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October 5, 2009
Brendon McCullum was left to rue the loss of the man he stood in for as Australia successfully - and ultimately, comfortably - defended their Champions Trophy title at Centurion with a six-wicket win. New Zealand's excellent run to the final of the eight-nation tournament had come despite the loss, at various stages of the event, of three key players to injury.
The biggest loss, however, came in the final when Daniel Vettori had to withdraw with a hamstring injury. McCullum took over as captain and had an evening to forget, getting out for a duck and spilling a vital catch off Cameron White just as his side was making a remarkable fight of it. Vettori was man of the match in the semi-final win over Pakistan, with three wickets and a critical 41, the peak of a tournament in which he had been an increasing influence as captain and player.
New Zealand never recovered from the loss, a key moment in the match before it had even begun. "I think losing Dan was a huge blow," McCullum said. "He's been instrumental for us with bat, ball and also with his captaincy.
"He's a huge player for us who we look to not only for performance but also for inspiration so to lose him was obviously disappointing. I still thought we had the calibre of players and also a good self-belief in the unit that we'd be able to put Australia under pressure and hopefully come out with the result but it wasn't to be."
Despite setting a target of only 201, New Zealand's opening bowlers Shane Bond and Kyle Mills took two early wickets to put Australia under serious pressure at 6 for 2. Shane Watson and Cameron White struggled through their first spells, and were fortunate to survive. For that phase, hopes of an unlikely defence remained.
"I thought they were brilliant to take out the first couple of wickets in the fashion that they did - it was a fantastic effort," McCullum said of the pair. "They kept coming in and trying to give it their all but unfortunately we didn't provide them with enough runs. After those two wickets we believed we could win and we were pretty pumped."
But McCullum's drop may now rival that of Younis Khan's in the semi-final, even if it was a much more difficult chance, in terms of how much it eventually cost. And McCullum said he was never in the right position to claim the catch. "It was obviously a crucial one. Unfortunately one went down today and I was responsible for it. I didn't ever get set underneath it and in the end I was lucky to even get a hand on it."
Eventually, however, the disappointment will be replaced by considerable pride at having gone so far in this tournament, despite losing several key players. New Zealand lost their first match to South Africa and had since gone on a fascinating run, winning all their games, but each time losing another player to injury. The experience, McCullum believes, has brought them closer together as a unit and is something that they can take considerable positives from.
"We're proud of what we've achieved in terms of arriving at the final and giving ourselves a chance to walk away with the silverware," he said. "We are disappointed with what happened today but are proud of the desire and the passion through some tough times and I think if we can continue to capture that then this team will certainly move forward. We've certainly come together as a group over this last couple of weeks."
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