UPDATE 9:00 A.M. U.S. EST: Australia cruised to an easy victory in the Cricket Word Cup 2015 Final at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday, needing just 33.1 overs to claim a seven wicket victory after bowling out previously undefeated New Zealand for just 183. A reported record crowd topping 90,000 jammed the stadium to watch the feat.
New Zealand had won all eight of its tournament matches coming into the final, including a narrow triumph over Australia in group stage play. But the Black Caps perhaps benefited from a favorable schedule which allowed them to play every game on the cozier, friendlier grounds of their home nation. Once they took the hop across the Tasman Sea, they faced an entirely different set of circumstances.
The tone for the match was set just three balls in, when Australia’s opening bowler, the dominant left-arm quick Mitchell Starc, bowled New Zealand skipper Brendan McCullum for a duck. New Zealand lost three wickets within their first 12 overs.
Leading up to the match, most cricket experts believed that a strong opening stand by McCullum gave New Zealand its best hope of victory. But it seemed that the captain’s innings ended before it even began.
With the exception of Grant Elliot’s 83, none of the Kiwi batsmen were able to make much of an impression against Australia’s bowling attack, with even spinner Glenn Maxwell getting in on the act, bowling Martin Guptill in the 11th over.
Starc, James Faulnker and Mitchel Johnson combined for eight wickets to drive a stake through the heart of New Zealand’s dreams of claiming their first Cricket World Cup trophy. Australia, on the other hand, have now won five of the 11 World Cups since the tournament began in 1975.
ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUES: The Black Caps are playing their first Cricket World Cup Final after seven trips to the semifinals, while Australia are going for the fifth championship in the 11th World Cup since the championship of One Day International cricket was first played in 1975.
The stunning wicket by the 25-year-old Starc in the game’s very first over sent a massive roar through what appeared to be a near-capacity crowd at the 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia.
But an even bigger shock came in the 11th over, thanks to spin bowler Glenn Maxwell, who came into the game much earlier than expected when Australia Captain Michael Clarke, playing his final ODI, elected to upset the New Zealand timing by interrupting his side’s dominant fast bowling attack with the only real spinner Australia has.
New Zealand’s Martin Guptill had made history in the Cricket World Cup quarterfinals, pounding out a 237 to send out West Indies almost singlehandedly. The double century was the highest individual score ever posted in a World Cup match.
But Maxwell insured there would be no repeat of Guptill’s feat, vindicating Clarke’s strategy by completely fooling the Kiwi star with an off stump ball that appeared to confuse Guptill, who swung and missed as the ball cracked against the stump.
At that point, New Zealand was 33-2, but the full scope of the disaster was not yet evident. Clarke called on fast bowler Mitchell Johnson to deliver the 12th over — and Johnson caught Kane Williamson napping. Williamson tapped a soft shot that floated directly back at the bowler, who turned it into an easy catch.
Sensing a huge advantage Clarke continued to play the early overs aggressively, using six of Starc’s 10 overs in the game’s first 23.
With 25 overs gone — the halfway mark of their innings — New Zealand had begun creeping back into the match, at 99-3. But they will need to pick up the pace drastically. Their projected score at that point would be just 198. The Black Caps need to nearly double their run rate to 6.12 for the remaining 25 overs to post a competitive score of 250.
If you’re not watching the thrilling Cricket World Cup 2015 final, click here to find out how to watch the match live online.
[Image: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images]