Melbourne, March 29 (IANS) Australia became the first team to clinch five cricket World Cup titles, crushing traditional rivals New Zealand by seven wickets in the final of the 11th quadrennial tournament at the majestic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here on Sunday.
New Zealand’s hopes of trouncing their trans-Tasman big brothers — and 2015 World Cup co-hosts — in the latter’s backyard fizzled out as they were reduced to 39/3 in the 13th over. Grant Elliot (83) and Ross Taylor (40) sought to defy the odds with a 111-run stand for the fourth wicket, but in vain.
The four-time World Cup champions Australia got the ascendancy eventually by bowling out their neighbours for a bare 183 in just 45 overs.
Admirably supported by inspiring fielding, Australia seamers Mitchell Starc (2-20), Mitchell Johnson (3-30), James Faulkner (3-36) and spinner Glenn Maxwell (1-37) were all over the Black Caps, who lost the final seven wickets for a mere 33 runs.
The low total meant that Australia needed only to bat sensibly to capture their fourth title in the last five editions. And they did, getting over the line with contributions from skipper Michael Clarke (74 in 72 balls), Steven Smith (56 not out) and David Warner (45).
New Zealand hopes soared when Australia lost OPENER Aaron Finch (0) in the second over of the innings.
But OPENER David Warner scored a stroke-filled 45 in 46 deliveries to diminish the pressure on the home team.
Clarke, who will retire from One-Day International (ODI) cricket after this World Cup, notched up his 58th fifty. Smith scored his seventh ODI fifty and stitched a partnership with the 33-year-old that took Australia home. Shane Watson remained not out for two.
Smith pulled pacer Tim Southee for a boundary on the first ball of the 34th over to trigger wild celebrations in the Australian camp and among a record 93,013 people in the MCG stadium.
Earlier, New Zealand won the toss and had a nightmarish start losing skipper Brendon McCullum (0) in the very first over. The right-handed batsman had his stumps shattered by left-arm pacer Starc, who was later named the “Player of the Tournament”.
With this wicket, Australia took complete control of the match. With seamers Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Johnson operating with probing line and length, New Zealand batsmen Martin Guptill (15) and Kane Williamson (12) just managed to stave off the looming threat.
It couldn’t be better for Clarke, who became the second captain — after Pakistani Imran Khan in 1992 — to bid goodbye to the 50-overs format with the biggest prize in cricket — that too at home.
Australia now have won 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015 editions of the World Cup.
Clarke dedicated the triumph to deceased batsman Phillip Hughes, who died on November 27 after being struck on the head by a bouncer two days earlier during a domestic match.
Clarke said he would keep on wearing the blackband on his arm with PH (Phillip Hughes) inscribed on it.
“The blackband is, you can see PH written on it. I will wear it every game I play for Australia. Tonight is dedicated to our little brother Phil Hughes. Hughesy used to party as good as any of them as we have won for him tonight,” he said.
The skipper CREDITED New Zealand for being a “tough team to beat” throughout the tournament.
“Brendon (McCullum) and New Zealand deserve a lot of CREDIT. (They are) always a tough team to beat, whenever we play them in any sport. So, well done to Baz and his team, especially personally, he had an amazing performance.”
New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum said they might not have won the World Cup but they played a good brand of cricket and walk away with their heads held high.
“Didn’t lift the trophy but no regrets. The brand of cricket we’ve played and we walk away with our heads held high,” McCullum said after the match.
“It’s the greatest time of our lives and that’s how we tried to play the game, with a free spirit and heart. Still think we can be very proud of our achievements in this tournament. We ran into an outstanding team in Australia. They continue to set the standard. Michael Clarke bows out on a high note, they deserved TO WIN,” he concluded.
Australian all-rounder James Faulkner, who was adjudged the “Player of the Match” said that his team brought out their ‘A’ game against New Zealand here on Sunday.
“We brought out our ‘A’ game today against New Zealand. It’s an amazing feeling. To play in front of 93,013 fans here at the MCG and WIN a World Cup is amazing,” Faulkner said after receiving the award from former Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar.