase was a straight drive from Williamson off Hazlewood’s bowling.
Clarke introduced Glenn Maxwell in the 12th over and it brought dividends immediately. Guptill (15) was bowled trying to cut a rather innocuous Maxwell delivery that was tossed up on the off-stump with not a hint of turn.
Williamson’s rather uncomfortable stay at the wicket
ended when Johnson bowled a well disguised slower as the right-hander failed to check his shot. The result was a simple return catch which Johnson gleefully accepted. Williamson scored 12 off 33 balls.
Elliott and Taylor then started the repair job. While Elliott was the aggressor, the normally attacking Taylor was ready to hold one end up while nudging and pushing for singles and twos.
Elliott started with a cut off Maxwell and a mistimed hook shot fetched him a six. There were a couple of flowing cover drives off James Faulkner as he reached his 50 off 51 balls. With Taylor for support, the fourth wicket partnership crossed the 100-run mark in 126 balls.
However, the New Zealand innings lost direction from that point. Taylor tried to steer a wide delivery from Faulkner as Brad Haddin took a fantastic one-handed catch stretching to his right.
Corey Anderson (0) was fooled by a yorker as Faulkner suddenly cranked up the pace and the left-hander couldn’t get his bat down.
From 150/3 New Zealand slumped to 150/5 and it soon became 151 for six as Mitchell Starc got Luke Ronchi (0) to flash hard as Michael Clarke took a nice catch at first slip. Daniel Vettori (9) was yorked by Johnson and Elliott, who looked good for a century was then taken by Faulkner as it became 171 for eight.