Australia crushed New Zealand by seven wickets to win the World Cup final in Melbourne on Sunday.
Australia dominated this decider, much like they have dominated the World Cup tournament for the better part of 16 years. Man of the Match James Faulkner, Mitchell Starc, and Mitchell Johnson did the initial damage with the ball, and then David Warner continued to climb into the Kiwis with the bat. Fittingly, it was Australia’s top-run scorer at this tournament, Steve Smith, and skipper Michael Clarke, playing in his last ODI match, who guided the hosts towards the target of 184.
The result marks Australia’s fifth World Cup success. Four of those titles have been captured in the past five tournaments. The most recent triumph was their first at home.
Australia came into the 2015 tournament as one of the favourites, but certainly had a point to prove in this final. New Zealand were on a high having beaten South Africa in a dramatic semi-final. The Kiwis had some momentum having won all of their World Cup matches up to that point, and having struck a brilliant balance between bat and ball.
But ultimately, it was the Aussies who would perform on the biggest stage of all. The hosts shrugged off the disappointment of losing the toss, and proceeded to pile on the pressure from the outset. They struck a physical and mental blow to the Kiwis when Mitchell Starc removed their captain and key batsman, Brendon McCullum, in only the first over of the game. From there, New Zealand were on the back foot.
How ironic that a tournament described as batsman’s World Cup would be decided by a bowling unit. Starc bowled quickly and accurately during that initial spell, and was well supported by Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson. The Kiwis failed to cope with pressure of the occasion as well as the quality of the bowling. After 12.2 overs, they were 39-3.
Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott fought back to put on 111 runs for the fourth wicket. It was an especially impressive display by Elliott, who was the hero of the semi-final match against South Africa at Eden Park. But just when New Zealand were threatening to take control, Australia came up with a series of game-breaking plays.
James Faulkner was introduced at the start of the batting Powerplay, and claimed the key wickets of Taylor and Corey Anderson, the latter scoring 0. At the other end, Starc dismissed Luke Ronchi to become the leading wicket taker in the 2015 tournament (22). That haul was good enough to earn Starc the Player of the Tournament award.
New Zealand’s slim chances of posting a competitive total were dashed when Elliott edged Faulker to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin. The visitors slumped to 183 all out in just 45 overs, leaving Australia with a relatively easy task on what was a good batting wicket.
For a brief moment, New Zealand were in with a chance. Trent Boult dismissed the dangerous Aaron Finch in the second over of Australia’s innings. If the Kiwis could build on that performance, then perhaps the impossible would be achieved.
But it was here where Warner extinguished New Zealand’s small flame of hope. The opening batsman went after the Kiwis’ best bowlers, and while he finished with just 45, his innings had given Australia the desired momentum and impetus.
Smith and Clarke were more measured in their approach. While they never took the batting Powerplay, they accelerated as the innings progressed. Their partnership of 112 came at a rate of nearly six an over.
Clarke lost his wicket shortly before the end, but there’s no denying that he played a key role in this innings and the campaign as a whole. As he left the field, 93 000 people at the MCG gave the Australian captain a deserved standing ovation.
It took just 33.1 overs for Australia to eclipse New Zealand’s total. Smith hit the winning runs, punched the air, and was mobbed by team-mates who had rushed onto the field.
New Zealand 183 all out in 45 overs (Grant Elliott 83, James Faulkner 3-36, Mitchell Johnson 3-30, Mitchell Starc 2-20)
Australia 186-3 in 33.1 overs (Michael Clarke 74, Steve Smith 56 not out, David Warner 45, Matt Henry 2-46)
Australia won by seven wickets