By Nick Mulvenney
Australia’s players said they had saved their best performance until the end of the tournament after beating New Zealand by seven wickets with more than 16 overs to spare in the World Cup final on Sunday.
After their pace attack ripped through the vaunted New Zealand batting to dismiss the co-hosts for 183, skipper Michael Clarke (74) and Steve Smith (56 not out) hit half-centuries to drive Australia to their target and a fifth world title.
“Unbelievable feeling, we said we wanted to play our best game towards the end of the tournament and to win this final three down, I thought the boys were outstanding tonight,” said Smith.
“The bowlers really set it up for us. They’ve done it all tournament.”
Coach Darren Lehmann, who won two World Cups as a player, paid tribute to the hard work his players had put in over the tournament.
“They just keep coming up and fronting up day in, day out. They’ve been fantastic over the six weeks,” he said before his players emptied a tub of energy drink over his head, adding: “That’s why I love them.”
Australia were set on their way to victory when Player of the Tournament Mitchell Starc bowled New Zealand’s captain Brendon McCullum for a three-ball duck in the first over of the day.
The left-arm quick revealed it was a planned move hatched between him and the team’s bowling coach.
“There were plenty of nerves but it was a little plan Craig McDermott and I have been working on for a couple of days,” he said.
“It was just nice to see it come off, and to happen in front of a packed MCG was amazing.”
Like Lehmann, experienced wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was in the mood for celebration with the record 93,013 crowd.
“We delivered on the biggest stage,” he said. “It’s a great feeling at the moment, so I’m going to try and have a beer with every Australian in the stadium, it’s going to be a fun night.”