The World Cup final was the last stop of my World Cup tour of Australia and New Zealand. Though India - the team I support - did not qualify for the final, a game between the trans-Tasman rivals is always good value, and I expected a cracker of a final.
New Zealand. For a neutral in most sports, supporting the underdog is more fun; more so, in this instance as New Zealand have never won the World Cup. Besides, New Zealand provided excellent entertainment during the two matches I visited during this tournament in Wellington and Auckland.
Just when Ross Taylor and Grant Elliot appeared to be putting together a brave and strong recovery, James Faulkner's double strike to remove Taylor and Corey Anderson scuppered hopes of a 250+ total for New Zealand. Grant Elliott's wicket in the 42nd over further thwarted any hopes of a total around 225, which may have been a fighting one. With those strikes, Faulkner was undoubtedly the key to keeping the New Zealand total down to a mediocre one. Mitchell Starc's wickets of Brendon McCullum and Luke Ronchi also immensely helped Australia's cause.
As the third and fourth deliveries of the game were bowled, I could see they moved in the air and McCullum missed both of them. At that point, I told the Australian fan seated next to me that McCullum might well be bowled since it looked like he was not reading the movement of the ball. Right on cue, McCullum was bowled off the fifth ball for a duck, leaving the New Zealand supporters in dismay and the Australian fans ecstatic.
Eight wickets down and in dire straits, most spectators were hoping for the New Zealand tailenders to knock around singles and play out the 50 overs, so that a competitive game of cricket could be witnessed. Mitchell Johnson had taken the wicket of Daniel Vettori off the last ball of his previous over, and was steaming in, hoping to clean up the New Zealand tail. Tim Southee's response was stunning: straight six off the menacing Johnson, and it raised New Zealand hopes of a lower-order fightback.
With more than 93,000 spectators on the day, it was a loud and colourful occasion. Though predominantly filled with Australian fans, there was a significant turnout of New Zealand supporters as well. Expectedly, the banter between the two sets of supporters was light-hearted, fun and towards the second half of the game, it got a bit tough for New Zealand fans to keep up with it.
The DJ on the day seemed to be quite happy to play "Down Under", the Men at Work song, and with Australia doing so well, it seemed only appropriate. Beach balls seemed to be the order of the day around all the M-level stands and were bounced within the stands for the most part.
The highlight of the day were the handful of Indian supporters with dhols, who went around to every other stand on ground level and initiated some rather intense bhangra. A bunch of Australia and New Zealand supporters joined the mix and the end result was quality, high octane bhangra. As the Indians moved from one stand to the other, some of their fans followed them, hoping for some delirious dancing.
I wish McCullum and Anderson had played a long innings. This would have certainly paved way for a closer match. I would also have liked to see India in the final.
Seated behind the New Zealand bench, I was surprised to see former World Cup-winning captains, Kapil Dev, Clive Lloyd and Arjuna Ranatunga, walk towards our area. Dev turned around, noticed my India jersey and scarf and flashed his signature smile and a thumbs-up.
The World Cup final promised a lot, but in the end turned out to be a rather dull affair, largely due to Australia's supremacy in all departments of the game. I was, however, pleased to see the big final at the MCG and be a part of the record 93013 spectators, the highest-ever turnout in an ODI at the ground.
7. Though there were brief moments of resistance by New Zealand, the first over of the day set the tone for the final. A more closely-contested game would have made for better viewing, but it was nice to see the well-oiled Australia machine rack up a fifth World Cup win and their first in front of home fans.
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