The ESPN Cricinfo headline read” Majestic Australia lift 5th World Cup” and, indeed, Australia were majestic as they trounced plucky New Zealand before the packed stands at the MCG. In an awesome display of hostile fast bowling, acrobatic fielding and assured batsmanship, Australia showed why they had been the pre-tournament favorites.
For New Zealand to have a chance, they needed a good start and a big innings from their captain, Brendon McCullum. When he was clean bowled by Mitchell Starc off the third ball he faced, New Zealand’s chances took a nosedive. Taylor and Elliot battled back to take the score to 150 for 3 and , as long as they were at the crease, there was some hope that NZ would be able to mount a respectable total. Then Taylor and Anderson fell and the rest of the team capitulated; the last seven wickets only added 33 runs.
A total of 183 was never going to be enough. Boult struck early to remove Finch for a duck but Warner and Smith weathered the early storm and Clarke took them home( almost) with a masterly 74. It was a fitting end to his ODI career and it was a pity that he didn’t get to make the winning hit.
New Zealand are a game team and should be proud that they made it to the final. Cricket fans everywhere are grateful to them ( and to South Africa) for having given us an unforgettable semi-final match, one that was exciting to the end and was played in the true spirit of sportsmanship. More than any other team, NZ showed us how the game was meant to be played. Well done, Kiwis.
The 2015 World Cup served notice to the rest of the world that we are in for a prolonged spell of Aussie dominance. Their superiority is based on their fearsome pace attack as they seem to have developed a regular assembly line for pacemen. If one goes down, there are three or four waiting to take his place. In the 2013-14 Ashes, it was Mitchell Johnson who wreaked havoc, ably aided by Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Shane Watson. Since then Ryan Harris has been sidelined by injuries and Peter Siddle has dropped off the radar but others have stepped up. In the World Cup, Johnson was as good as ever but it was Mitchell Starc who was the Man of the Series, with James Faulkner and Josh Hazlewood providing good support. Waiting in the wings are James Pattinson, Pat Cummins , Nathan Coulter-Nile and God knows how many others. The batting is just as solid with Stephen Smith showing us that he is in the mold of Michael Clarke, and Ricky Ponting before him. Haddin, Clarke and Watson may be nearing the end of their careers but still look like they have some cricket left in them. The rest are young, talented and still on the upswing. And to think that the number one sport Down Under is Australian Rules football and not cricket ! If not for that, even more athletes would be taking up cricket and making Australia even more invincible.
Looking down the road, it is difficult to see who can challenge the Aussies in the forseeable future. The teams from the Indian subcontinent are physically no match for the Aussies and do not have a quality pace attack. Nor do they have comparable depth. They may occasionally produce a Sachin Tendulkar or a Kumar Sangakarra but not a complete team. England are in the doldrums and likely to get worse before they get better. The West Indies are riven by inter-island rivalry and squabbles between the cricket board and the players. New Zealand performed admirably in the World Cup but this may be their high water mark. They are too small a country to churn out world-class players the way their trans- Tasman neighbors do. That leaves South Africa who have some of the best players in the world ( de Villiers, Steyn, Amla) already on their team and a sizable population to draw from. I hope they can build on their base and challenge the men from Oz soon. The Baggy Green are a great, great team but I wish they were not so hard to like.