Australia perfect their peak practice

New Zealand 200-9 Australia 206-4
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The Independent Online

With the predictability bestowed by hindsight, Australia won the Champions Trophy last night. They arrived for the event as holders but were considered to be a team in transition, no longer the dominant force. It was the turn of others: South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and, in particularly wild dreams, England maybe.



Ho hum. As it unfolded, it became clear that only one team had worked out when, where and how to peak for a major tournament and by the time the final itself arrived there really seemed to be only one team in it. That did not quite prove to be so, but while a six-wicket margin against New Zealand did not represent a hammering, nor did it tell of a close and tense contest.

Shane Watson made his second successive hundred, in 129 balls, for Australia. He finished the match with two sixes, having started the tournament with two ducks. There were 26 balls to spare, but had New Zealand made 300 instead of the 200 they managed, Australia would no doubt have found a way of chasing them. In an event that has been an impressive advertisement for the 50-over format this was not the dull climax it needed or deserved.

On the morning of the match, New Zealand lost their captain and most complete cricketer, Daniel Vettori, to a strained hamstring, which did nothing to alter their status as rank underdogs. Their hearts must have sank as quickly as their odds stretched.

There was one fleeting, fairytale moment in the match when New Zealand might have dared to dream that they could upset Australia's well-stocked applecart. Chasing the forlorn total, Australia were rocking at six for two with the new ball swinging and one of the two was Ricky Ponting himself, the champion batsman. But there is a difference between rocking and falling over the edge.

The third -wicket pair of Watson and Cameron White did not survive comfortably. Shane Bond, delivering a top-class spell of genuine fast bowling, might have had either of them at any time, several times whistling it past bats being employed on a wing and a prayer. But they survived this onslaught and gradually took control.

Had Brendon McCullum, Vettori's replacement, taken a catch running backwards from White's top-edged pull when the score was only 41, or had the world umpire of the year, Aleem Dar, been better disposed to granting a huge appeal for lbw by James Franklin against White when it had reached 98, windows might have opened for New Zealand. But as it was they stayed shut and then the blinds came down.

It had been a tremendous team effort for the Kiwis to get this far. During the tournament they lost four key players, but the fourth, Vettori, was the most important key of all, the one who could unlock the opposition through force of personality and smart cricket. For Australia, it was their third consecutive victory in ICC 50-over competitions after the Champions Trophy in 2006 and the World Cup in 2007. Patently, they are not what they were, but they keep doing it.

New Zealand were unfeasibly slow out of the blocks but Australia hardly eased their passage. Aaron Redmond and Martin Guptill staged a slow second-wicket half-century partnership, Neil Broom and James Franklin an equally sedate one for the sixth wicket. Australia were as disciplined in the field as they had been throughout.

When Bond and Kyle Mills tore in, New Zealand demonstrated why they have come so far. But Watson, driving hard and also essaying some delicate shots, and White put Australia virtually out of reach. Where they have been for so long.

Centurion scoreboard: Champions Trophy final

New Zealand v Australia
Johannesburg
Australia beat New Zealand by six wickets

New Zealand won toss

NEW ZEALAND

......... Runs......... 6s......... 4s......... Bls

*†B McCullum c Paine b Siddle......... 0......... 0......... 0......... 14

A Redmond st Paine b Hauritz......... 26......... 0......... 3......... 45

M Guptill c & b Hauritz......... 40......... 0......... 3......... 64

R Taylor c Hussey b Johnson......... 6......... 0......... 0......... 13

G Elliott lbw b Lee......... 9......... 0......... 0......... 9

N Broom run out (Hussey)......... 37......... 0......... 5......... 62

J Franklin b Lee......... 33......... 0......... 4......... 43

K Mills run out (Ponting)......... 12......... 0......... 1......... 15

I Butler lbw b Hauritz......... 6......... 0......... 1......... 7

J Patel not out......... 16......... 0......... 1......... 19

S Bond not out......... 3......... 0......... 0......... 9

Extras (b 1, lb 2, w 9)......... 12

Total (9 wkts, 50 overs)......... 200

Fall: 1-5, 2-66, 3-77, 4-81, 5-94, 6-159, 7-166, 8-174, 9-187.

Bowling: B Lee 10-1-45-2, P Siddle 10-1-30-1, M Johnson 10-1-35-1, S Watson 10-0-50-0, N Hauritz 10-0-37-3.

AUSTRALIA

......... Runs......... 6s......... 4s......... Bls

S Watson not out......... 105......... 4......... 10......... 129

†T Paine c Taylor b Bond......... 1......... 0......... 0......... 6

*R Ponting lbw b Mills......... 1......... 0......... 0......... 4

C White b Mills......... 62......... 1......... 7......... 102

M Hussey c Patel b Mills......... 11......... 0......... 1......... 9

J Hopes not out......... 22......... 0......... 4......... 22

Extras (lb 3, w 1)......... 4

Total (4 wkts, 45.2 overs)......... 206

Fall: 1-2, 2-6, 3-134, 4-156.

Bowling: K Mills 10-2-27-3, S Bond 10-2-34-1, I Butler 9-0-50-0, J Franklin 9-0-42-0, J Patel 6.2-0-44-0, G Elliott 1-0-6-0.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) & I J Gould (Eng).

Gould brings: English character to final

David Shepherd and Dickie Bird were not only the best English umpires, they were also the most memorable characters. Shepherd, with his superstitious hopping, and Bird, with his gruff Yorkshire ways, became celebrities. Ian Gould, who became the first Englishman to umpire a major ICC final since that pair's heyday when he stood at Australia v New Zealand yesterday, appears to be of a similar mould.

Known as "Gunner Gould", from his days as an Arsenal reserve goalkeeper, the former Middlesex wicketkeeper and Sussex captain divides his time between umpiring and indulging his football passion as chairman of Southern League side Burnham. Gould says he has no interest in celebrity but his seemingly unique follow-up to calling "Over" by shouting "right-hander" or "left-hander" has led some to draw comparisons with his famous predecessors.

By Siobhan McCall

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