At Melbourne, March 29, 2015 (day/night). Australia won by seven wickets. Toss: New Zealand.
Australia collected the World Cup for the fifth time, joining their predecessors India as home winners. Fittingly, the best innings was played by their captain, Clarke, who had just announced this would be his last one-day international. After a high-intensity, high volume few weeks, it was a strangely old-fashioned match, decided by the ball and played out in front of an unusually restrained crowd, which nonetheless numbered 93,013 - a record for a single day's cricket outside the unaudited Kolkata terraces. It took the total attendance for the tournament to over a million.
Clarke's may have been the decisive innings, but the decisive passage came in the first over. McCullum, fresh from winning the toss, swished at his first delivery from Starc, charged at (and missed) the second, and was yorked by the third; he would later admit to not watching the ball. In their previous matches in the tournament - all at home - New Zealand's openers had averaged 56 together, at nine an over. Now it was one for one. A nation was left wondering whether their talisman, in different conditions, might have curbed his aggression for an over or two.
Guptill, the competition's leading scorer, missed a straight one from Maxwell - earning a send-off from Haddin that cost the Australians a few more friends - and New Zealand had to rebuild from 39 for three after Williamson chipped a return catch to Johnson. Elliott, one of the Cup's surprise stars, regrouped in a stand of 111 with the subdued Taylor, and the innings seemed back on course, until Taylor fell to the first ball of the 36th over. Could New Zealand's big-hitting middle order run riot in the last 15? The answer soon came: Anderson was undone by his second ball, from the inventive Faulkner, and Ronchi lasted only four before flashing to slip in the next over, from Starc.
There was not much more: in all the last seven wickets crashed for 33 in ten overs, including Elliott for a fighting 83 from 82 balls; he departed to another ugly volley from Haddin, as well as Faulkner. Australia's left-arm quicks took eight for 86; their rightarmoury managed one for 90. Boult hurried Finch into a leading edge - his 22nd wicket of the tournament, putting him level with Starc - but New Zealand needed more early strikes if they were to emulate India's success in defending 183 at Lord's in 1983. Australia resolutely refused to play ball. Warner collected the first 28 runs off the bat, including three successive fours in Southee's third over (later, the off-colour Southee would concede four in a row to Clarke).
Warner eventually hoisted Henry to deep square, which brought in Clarke, to avid applause. He started stiffly, his correct strokeplay seemingly an anachronism in these days of windmilling wonderbats - but soon realised this was the sort of game he was used to, more Test-match chase than one-day slogfest. The introduction of Vettori, in his final international appearance, slowed things down, until Clarke launched him over long-off in the 25th over, a clean six born of inbuilt timing rather than gym-built muscle. By halfway Australia needed just 54. Clarke seemed set to take them home, but chopped Henry on with nine required, having made 74 from 72 balls.
Meanwhile, Smith, his heir apparent, had carried quietly on to his fifth successive score above 50 since Vettori snared him for four in the pool game. New Zealand's breathless one-wicket victory then had sealed the match of the tournament; this one, sadly, followed several previous World Cup finals in failing to provide much excitement. Australia's team and fans were not bothered by that, and the loudest roar of the night came when Smith pulled Henry for the winning boundary with 16.5 overs to spare. Now it was time for fireworks, glitter and a lap of honour in front of those who had stayed to
the triumphant end of a long and emotional season for Australian cricket.
Man of the Match: J. P. Faulkner. Attendance: 93,013. Man of the Tournament: M. A. Starc.
Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes