Australia beats NZ to win its 5th Cricket World Cup title

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Michael Clarke raised his bat to acknowledge the massive crowd, and nodded to a fallen teammate he credited for inspiring Australia’s run to a fifth World Cup title that culminated with an emphatic win over New Zealand.

Clarke scored 74 and shared a 112-run partnership with Steve Smith (56 not out) as the skipper and the likely future captain spearheaded Australia to the winning target of 184 in the 34th over at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.

It didn’t end absolutely perfectly for Clarke, who also played in the winning team in 2007, when he was bowled by Matt Henry nine runs short of the target in his 245th and last one-day international. But it was close enough. Smith hit the winning runs as Australia reached 186-3 for a seven-wicket victory.

Australia’s left-arm pacemen did the damage early, with Mitchell Starc (2-20), Mitchell Johnson (3-30) and James Faulkner (3-36) combining to dismiss previously unbeaten tournament co-host New Zealand for 183 in 45 overs.

Starc bowled New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum for a duck on the fifth ball, after the Black Caps won the toss and batted in their first away game of the tournament.

The wicket capped an outstanding World Cup for Starc, who was voted player of the tournament for his 22 wickets at an average of 10.18 in an event where bat dominated ball.

He, like Clarke, wore a black arm band featuring the initials PH in memory of former Australia teammate Phillip Hughes, who died after being struck by a ball in a domestic first-class match last November.

”I’ll wear it every game I play for Australia,” said Clarke, who plans to continue as test captain. ”It’s been a really tough few months – we’ve played this World Cup with 16 players. Tonight, this is dedicated to our little brother and teammate Phillip Hughes.

”I’m over the moon – what a tournament,” Clarke added. ”Time is right for me to walk away from one-day cricket.”

New Zealand captain McCullum said he had no regrets.

”It’s been one hell of a ride for us,” he said. ”Right the way through, we played some outstanding cricket, and we ran into an outstanding Australian team today. They’re deserved champions, and Michael Clarke deserved to bow out a World Cup-winning champion.”

After slipping to 39-3 in the 13th over, New Zealand recovered in a 111-run stand between Grant Elliott (83) and Ross Taylor (40) before Faulkner triggered the rapid demise with two wickets in three balls in a period when Australia took three wickets for one run in eight deliveries.

The last seven New Zealand wickets fell for 33 runs.

”At 150-3 in 35 overs, most times this team would have believed we were capable of 270 or 280 if not more,” McCullum said. ”It was a little unlucky for Ross to get out the way he did, and then we saw Australia really bare its teeth and put the hammer down on us. That was possibly the pivotal stage.”

Not to be counted out, having bowled out Australia for 151 in a one-wicket pool win at Auckland a month ago, New Zealand took a wicket in the second over to make the chase more interesting.

Trent Boult, who took 5-27 against Australia in Auckland, took a return catch to remove Aaron Finch (0) – his tournament co-leading 22nd wicket – but David Warner (45) and Smith steadied the chase with a 61-run partnership in 64 balls.

Warner’s dismissal, caught by Elliott off Henry’s bowling, brought Clarke to the crease to raucous cheering from the crowd of 93,013, a cricket attendance record in Australia. And the 33-year-old skipper responded by removing any doubt about the result.

The New Zealanders were the story of the tournament, led by McCullum’s enterprising captaincy. On home turf, though, it was Clarke who had the better of the exchange, with his bowling changes netting wickets quickly, and his fielding changes cutting down the run flow and contributing to dismissals.

Starc ensured New Zealand made the worst possible start by beating McCullum’s bat twice before bowling him for a third-ball duck.

Martin Guptill (15), who scored 105, a World Cup-record unbeaten 237, and 34 in his previous three innings, survived the early pace battery but succumbed immediately to spin, bowled by Glenn Maxwell’s second ball in the 12th over, and finished as the tournament leading scorer with 547 runs.

Taylor faced 71 deliveries before edging a wider ball from Faulkner at the start of the batting power play, and was well caught by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi followed quickly, and Daniel Vettori, likely playing his last international game, couldn’t hang around with Elliott long enough to produce the kind of late partnership that helped New Zealand to a next-to-last-ball semifinal win over South Africa.

India defended 183 to win the 1983 World Cup final against the West Indies, but New Zealand always faced an uphill battle at the MCG.