Australia score emphatic victory
Having started off like a runaway train, West Indies ran out of steam, and after a couple of early hiccups and a rain delay that lasted more than two hours, Australia sauntered to their first Champions Trophy triumph. When it came to the crunch, with a major trophy at stake, Australia's greater experience and quality came to the fore, with the bowlers showing immense resolve after being subjected to an early shellacking.
Damien Martyn's 47 continued his splendid run in the tournament, and there was an invaluable 57 from Shane Watson as Australia put their jinx - they had never previously made the final - to bed in emphatic fashion. When the players finally came back out at 9pm, with 15 overs having been lost to the rain, the Duckworth-Lewis par score was pegged at 115. With a further 25 overs in which to get 71, Martyn and Watson approached the task in measured fashion.
The singles came easily with the field spread, and Martyn laced a Corey Collymore delivery through midwicket with a touch of class as West Indies' hopes started to disappear like the clouds overhead. When Jerome Taylor was recalled to the fray, Martyn clipped an errant delivery to fine leg, and once Watson clipped one beautifully through midwicket, the crowd's response was an eerie quietness. The remainder of the game was uneventful, with both batsmen finding gaps at will as the last vestiges of West Indian resistance were swept away.
The spadework for victory had been done by the bowlers, and Nathan Bracken in particular, after Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle had given West Indies a rollicking start. With the rapidly filling stands roaring on the underdog, Brett Lee ran in with little or no rhythm, and Chanderpaul got the scoreboard motoring with a leading edge that just evaded Michael Clarke at point. And the decision to give Bracken the new ball in place of Glenn McGrath paid no immediate dividends either, with Gayle nonchalantly smacking one past point.
More punishment followed in Lee's next over. Chanderpaul clipped one beautifully down to long-on before an ungainly hoick flew off the edge for six over third man. It only got worse, with a sublime Chanderpaul on-drive in Lee's third over the precursor to a peachy straight-drive and a cracking shot through the covers from Gayle. By the time Bracken struck, with Chanderpaul miscuing a cut, West Indies were off and running at incredible pace.
By then, Lee had been taken off, having gone for a whopping 36 from three overs, but if Australia expected a lull, that certainly wasn't the case. Gayle launched a cheesed-off McGrath for two huge sixes over midwicket, and an uncharacteristic half-volley was crisply dispatched through the covers as 14 came from his second over.
The tide turned decisively once Bracken got his cutters going from the other end. Ramnaresh Sarwan played too early at one, and Gayle's thrill-a-minute 37 was ended by a superb delivery. Suddenly, batting was no longer a stroll in the park, and an emboldened Ponting brought back Lee in the 14th over. By the time McGrath confirmed that his big-game temperament was peerless by getting one to graze the outer edge of Brian Lara's bat, the complexion of the match had turned utterly.
McGrath went on to bowl three maidens, and by the time he was taken off, he also had the wicket of Runako Morton to show for his efforts. Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo briefly threatened a recovery, but the introduction of Watson scotched any Great Escape plans. Samuels tamely chipped one to midwicket, and Carlton Baugh shuffled across a few inches too many to leave the innings in absolute disarray.
Lee and Brad Hogg, who outfoxed Bravo into playing no shot, mopped up the rest, leaving Australia with the simple task of scoring 139. With dinner still cooking, Lara opted to give the new ball to Gayle, an experiment that lasted all of one over. When Ian Bradshaw came on in his place, the reward was instantaneous. Adam Gilchrist edged and walked, and the stadium erupted. Then, with the stands bellowing his name, Taylor trapped Ponting on the walk. Suddenly, the formality of a run chase wasn't so straightforward anymore.
Martyn eased anxieties with three gorgeous strokes - two square-drives off Taylor, and a cut over backward point when Collymore was introduced in Bradshaw's place. Watson chipped in with a sweetly timed clip through midwicket off Taylor, silencing a crowd that was still praying for the impossible to become possible. Dinner and the subsequent rain delay then held Australia back, but ultimately, there was no stopping a team that epitomises the old Hemingway line about grace under pressure. Call them Dad's army or what you will, but they can play the game like no one else.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul b Bracken 27 (49 for 1)
Chopped on while going for the expansive cut
Ramnaresh Sarwan c Hogg b Bracken 7 (65 for 2)
Too early into the shot, leading edge to mid-on
Chris Gayle b Bracken 37 (80 for 3)
Squared up by a beautiful delivery that pitched on middle and moved away to take off stump
Brian Lara c Gilchrist b McGrath 2 (88 for 4)
Shade of away movement, edge taken brilliantly low to the left
Runako Morton c Gilchrist b McGrath 2 (94 for 5)
Played well away from the body, undone by some away movement
Marlon Samuels c Ponting b Watson 7 (113 for 6)
Full delivery on the legs, clipped straight to midwicket
Carlton Baugh lbw Watson 9 (125 for 7)
Trapped in front while shuffling across
Dwayne Bravo lbw Hogg 21 (125 for 8)
Couldn't read the one that came in with the arm. Offered no shot
Ian Bradshaw b Lee 7 (136 for 9)
Inside-edged a full delivery onto the stumps
Corey Collymore run out (Symonds) 0 (138 all out)
Sent back while attempting a single, no mistake with the throw from short midwicket
Adam Gilchrist c Gayle b Bradshaw 2 (12 for 1)
Indecisive dart at one outside off stump, edged to slip
Ricky Ponting lbw Taylor 0 (13 for 2)
Walked across, and plumb in front to a full delivery
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo