Melbourne: Australia today clinched the coveted ICC Cricket World Cup for the fifth time, thrashing New Zealand by seven wickets to provide a perfect farewell gift to skipper Michael Clarke, who played a key role with a 74-run knock in his final ODI appearance.
After the bowlers produced a clinical performance skittling out New Zealand for 183, the stage was set for the Australian captain, who used the platform to the fullest with a stylish 72-ball innings as the hosts regained the trophy winning the match in 33.1 overs — ending an eight-year wait.
The moment Steve Smith (56) hit the winning runs, the entire Australian team was out in the ground delirious in joy celebrating the very special achievement.
All performers yearn for a stage as grand as the World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Clarke got his walking out as a hero with the entire MCG giving him a standing ovation once he was dismissed after getting his team to the doorstep of victory.
It was a touching sight to find all his teammates standing at the boundary line to greet him.
Clarke added 112 runs in the company of his deputy Smith (56) and it looked as if the skipper was passing on the team’s baton to his heir apparent.
Having announced his retirement from ODIs a day before the finals, it was a free-spirited Clarke in action.
The drives flowed from his bat, the footwork was as immaculate as ever and so was the manner in which he charged out to the spinners. Each and every shot was greeted with thunderous applause by the capacity crowd.
There were 10 fours and two sixes in his final ODI innings. Clarke had the Herculean job of checking his emotions and carrying on with the business of guiding his team to victory after losing openers Aaron Finch (0) and David Warner (45). And the skipper was up for it with.
Earlier, a collective display of disciplined bowling from the Australian bowlers helped them restrict a nervous New Zealand to a paltry 183 in 45 overs after Brendon McCullum opted to bat.
A mid-innings collapse which saw New Zealand lose their last seven wickets for only 33 runs in 10 overs effectively ended their hopes of putting up a respectable total despite semi-final hero Grant Elliott’s gutsy innings of 83 off 82 balls.