There is something about World Cup finals that brings out the best in Australia. In 1999, they overpowered Pakistan as if the latter were a minnows. In 2003, they batted India out of the game, against a bowling attack that had been one of the best in the tournament till then. In 2007, Sri Lanka, who were among the best teams in the edition that year, were no match for them at Barbados. 2015 wasn’t much different for Australia. They had gone down to New Zealand in the league game, but on the big day they were back at their best, and put up what can be best described as a ruthless performance.
Australia were always expected to win the final, but the manner in which they dominated the Kiwis would have pleased them no end. A number of big names stood up and delivered on the huge day. New Zealand had a slight advantage early when they won the toss and batted first, but Mitchell Starc came up with a brilliant first over, and his dismissal of Brendon McCullum in the very first over was a clear turning point in the context of how much New Zealand have depended upon him for rollicking starts.
What Australia did so brilliantly on the day was to not allow the New Zealanders to settle once they got the early breakthrough. Mitchell Johnson raised his game yet again, not giving the batters any width, and frustrating Kane Williamson into giving a return catch. James Faulkner also answered his captain’s call delivering breakthroughs at a time when New Zealand were recovering from a false start. And, although Josh Hazlewood did not claim any wickets, he kept things tight. Even the underrated Glenn Maxwell chipped in with a wicket.
Once the bowlers had done the job, the batsmen just needed to go out and do their job normally. The only way New Zealand could have come back in the game was if they claimed quick wickets at the top. Trent Boult gave them faint hope by dismissing Aaron Finch early on. But, David Warner played his natural game to ensure that there was no pressure of any sorts. Yet again, Steven Smith stood up for the team and saw the Aussies through. But, it was Michael Clarke who was the man of the moment. Playing in his final ODI, he guided the team home with a skipper’s knock.
Unfortunately for New Zealand, their dream turned into a nightmare rather soon. To compete at the MCG, they needed their skipper McCullum to fire, but he couldn’t connect big on the day that mattered most. Most of the other Kiwi batsmen also disappointed. Martin Guptill played a poor shot, and ending up as the tournament’s leading run-scorer was little consolation. Williamson’s bad series only got worse, and although Ross Taylor hung around yet again, he couldn’t make a significant impact. Grant Elliot was the only one who repeated his semi-final heroics. Alas, Aussies were too good on the day that mattered.
--By A Cricket Analyst