Sunday, March 29, 2015

Australia Crowned World Champions for the 5th Time!

ICC Cricket World Cup Final 2015: Australia vs New Zealand at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne on 29th March 2015 - Match Review

Australia beat New Zealand by 7 wickets at MCG to win the 2015 World Cup.

The D day had finally arrived. After 6 weeks of some pretty riveting cricket the two best teams had reached the final. It was to be played at one of the most iconic cricket grounds in the world – the MCG. Some 90,000 spectators were expected to fill the huge stands and fill they did, those stands were all a vast sea of green and yellow spattered with black and beige!

Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum won the toss and decided to bat first. That gave them a chance to put pressure on the Australians by putting a decent score on the board and then let their in-form bowlers and pressure do the rest. Brendon McCullum faced up to Starc after Guptill took a single off the second ball and that was when the first big face off of the day took place. McCullum swung and missed at the first ball which just missed his off stump. He charged the second time around but still could not lay bat to ball as it swung a tad on its way to Brad Haddin. It was third time lucky for the Australians and Starc who rattled the stumps with a deadly yorker that McCullum missed again and the Aussies were off on a celebratory run!!

It was all nervy stuff after that for Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill as Starc bowled with fire and looked like taking a wicket with every delivery. Guptill top edged a pull for 6 off Hazlewood that gave the Kiwis some momentary relief and Kane played a lovely straight drive. Just when things seemed to be easing up with Clarke introducing Maxwell, Guptill played back to see his off peg being rattled. Williamson chipped a tame return catch to Johnson 2 overs later as New Zealand slumped to 39-3 in the 13th over and starring down the barrel.

But Ross Taylor and the hero of the semi final for the black caps, Grant Elliott steadied the rocking ship with some cool and calm batting as they collected the singles and twos regularly and kept the score ticking over. Elliott was the more comfortable partner of the two and he looked in ominous form almost carrying off from that six he hit off Steyn the other day.

New Zealand had reached 150-3 when the powerplay was taken at the end of the 35th over. They seemed to have recovered sufficiently to lay a charge on the Australians in the last 15 and a score of around 300 looked on the cards. All that changed in a matter of a few balls as Faulkner first induced a nick off Taylor the first ball of the powerplay. Corey Anderson was the cleaned up the very next ball, a fast yorker pinging his off stump. When Ronchi was caught off Clarke at first slip off Starc in the next over, the match had turned on its head. New Zealand were now 151-6 and looked down and out.

Grant Elliott tried to take a few risks as he ran out of partners and he was the 8th wicket to fall with the score on 171, he made a superb 83 off just 82 balls. The Kiwi innings ended with a brilliance of flash in the field by Glenn Maxwell who fielded the ball at short mid-wicket and hurled it at the non strikers end to catch Tim Southee short of his ground. New Zealand could only make 183. They had slipped from 150-3 to 183 all out losing their last 7 wickets for just 33 runs.

New Zealand still could make a match out of this as they had the bowlers and an aggressive captain who backed them to a hilt. Boult swung the ball in to Aaron Finch in the second over and he just inside edged it on to his pads which lobbed up for a simple caught and bowled. Australia 2-1. In walked Steven Smith, the man who had made a half century in the quarter final and a century in the semi final and he looked in fine touch once again. David Warner was a bit nervy and edgy but he too was soon hitting the ball right of the middle of his big, heavy bat.

Australia were cruising but Warner pulled one straight down mid-wickets throat off Matt Henry as Australia were 63-2 in the 13th over. That brought their captain to the crease for the final time in yellow cloths for Australia and he looked nervous. Short balls have troubled him lately and McCullum attacked him with plenty of short bowling. He placed ultra attacking fields too; 3 slips, a gully, a short cover and a short point for Clarke. But Clarke battled through and was soon hitting the ball as sweetly as he has ever hit. As the target got within sight Clarke decided to up the ante. He hit Southee for 4 consecutive boundaries in an over and then Smith got to his 5th consecutive fifty in the next over. But Clarke could not witness either Smith’s 50 from the other end neither could he hit the winning runs as he chopped one onto his stumps from the impressive Henry.

He walked off to a rapturous applause from the 93,000 strong fans voicing their support for him. The chase was sealed by Smith as he pulled a short Southee delivery to mid-wicket for a 4. The World Cup had been wrested back from India and Australia had won the World Cup for the 5th time!

All smiles for the Australian team as they lift the World Cup after
beating New Zealand by 7 wickets at the MCG

James Faulkner won the man of the match award for his game changing spell and Mitchell Starc won the man of the series as he ended up as the joint leading wicket taker along with Trent Boult. Both the awards were handed by the master blaster, Sachin Tendulkar. Michael Clarke made a reference to Phil Hughes when he emotionally and with a lump in his throat mentioned, ‘We dedicate this World Cup win to our little brother Phil Hughes’. A big pat on the back to him for that and respect too!!

And so, it ended. The cricket carnival has come to an end with Australia being crowned the World Champions for a staggering 5th time! Congratulations to them!

As for me I will do a few more posts on the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 before bringing down curtains on what has been the most prolific period for me and my blog.

PS - The image used is courtesy

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Trans Tasman Rivals to Clash for the Prestigious World Champions Crown!

Final: Australia vs New Zealand at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne on 29th March 2015 - Match Preview

It has come down to this, finally. The two host nations, Australia and New Zealand will battle it out for the ODI World Cup 2015 in Melbourne at the iconic MCG in front of expected 90,000 screaming fans. Both the have taken similar routes to the Final, Australia beaten only once throughout their campaign (New Zealand defeated them by a solitary wicket at Auckland) while New Zealand have been unbeaten and have an unblemished record. Let us look at how the two teams stack up for this mother of all matches.

The Australian opening pair have had a few good games but they have generally thrown away their wickets at the top of the order. Aaron Finch started with a blistering ton against ashes rivals England and then contributed in the semi final against India where he made a slow 81. Warner has started brightly but has failed to carry on to make a substantial score except when he made 170 odd against the Afghans at Perth.

Steven Smith was the man in form for the Australians and he has prospered at number 3. He made a vital half century in the Quarter Final against Pakistan and then followed that up with a stunning century against India in the Semi Final at SCG. His wicket will probably be the most sought after by the Kiwi bowlers. Michael Clarke has not looked comfortable in the middle against the short ball and is sure to be targeted by the New Zealand quicks.

Glenn Maxwell has also been making runs quite consistently and will hold the key in the later overs along with Shane Watson and James Faulkner.

The Kiwi bowling is spearheaded by their left arm quick Trent Boult (it was he who decimated Australia in Auckland with a spell of 5-3-3-5) who has managed to extract swing in New Zealand conditions and right arm Tim Southee who is quick through the air and is also capable of moving the ball both ways. How these two fare against the Aussie top order, whether they will be able to swing the ball, will hold the key to how much Australia can score in the early overs.

Matt Henry was superb as he was thrown in the mix after Adam Milne was injured and was ruled out with an injury. He bowled with pace and accuracy and made run making extremely difficult for the South Africans in their epic Semi Final clash. He is a good foil as a first change to Boult and Southee.

Michael Clarke will be playing in his last ODI and Brendon McCullum plays every ODI like it is his last! Who will hold that trophy aloft tomorrow at the hallowed MCG?

Daniel Vettori will be probably playing his final international match and what a dream script the bespectacled man is writing for himself. He has been stingy with his bowling, getting wickets and tying down the batsmen where generally the batsmen have run amok. He also made a vital little contribution with the bat at the end of their Semi Final win against the Proteas. He will be looking to go out on a high and the big MCG boundaries will help him no doubt.

Brendon McCullum has not defended a single ball probably and he will attack from ball one in the final as well. He is capable of clearing any ground in the world and his assault on Johnson and Starc in Auckland will be fresh in the Aussie minds. Martin Guptill is also in form as he made that blistering 237* against the West Indies in the Quarter Final.

Kane Williamson was the batsmen who I had thought would take the batting of New Zealand by storm and lead the run scoring charts but his blade has been silent up until now. He will be hoping to have the final say in this important match. Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson and last match hero Grant Elliot will shore up the middle order for the Kiwis and they are all in decent form having made runs recently and under pressure as well. There is also Luke Ronchi who will play against the team he has formerly played for and will add some extra spice to the whole affair.

The Aussie bowling is also led by a left arm bowler who has taken the World Cup by storm. Mitchell Starc, with his swing, pace and toe crushing yorkers has been impossible to get away and he was the one who nearly snatched victory for the Australians by claiming 6 wickets in Auckland earlier in the World Cup. Josh Hazlewood is a good foil for Starc as he generally bowls line and length stuff and forces the batsmen to make mistakes.

Any team that has Mitchell Johnson come in as first change has a seriously good bowling line up and the Australians certainly have that. Johnson was taken apart by McCullum in the game at Auckland and he will be itching top get one back against him. James Faulkner and Shane Watson will provide the medium pace options and both will be stump to stump and with a lot of variations thrown in. Maxwell will be the provider of part time spin for the Aussie's.

Key Battles: Australia vs New Zealand

Trent Boult and Tim Southee vs David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steven Smith

Mitchell Starc vs Brendon McCullum

Mitchell Johnson vs Ross Taylor

Matt Henry vs Michael Clarke

Daniel Vettori vs Glenn Maxwell

James Faulkner and Shane Watson vs Grant Elliot and Corey Anderson

These two teams have certainly provided us with some exceptional cricket over the past 50 days and will go toe to toe to claim victory. They have not played each other outside the ICC tournaments since 5-6 years which adds further intrigue to this battle. McCullum and Clarke are both known to be aggressive captains and it will certainly be a spectacle to see them go head to head. Man to man, Australia look stronger but really there is very little to choose from between these two neighbors. I hope that we get to see an exceptionally close and well played final, one that will remain in our minds for a long long time to come.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Road to the 2015 Cricket World Cup Finals - Australia

Hosts Australia have made it to yet another World Cup Final where they will meet New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the 29th March to decide who is the ODI champion. Their campaign was marked by a whitewash against the Bangladeshi's and a narrow loss against co-hosts New Zealand at Auckland. Let us look at how their World Cup has been thus far and how they reached the finals.

The Australian team has performed exceptionally and find themselves 
in yet another World Cup Title Race!

  • Australia v England at Melbourne - Feb 14, 2015

Australia won by 111 runs

  • Australia v Bangladesh at Brisbane - Feb 21, 2015

Match abandoned without a ball bowled

New Zealand won by 1 wicket (with 161 balls remaining)

  • Australia v Afghanistan at Perth - Mar 4, 2015

Australia won by 275 runs

  • Australia v Sri Lanka at Sydney - Mar 8, 2015

Australia won by 64 runs

  • Australia v Scotland at Hobart - Mar 14, 2015

Australia won by 7 wickets (with 208 balls remaining)

Australia won by 6 wickets (with 97 balls remaining)

Australia won by 95 runs

PS - The image used is courtesy

Road to the 2015 Cricket World Cup Finals - New Zealand

New Zealand have been unbeaten thus far in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and they have played very well indeed, deserving finalists they are too. Led by an aggressive captain and a bunch of players willing to give it their all and backed by a vociferous crowd, New Zealand have not only won matches but also won the hearts of numerous cricket fans and warmed their hearts. Let us look at their campaign so far.

Eye Catching! This has been a constant feature of McCullum's hyper aggressive captaincy, 
4 slips and a gully at the start of the innings!!

  • New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Christchurch - Feb 14, 2015

New Zealand won by 98 runs

  • New Zealand v Scotland at Dunedin - Feb 17, 2015

New Zealand won by 3 wickets (with 151 balls remaining)

New Zealand won by 8 wickets (with 226 balls remaining)

New Zealand won by 1 wicket (with 161 balls remaining)

  • New Zealand v Afghanistan at Napier - Mar 8, 2015

New Zealand won by 6 wickets (with 83 balls remaining)

  • New Zealand v Bangladesh at Hamilton - Mar 13, 2015

New Zealand won by 3 wickets (with 7 balls remaining)

New Zealand won by 143 runs

New Zealand won by 4 wickets (with 1 ball remaining) (D/L method)

PS - The image used is courtesy

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Smith Ton Flattens India, Sets Up Final Clash With The Black Caps

Semi Final 2: Australia vs India at SCG, Sydney on 26th March - Match Review

Australia beat India by 95 Runs

A sea of blue greeted both the teams as they arrived at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground for this important Semi Final clash and the right to play New Zealand at the MCG on the 29th March 2015 in the Final match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Australia won the toss and decided that they will bat first, the pitch looked like a belter and it was the same pitch on which Sri Lanka had nearly chased down Australia’s 370 odd just 2 weeks ago. Both the teams were unchanged for this fight.

Warner hit a six off Umesh Yadav but then lobbed a simple catch off the leading edge to Virat Kohli stationed at mid off. Mohammad Shami was getting the new ball to swing and he was all over Aaron Finch in his opening spell. Steven Smith, the man who had tormented India right through their recently concluded test series just started off from where he had left. He started in grand fashion and was middling the ball right from the word go. Umesh Yadav was hit straight down the ground for a 4 and was then pulled disdainfully three times in the same over, that over cost him 16 runs.

Finch meanwhile continued to struggle at the other end but he fought on. Australia brought their 100 in the 19th over and Smith completed his 50 off just 53 balls. Finch also eventually got to his half century but took 82 balls. Australia opted for the powerplay in the 33rd over as they looked to up the tempo of their innings and with wickets in hand they were headed towards a massive score.

Smith and Finch both attacked the Indian bowlers in the powerplay and Smith completed a well deserved century off just 89 balls. But he could not carry on to a bigger score as he pulled a ball from Yadav straight to Rohit in the deep. Maxwell came in and smashed 23 runs in no time when the introduction of R Ashwin got him a bit too greedy and he was out for 23 off 14 balls. Finch departed in the next over as he tried to pull Yadav but got the toe end of his bat, the ball lobbing to Shikhar Dhawan at short mid widwicket. He made a laborious 81 off 116 balls.

Steve Smith was all over India with the bat and in the field in their Semi Final Clash at the SCG!

At this point of time, India were just starting to claw their way back in to the game as a flurry of wickets had slowed the Aussie charge. The wicket of Michael Clarke further boosted the Indian confidence but first Faulkner who made a vital 21 off just 12 balls and then Watson who steadied the wobble a bit with a 30 ball 28 dented India’s charge. Mitchell Johnson then smashed a game changing 27 off just 9 balls right at the end as Australia posted an imposing score of 328 in their 50 overs.

India needed to bat with caution early on in a bid to preserve wickets for a late assault and that is exactly what they did. Rohit was caught by Watson off Starc in the first over but was reprieved as the replays were inconclusive if the ball had carried to him or not. Haddin then clanged a catch off Dhawan off Hazlewood and everyone felt that maybe it would be an Indian night after all. Dhawan started charging the bowlers and took on Faulkner who was smashed for 30 runs in his first two overs. At the other end Rohit hooked Johnson in the crowd for a six and the crowd roared. India were going along nicely when Dhawan had a brain freeze and he sliced a wide ball straight to Maxwell off Hazlewood.

The whole complexion of the game changed with that one error. Australia were right on top and the bowlers started charging in again. Virat made a solitary run before top edging a pull off Johnson; he took 13 balls to score that one run. Rohit pulled Johnson for another six but was bowled the very next ball as the ball just swung in a bit leaving India at 91 for 3 after 18 overs. Raina was the next in the firing line and he copped a few from Starc before edging one off Faulkner to Haddin. Dhoni and Rahane tried to forge a partnership but just when they were starting to get going in the powerplay, Rahane fell tickling a faint edge to Haddin off Starc which was originally given not out by the umpire but was reversed after Smith convinced Clarke that he had heard something!!

Dhoni dawdled around to complete an utterly meaningless half century but the script had been written and the film had been over long before he was eventually out. The Indian tail did not offer any resistance and India were bowled out for 233 as they whimpered to a loss against Australia one final time this Australian summer.

So, after 48 games and nearly 6 weeks; we now have the two Finalists of the World Cup. It will be the two co-hosts who will collide for the prestigious title once again just like India and Sri Lanka had in 2011. Australia and New Zealand have already given us a thriller earlier in the tournament, can they give us one more at the MCG?

PS - The image used is courtesy

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