All power to Australia as international season concludes
Mark Waugh blasted a record-breaking century. Australia crashed its way to a record-breaking total. Shane Warne snared two wickets in his first over to scuttle the chase. Brian Lara was a shock recipient of the Player of the Series award. The home team capped the first unbeaten progression through the twenty-two year history of this tournament with a powerful thirty-nine run win over West Indies in the second final of the 2000-01 Carlton Series. The Australians also created history by defeating this particular opponent for the first time in six attempts in the finals of this competition. And a crowd of 31915 turned up to see it all. So not much happened today at the Melbourne Cricket Ground really.
Gilchrist and Steve Waugh
The tale of this match, as it has been in so many of Australia's eleven straight wins over the bamboozled West Indian outfit, was written from early in the piece. By about as early, in fact, as the time that Mark Waugh (173) and Ricky Ponting (63) came together to assemble a partnership of 125 runs for the second wicket that made a mockery of West Indian captain Jimmy Adams' invitation to the Australians to bat first.
To think that the tourists would have been able to contain the Australians to a manageable score would have depended upon several factors. A helpful pitch, a tight line and length, and sharp ground fielding would all have helped immeasurably. Anything other than meek body language would have been handy. And quite possibly - given the completely overwhelming pattern established this summer - it might have required the sight of a few pigs flying across the ground too.
"It's a big achievement. We probably haven't realised how big the achievement is but, in time, it will be recognised," said a pleased Australian captain Steve Waugh of the Australians' completion of a perfect summer on home soil.
"We've played good cricket all the way through and the guys have worked hard and deserved success. It has been a really pleasing summer," he added.
The West Indians did actually end up making an excellent first of the chase. Marlon Samuels (63), Wavell Hinds (60) and Ridley Jacobs (59) all played lovely attacking innings, in fact. But the match was effectively all over by the time that they went to work. The intervention of Warne (4/48 off 8.3 overs), in trapping Ricardo Powell (21) lbw without playing a stroke and inducing Brian Lara (0) to slog a catch to wide mid off all in the space of his first over of the match, more or less killed any vague, flickering hope.
A seventeenth one-day international century for Mark Waugh - and the highest ever score by an Australian male at this level no less - had earlier powered Australia to the mammoth score of 6/338. In so doing, it effectively ensured that the locals' path to a fifteenth straight victory for the summer was never likely to be anything other than smooth.
Against an attack which battled for consistency and virtually anything in the way of enthusiasm, Waugh was essentially untroubled throughout. He did exhibit the occasional sign of frustration early with some unconvincing strokes across the line of deliveries from new ball pair Nixon McLean (1/58 off ten overs) and Cameron Cuffy (1/53 from ten) but was soon back on course again. It was a course from which he was never diverted. He will face a significantly sterner examination tomorrow when he fronts the Australian Cricket Board Special Investigator, Greg Melick, and International Cricket Council investigators probing his alleged acceptance of money from an illegal Indian bookmaker in 1993.
With an equally assured Ponting (63), Waugh helped offset the loss of Adam Gilchrist (5) to a mistimed cut and matters never really improved for the West Indians. Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds (7) were two batsmen who did actually fail today but it scarcely made any difference. Another 136 runs flowed in a partnership between Waugh and Michael Bevan (58) in better than even time for the fourth wicket. In fact, so dominant had the Australians' position become that, by as early as the forty-first over, they had already surpassed the West Indians' highest score in any preceding match in this series.
It was the forty-sixth over in which Waugh surpassed Gilchrist's previous Australian one-day international (ODI) best of 154 - made against Sri Lanka at this ground in the 1998-99 season. So tame was the bowling arraigned against him by that stage that, for a short time thereafter, even the all time record of 194 (compiled by Pakistan's Saeed Anwar against India in 1996-97) appeared under threat. It was not until Lara held a catch at long on in the forty-ninth over - after Waugh had backed away to leg and tried to blast a Samuels (3/71 from ten overs) delivery high over the leg side field - that that possibility was finally ruled out.
As it was, Waugh still plundered the ninth highest individual hand in ODI history; Australia hammered its way to the largest ever ODI total at the Melbourne Cricket Ground; and, the home team also registered the country's second highest total of all time in ODIs. It was also the highest ever ODI tally in Australia. There were probably even more records that fell by the wayside. But to quote them would only reinforce the bleeding obvious about West Indies' relative ineptitude.
It wasn't quite the kind of climax that another sizeable crowd deserved. Then again, maybe it was exactly the kind of finish that this season demanded.
Through this summer, Australia has extended its run of consecutive Test match victories to an astonishing fifteen. It has failed to lose a single one-day international and has prolonged another amazing winning streak that has seen it triumphant in all but one of the twenty-six encounters that it has contested in the Carlton Series over the course of the last three years. Most strikingly of all, it has won most of these games with an ease bordering on the ridiculous.
Today's match, while bringing with it slightly more glory than usual for the victor and a closer margin than normal, was about as inglorious again for the vanquished.