The Invincibles

Many things make Australian teams such dominant outfits, but the knowledge they can win from virtually any position is one of the most devastating characteristics. Other teams may try to convince themselves anything is possible, but modern-day Australians believe they are as invincible as their most famous predecessors, especially in big matches.

At times they almost seem to be toying with each other. "Let's see how much trouble we can dig ourselves out of today." In the Champions Trophy final Australia were struggling to hang on halfway down the cliff within ten overs. Chris Gayle supplied his whirlwind impression and at 2 for 80 West Indies had more control than an airport immigration officer. However, it didn't bother Australia and the lengthy break for rain in the second innings was the only serious disruption.

Ricky Ponting's glare became more piercing as Gayle bounded, but there was no slumping in the field or terminal concerns from his charges. They knew it was time to lift and they moved swiftly from near death to certain victory. It was the same belief that drove Don Bradman's 1936-37 outfit from a 2-0 deficit to a 3-2 Ashes victory. Keith Miller had it when he convinced his journalist friend RS Whitington to write Australia would win the Durban Test of 1949-50, despite still wanting 250 on the final day after being bowled out for 75 in the first innings on a horrid pitch.

Steve Waugh turned the trait into a trademark and has passed it on to this side. Success is not expected as much as it is demanded. It is why the embarrassment of Australia's previous misses in the Champions Trophy was treated so seriously even though the Ashes series, the peak of their calendar, begins in less than three weeks.

There was no thought of engineering an early exit to gain more Test preparation even when West Indies over-ran them on the same Mumbai ground in the opening round. The team's heavy artillery started to move into firing range and repelled the opposition in four matches that were effectively knockouts, saving their biggest reaction for the final.

Nathan Bracken, who opened ahead of Glenn McGrath, was the only one unscathed during the brutal opening exchanges and delivered an incredible spell considering the opposition's method. In collecting the first three wickets he kept Australia breathing - the dismissal of Gayle, bowled playing inside the line of an outswinger, was the highlight - as he waited for McGrath to recover from an early beating of 22 in two overs. Gayle's forceful six, pulled four and hammering off-driven boundary in consecutive balls stirred McGrath and he hit back with the essential wicket of Lara with the help of a wonderful left-handed diving catch by Adam Gilchrist.

Moments like those win trophies. Lara, one of the few batsmen who has been able to sway Australia's confidence, was dispatched as part of another horrendous West Indies collapse. From the comfort earned by Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, they lost 8 for 58 as McGrath, Bracken and Shane Watson revamped the world champions.

Only storm clouds made the Australians fearful. Two early wickets went before the rain came but the delay could not stop them from claiming their first Champions Trophy. The embarrassments of first-round exits and semi-final defeats were erased as they corrected a major omission.

Now the prize sits alongside the World Cup and the tournament has also provided major momentum ahead of the Ashes. Only England have been able to disrupt Australia's winning expectations in Test series over the past five years, but the home team will carry a healthy winning habit into the Gabba and be boosted by their history of expecting to escape from any crisis.