The 2015 World Cup saw Australia and New Zealand playing host to the quadrennial event for the second time since 1992. Being a half home World Cup, you really wouldn’t want to take a chance against the mighty Aussies. They had their tails up with a win% of 69.1 in ODIs since 2013, which was the best among all the teams.
It doesn’t stop there. Michael Clarke had already announced that he would retire after the 2015 event, so the added incentive was right there. To give the long-serving Australian batter the perfect send-off.
14 teams battled it out in a format that was well-known, after a great success in 2011. Two of the tournament pre-favourites, Australia and India were placed strategically in a way that they rocked the two groups - A and B respectively.
LEAGUE STAGE AND QUARTER-FINAL
Australia kicked the tournament off against arch-rivals England, who looked shaky in the format.
On the back of a century from Aaron Finch, Australia posted a total of 342 and Mitchell Marsh’s five-fer fetched them a massive win of 111 runs.
The second game against Bangladesh was abandoned without a ball being bowled, leading all the focus to the Trans-Tasman rivalry to light the tournament up. New Zealand, who had big wins in both their previous matches, were hosting Australia. With hostile fast bowlers from both the sides, Auckland was in for a spicy contest.
Australia got off to a decent enough start when they scored 68 runs in the first 10 overs. Just as they were looking for a big score, Vettori provided them with a breakthrough in-form of Watson in the 13th over. Then on, Australia crashed from 80 for 1 to 106 for 9 losing eight wickets for 26 runs, one of their worst collapses in ODIs. Boult was the star with a five-wicket haul and was equally supported by Southee and Vettori with two wickets.
An easy run-chase for New Zealand, you reckon?
Chasing 152, New Zealand had messed up the chase even though McCullum got off to a blazing start by scoring a 21-ball half-century before being dismissed in the 8th over. New Zealand also were heading the same way as Australia as they lost Taylor and Elliot both in successive balls, but Anderson and Williamson provided some stability with a 52-run partnership.
Riding on that partnership, NZ were looking comfortable with 21 runs required, but Starc had his tail up. Yet another collapse was triggered by the left-arm quick after Maxwell dismissed Anderson. However, the ice-cool Williamson stayed till the end and took NZ over the line with one wicket in hand, with a six that will be remembered for eternity.
Despite their loss, Australia were relentless. In the remaining three league matches they thrashed each of their opponents and booked a quarter-final encounter with Pakistan. The quarter-final match also turned to be a walk in the park for them as they eased past Pakistan with 6 wickets.
Australia had set up a clash against India in the semi-final who were undefeated till then at the Sydney Cricket Ground. In the 2011 World Cup, Australia lost to India in the quarter-final, but this was the first time that India and Australia met at the semi-final stage of the World Cup.
The four-time champions were batting first, and thanks to a century from Steve Smith, they posted a total of 328. The partnership of 182 runs for the second wicket between Finch and Smith had set the foundation. After the dismissal of Smith, a small collapse was countered by Shane Watson and James Faulkner, while the finishing touch was laid by Mitchell Johnson with a quick fire 27 off 9 balls.
Never had a team chased a target of over 300 in a World Cup knock-out fixture, and India needed to not just chase 329 but chase history. Even though Rohit and Shikhar provided a good start by piling a 76-run partnership for the opening wicket, Australia had the upper hand.
Josh Hazlewood provided the breakthrough needed and later Australian quicks made inroads until Rahane and Dhoni joined hands. A 70- run partnership for the 5th wicket gave a glimmer of hope for India, but Starc ruined that as well. Dhoni, towards the end was fighting a lone battle before a brilliance from Maxwell at mid-wicket claimed the wicket as well as match.
In the end, Australia won the second semi-final, to set up a Trans-Taman final, but this time in Australia’s backyard.
Both the teams had been sensational throughout the World Cup. New Zealand were unbeaten and Australia had lost only one match and that too against New Zealand. The way these two teams played in the league stage, a sense of excitement was in the air on how the final would pan out.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) was going to be a host for the big event, and the crowd had already started gathering in numbers before the umpire screamed ‘play’.
After electing to bat first, NZ were jolted by an early strike as Starc removed the dangerous McCullum in the first over of the match. The top three were decimated for a score of less than 50. A 111-run partnership between Taylor and the semi-final hero, Grant Elliot, halted the collapse until Faulkner got the better of Taylor.
After the fall of Taylor, Elliot was stranded at one end looking at the wickets collapsing the other side. A knock of 83 by Elliot helped New Zealand crawl to 183 which was never enough even though it was a final.
184 was always going to be an easy run-chase. That too for Australia, especially when they are playing at home. But funnier things have happened in the tournament. Clarke’s Australia though didn’t want any of that.
Chasing a meager total, Australia suffered an early but not an alarming set-back through Finch who was dismissed for a duck. Smith and Warner tackled the early threat and then the skipper Michael Clarke’s innings of 74 was the icing on the cake. Clarke walked back with the crowd up and on their feet, the Australian legend deserved to walk away from the game with a fitting ODI World Cup.
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