World Cup

Brilliant darkhorse NZ stumbles in last stretch

The 2015 World Cup was, skipper Brendon McCullum said, the ride of a lifetime for New Zealand and even if Australia brought it to a shuddering halt in Sunday's final, their brilliant campaign will not quickly fade from the memory.

For six weeks, the Black Caps rode to the pinnacle of international cricket on the back of an aggressive brand of the game which earned them eight successive victories and the admiration of millions.

There have been good, some might say great, New Zealand cricket sides in the past but none have captured the imagination of a small but proud sporting nation in the way McCullum's band of brothers did.

With another win on Sunday, they might even have challenged the grip the All Blacks have on the nation's affections — at least until the most successful international team in sport defend their rugby world title later this year.

As it was, New Zealand's first cricket World Cup final ended in anti-climax with a crushing seven-wicket defeat at the hands of their neighbours from across the Tasman Sea.

Stunned by the loss of McCullum to a third ball duck in the opening over, New Zealand never really got back on the front foot and 183 was not the sort of tally their bowlers were hoping to defend.

They battled, of course, but standout pacemen Trent Boult and Tim Southee were unable to find the potency with the new ball they had displayed in their previous matches, while the guile of Daniel Vettori's spin could only slow the flow of runs.

After a national record 10 straight one-day international victories in front of packed houses at home, they came a cropper in their first match overseas this year -- forcing Australia to bat for less than 34 overs to claim their fifth title.

It will be of scant consolation on Sunday to McCullum's men that their brand of the game has played an integral role in making the 11th one of the most attractive of World Cups and will probably redefine the tactics of 50-overs cricket.

They have also transformed the world's view of the game as played by New Zealand, deemed unworthy of matches against a full Australia side until as recently as the early 1970s.

Martin Crowe's batting and innovative tactics took New Zealand to the brink of a World Cup final in 1992 but neither he nor any other previous captain had led a team to a final in six attempts.

McCullum was always aware, however, that rejuvenating the reputation of New Zealand cricket was a long-term project, win or lose at the MCG on Sunday.

"We've got a great group of guys from one through 25 on the squad, and the guys who it's been a pleasure to be able to share this experience with," McCullum said on the eve of the final.

"It won't stop at the end of the World Cup. We've still got a lot of hard work to do to achieve what we want in this game, and where we want to stand in international cricket, but we've made a good start."

And while the underarm bowling scandal of 1981 will always remain the defining moment in New Zealand cricket for some, a younger generation will never forget the six weeks when the national sporting mantra was "Attack! Attack! Attack!".

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Printable version | May 28, 2022 6:45:07 pm |