DUBAI: Never ever write the Australians off. The stage may have been different. A first ever all-Antipodean affair between Australia and New Zealand in the Middle East. And yet the outcome was an all too familiar one as the green and gold of Australia, powered by the might of Mitchell Marsh with a quite superb innings (77 off 50) on the biggest stage of them all, defeated the Black Caps yet again to win their first ever ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Dubai.
It was a knock worthy of winning a World Cup from a man who just a fortnight ago was left out of the Australia side as they got thrashed by England at this very same venue. Such is the unpredictable nature of the shortest format of the game, that it was Marsh who was the Player of the Match in the final and it is Australia who will go into a home T20 World Cup next year as the defending champions.
As Glenn Maxwell (28 off 18) reverse swiped Tim Southee to hit the winning runs and the Australian players streamed onto the outfield, Marsh removed his helmet to let out an almighty roar and embraced Maxwell, before dropping down in a ball of emotion.
From the moment he dispatched his first ball of the final for six, Marsh played an innings of the highest class, including six fours and four sixes, as he took the game to the Black Caps alongside the player of the tournament David Warner (53 off 38), before finishing off the job with Maxwell as Australia cruised home with seven balls to spare.
Despite the best efforts of the New Zealand skipper, Kane Williamson (85 off 48), who played brilliantly in a knock which contained 10 fours and three sixes, it was the Australians back home who woke up to the news that they were world champions.
Aaron Finch won the toss and as expected, chose to field, as is the case in Dubai with only one team thus far successfully defending a total all tournament.
And at 32 for one at the end of the powerplay, Australia would certainly have been the happier side with the star of the semi-final, Daryl Mitchell (11 off 8) back in the hutch and Martin Guptill (28 off 35) and Williamson failing to gain any real momentum.
Williamson was on 21 off 22, when he shovelled a full toss from Mitchell Starc to Hazlewood at deep fine leg. It should have been a regulation catch but the ball went through the Australian’s hands before bobbling over the rope.
That moment sparked a shift in the captain’s approach. Williamson switched gears effortlessly. The New Zealand skipper crunched the next ball straight past Starc, before dispatching a high no-ball full-toss for a third consecutive boundary.
Despite Zampa getting rid of Martin Guptill in the very next over, Williamson marched on. Maxwell was sent for two sixes in the 13th. The first, a shot that Rishabh Pant would have been proud of as Williamson hit a one-hander and the very next ball, he swept one into the stands to bring up his half-century off just 32 deliveries, in what was then the fastest ever in a T20 World Cup final.
At the end of the 15th over, New Zealand had doubled where they were at the halfway stage. The 16th was sheer madness as Williamson smashed Starc for 24, with one six and four fours. Starc, often so reliable with the ball in hand, ended up going for 60 in his four overs and Australia were up against a man playing like he was at the peak of his powers.
It was apt that Williamson was eventually dismissed by the man who dropped him. Hazlewood finished with exceptional figures of three for 16, however he’d have gone into the interval hoping that his drop wouldn’t prove costly.
New Zealand had set a target of 173 - the highest in a men’s T20 World Cup final. Williamson and the Black Caps believed.
When Australian captain, Aaron Finch top-edged a short delivery from Trent Boult to Daryl Mitchell who took a wonderful catch, they sensed an opportunity to do something they hadn’t done since 1981 and beat Australia in a knockout encounter.
That was, however, about as good as it got. Marsh walked out to the crease like a man on a mission, smashing Adam Milne for six, four, four off his first three deliveries and he never looked back.
Both him and Warner accelerated with ease, regularly hitting boundaries and nullifying the New Zealand spin pairing of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner.
After drinks, Williamson turned to the man of the moment from Wednesday in Jimmy Neesham. For all the talk pre-match about Neesham having a job to finish, Marsh signaled his intent to finish his own by swatting him for six, before Warner cashed in by pummelling Neesham for six more to bring up his half century.
Boult came back into the attack and castled Warner, but Australia’s attacking intent was exemplified by the decision to send in Maxwell instead of Steve Smith. With 63 needed off 40, the task was by no means a simple one, yet Marsh and Maxwell ensured that it would be a procession.
Marsh went down on one knee to elegantly send Sodhi into the stands to bring up a fifty of his own - surpassing Williamson’s earlier as the fastest 50 in a T20 World Cup Final - and by then, the wheels were coming off the Black Caps.
It was left for Marsh and Maxwell to guide Australia to a famous victory and for Aaron Finch to become the first Australian man to lift the T20 World Cup. Australia now hold both the men and women’s T20 World titles.
“It’s a huge honour to be able to lead this Australia team. I'm so proud of the way the guys went about it from the start - they were brilliant. I'm so proud,” said Finch. “This team is pretty special. The camaraderie, the way that everyone really cares for each other and looks after each other, looks out for each other; it’s pretty special.”