THE eleventh edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup is done and dusted, with Australia crowned champions for the fifth time after a dominant display against New Zealand on Sunday evening.
Mitchell Starc got the Aussies off to a perfect start, clean bowling Kiwi captain and chief danger-man Brendon McCullum with only the third ball of the day to send a jam-packed Melbourne Cricket Ground into raptures.
Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson soon jumped into Starc’s slipstream, dismissing Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson in consecutive overs to put the Black Caps in a very precarious position with less than 13 overs bowled.
New Zealand’s semifinal hero Grant Elliott (83) led a gutsy rebuild with the assistance of Ross Taylor (40), dragging the scoreline to 3 for 150 before James Faulkner – man of the match with eventual figures of three wickets for 36 – ousted both Taylor and Corey Anderson in the 36th over.
Starc, Johnson and a Maxwell run-out combined to clean up the tail as NZ lost their last seven wickets for just 33 runs, leaving Australia – which were the short favourites at $1.44 with CrownBet.com.au – needing only 184 runs to sew up yet another Cricket World Cup triumph.
Trent Boult had other ideas, however, as he exploited some early movement off the MCG pitch to beguile Aaron Finch into giving up an easy caught-and-bowled in the second over of the Australian innings.
That saw Boult tie with Starc on 22 wickets for CWC 2015, but there would be no more joy for New Zealand’s star swing bowler as the in-form Steven Smith came out to consolidate the Aussie cause while David Warner swung for the fences.
Warner eventually fell for 45 after skying a pull shot off Matt Henry, giving the Black Caps the faintest sniff as Michael Clarke – who had announced his retirement from One Day International cricket the day before – walked to the crease in his final limited-overs match for Australia.
And it would prove to be a fitting farewell for the captain, as he proceeded to put on a 112-run partnership – adding 74 of them himself – with skipper-in-waiting Smith before falling prey to a slow cutter from the lion-hearted Henry.
The job was already done by then, however, and Clarke had hardly taken his pads off when Smith hit the leg-side boundary to confirm Australia as the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup champions.
Starc, Guptill top 2015 CWC stats charts
It was no surprise to anybody when, during the post-match presentations at the MCG, Mitch Starc was named the player of the tournament for the World Cup 2015.
The Australian paceman took 22 wickets in just eight matches (the group game against Bangladesh was rained out), averaging a measly 10.80 for the tourney and striking once every 17.4 deliveries.
His main competition was Trent Boult, who came into the final with 21 World Cup wickets – one more than his trans-Tasman counterpart – and was widely fancied to at least maintain that gap and top the tournament bowling charts.
However, Starc’s two wickets to Boult’s one ensured both left-arm quicks saluted in the CWC futures betting, the Aussie returning $2.37 at Sportsbet.com.au and the Kiwi priced $1.72 at William Hill in the lead-up to the final.
And while it wasn’t a great day for New Zealand or Martin Guptill with the bat, the hard-hitting opener did just enough in Melbourne to make a few dreams come true.
Guptill only scored 15 runs before losing his bails to an off-spinning Glenn Maxwell delivery, but it was enough to see him trump Kumar Sangakkara as the tourney’s top runscorer.
The 28-year-old compiled 547 runs in nine innings, finishing up with two centuries, a batting average of 68.37 and the highest individual score of the competition – a record 237 not out against the West Indies in the quarterfinals.
Guptill’s form was a real shock to the bookies, with Sportsbet Australia pricing him at $34 for top batsman in the World Cup futures betting just a few weeks out from the event – well behind the likes of David Warner ($8.50), Hashim Amla ($11), Virat Kohli ($13) and Brendon McCullum ($15), none of whom finished among the top 10 runscorers.
New Zealand TAB refunds over $135,000 on World Cup futures bets
It wasn’t the dream result the co-hosts were hoping for in the 2015 Cricket World Cup final, but the pain may pass a little quicker for a few thousand full-pocketed Kiwi punters.
In the wake of the Black Caps’ defeat to their arch rivals on Sunday night, the New Zealand TAB has handed out more than NZD $135,000 in customer refunds.
This sudden fit of generosity is the result of a special World Cup betting promotion, launched several weeks before the tournament commenced on February 14.
To encourage the local punters to bet on New Zealand, the TAB advertised a cash-back guarantee for outright wagers should the Kiwis reach the decider but lose the match.
That is precisely how things went down in Melbourne more than six weeks later, and the bookmaking franchise has stuck to its word by refunding nearly 4000 futures bets.
And that’s not all the sports betting giant has had to cough up, having accepted a number of high-stakes wagers on Australia to win the final – including two which returned more than $21,000 each.
Much less fortunate was the poor fellow who staked $10,000 on New Zealand to triumph – a bet which, at $2.60 odds, would have paid $26,000 if successful.