Fierce Oz resume world domination

Michael Clarke (AFP)
Michael Clarke (AFP)

Melbourne - As Steven Smith pulled the winning boundary to crush a New Zealand fairytale and clinch a fifth World Cup for Australia on Sunday, Michael Clarke's side celebrated a glorious end to a journey marked by a period of self-doubt and grief for a fallen team mate.

Captain Clarke retires from one-day cricket with his legacy intact but his team will charge on to the 2019 tournament with renewed belief in their ability to re-generate, adapt and rebound from the stiffest of challenges.

Two years after their annus horribilis of 2013 and less than three months after the death of batsman Phillip Hughes, Australia resumed their dominion of world cricket with a ruthless seven-wicket victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Brutal in the ultimate back yard battle against the 'little brother' from across the 'ditch', Australia's fifth world trophy may be regarded the sweetest, having played out in front of a record home crowd of 93,013.

Australia have won four of the last five World Cups, an astonishing record of dominance unlikely to ever be repeated.

Roared on by canary-yellow fans in the terraces, Mitchell Starc bowled New Zealand's totemic captain Brendon McCullum for a third-ball duck, setting the tone for a banner day for the hosts' pacemen who skittled the visitors for 183.

Clarke made the most of his swan-song, plundering a team-high score of 74 runs as Australia emphatically wiped away the stain of 1992 when they were knocked out early in their first World Cup on home soil.

Clarke and all-rounder Shane Watson enjoyed their second such triumph, having toasted success in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

Though boasting an embarrassment of riches in both bowling and batting, and a formidable blend of youth and experience, Australia were just one of a pack of contenders at this tournament, unlike the great sides who swept to three consecutive World Cups from 1999 to 2007.


A nerve-jangling loss against New Zealand in the pool phase followed a rained-out match against Bangladesh, fanning premature fears the hosts campaign might be ill-fated.

Those fears were torpedoed with a crushing quarter-final win over Pakistan and a vengeful thrashing of champions India who ended their title defence in 2011.

Though the players will hail a golden six weeks, some may reflect on the dark places from which they emerged.

Two years ago, Australia battled mediocrity in all formats, lurching from crisis to crisis in a humbling 2013.

Humiliated in test series by India and England, Australia meekly surrendered their last one-day title, the Champions Trophy in England, after opening batsman David Warner punched an England player in a Birmingham bar.

Coach Mickey Arthur was sacked and Clarke was plagued by his perennial back problems.

But led by the calm direction of new coach Darren Lehmann and fired by the renaissance of fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, Australia dragged themselves off the canvas to thrash England 5-0 in the 2013-14 Ashes and upset world number one test team South Africa in their own back yard.

Those successes would filter down to the one-day side, who finished 2014 with a 13-5 winning record, but the year would see Australia thrown into turmoil again.

On Nov. 25, batsman Phillip Hughes collapsed at the Sydney Cricket Ground after being struck by a short ball in a domestic match.

The youngest player to score two centuries in a test, Hughes' death in hospital at the age of 25 cast a pall over the World Cup co-hosts less than three months before the tournament.

Their ability to put their grief aside and roar to a successful World Cup campaign underlined Australia's steely resolve in the face of adversity and restored a dynasty that may prove difficult to break.

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