Hor­ror fi­nal, but what a cam­paign


Though Bren­don McCul­lum’s boys fell badly at the fi­nal hur­dle, what a mem­o­rable six weeks of cricket they gave New Zealan­ders.

It was a pity New Zealand, so good for so long, came un­stuck against the bril­liant Aus­tralians in the World Cup fi­nal at Mel­bourne on Sun­day night, but I’ll re­tain vivid mem­o­ries of their play dur­ing their nine matches. There were many he­roes. Lit­tle Kane Wil­liamson smashed speed­ster Pat Cum­mins back over his head for a six to win a cliffhanger pool match against Australia by one wicket at Eden Park.

On the same ground, Grant El­liott meted out sim­i­lar treat­ment to Dale Steyn to get New Zealand past South Africa in the semi-fi­nal with one ball to spare. What a night that was.

Tim Southee and McCul­lum were sub­lime against Eng­land. Southee took 7-33 from nine overs and McCul­lum smashed 77 off 25 balls (eight 4s and seven 6s) as New Zealand rushed to victory with 38 overs to spare.

Martin Gup­till was the top run­scorer in the tour­na­ment, helped by a cen­tury against Bangladesh and that breath­tak­ing 237 not out in the quar­ter-fi­nal against West Indies in Welling­ton.

Trent Boult, bowl­ing left-arm pace, was equal top wicket-taker in the tour­na­ment and has be­come a world fig­ure in cricket. I ad­mired McCul­lum hugely. He bat­ted brazenly and bril­liantly, slam­ming four half­cen­turies and al­ways look­ing to put New Zealand on the front foot.

As a cap­tain, he at­tacked cease­lessly, some­times pack­ing in four slips in his re­lent­less search for wickets. He has rev­o­lu­tionised one-day cricket think­ing.

His fear­less­ness rubbed off on his team-mates.

Now they’re New Zealand sports he­roes, from the still emerg­ing tal­ents of Corey An­der­son, Matt Henry and Adam Milne to the de­part­ing Daniel Vet­tori, who bowled his left-arm spin so fru­gally and craftily.

Of­ten when New Zealand sports teams em­bark on th­ese epic cam­paigns, they come up trumps.

I’m think­ing of the 1956 rugby se­ries against the Springboks, the 1976 Olympic hockey gold medal, the 1981- 82 All Whites’ long march to the Foot­ball World Cup fi­nals, and the 1995 Amer­ica’s Cup saga.

This time they were a match short, though they were the first New Zealand team to make a Cricket World Cup fi­nal, and we’ve been try­ing since 1975.

New Zealand cricket has turned a cor­ner. The team has be­lief, and so do its sup­port­ers.

That fi­nal was a huge oc­ca­sion, on a par with the third test of the 1981 Spring­bok se­ries, the 2011 Rugby World Cup fi­nal, and two Foot­ball World Cup play- offs, against China in 1982 and Bahrain in 2009.

Our crick­eters have of­ten been poor cousins to the All Blacks, but not this time.

Through seven rounds of Su­per Rugby, sports fans’ at­ten­tion hardly left the cricket. How of­ten has that hap­pened?

There was some in­cred­i­ble cricket dur­ing the tour­na­ment. I’ve cho­sen this tour­na­ment team: Martin Gup­till, Bren­don McCul­lum, Ku­mar San­gakkara, Steve Smith, AB de Vil­liers, Glenn Maxwell, Corey An­der­son, Daniel Vet­tori, Morne Morkel, Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult. I know - five New Zealan­ders and only three Aus­tralians, but that’s how it fell.

Apolo­gies to Bren­don Tay­lor of Zim­babwe, Im­ran Tahir of South Africa and In­dian pace­men Mo­hammed Shami and Umesh Ya­dav – close but no cigar.


Rare mo­ment: Some fleet­ing joy for New Zealand in their heavy World Cup fi­nal de­feat. Trent Boult and Daniel Vet­tori cel­e­brate the cap­ture of Aaron Finch’s wicket.

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