ICC World Cup Final: Part two – The Inevitable

Cricket season in Melbourne is nothing like football season.  There’s no tribal rivalry ready to ignite at a sideways glance.  No one mouths off on the train or in the city or in pubs the night before the game.  There’s no irrational fear that wearing a North Melbourne hoodie is excuse enough to get clobbered.


And summer and autumn in Melbourne are marginally warmer than winter.  You still need a jumper.


It was 15 degrees on Saturday.  No sun.  Plenty of cloud and wind.  I wore the North hoodie and watched a mate, Paul play a series of practice quarters with the Coburg Superules team at Greensborough.


Afterwards, I cooked Paul steak and vegetables over a few beers.  He was planning a night out.  I was too.  I thought the perfect preparation for the World Cup final involved a quiet night at a local pub.


Paul disagreed.  He thought it would be a good idea to get hammered.  It was about midnight before I agreed with him.  The pub was full and loud.  I talked cricket with a few people.  No one was going.  No one seemed to care.


About two I happened upon two men in the toilets talking cricket.  One was from Adelaide.  He was a young fella with a wobble on.  Couldn’t string a sentence together.


The other man was a former Indian who now lives in Melbourne.  At the time, it didn’t strike me as unusual that a middle-aged Indian man was drinking in a pub early in the morning.  He was for New Zealand all the way, which wasn’t unusual.


‘I love Australia, I hate the cricket team,’ he said.


I shrugged.  ‘New Zealand are going to lose.’


‘I know.  I still hate Australia.’


I went to look for my mate.  I’d had enough.  It took about half an hour to find a cab.  I suggested I may as well go and sleep at the MCG.


When we finally got home, the Indian’s words reverberated in my ears, I love Australia, I hate the cricket team.


Sadly there are plenty of born and bred Australian’s who feel the same way.  I believe it’s an attitude that belongs to people who don’t understand or love cricket.


Waking up in anticipation


It was easy waking up.  The house was quiet.  It was after ten.  There was no hangover.  The rest of the morning consisted of coffee and breakfast I cooked for Paul and his son Jake.


I felt excited without the nervous tension created by a football final or grand final.  Cricket is just different to footy.  Besides, I was smugly confident that Australia would win.


At half past twelve I wandered Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds to buy food for the day and a public transport card.  I met Russ and his boys, Nicholas and William, on the last carriage at Moonee Ponds train station.  The carriage was quiet and half empty.  We were the only people talking cricket.


We didn’t walk from Flinders Street, along the river and over the footbridge like we would for a football final.  We weren’t able to see the MCG looming large ahead and listen to the excited banter of fans around us.  Instead, the train spewed us out at Jolimont Station where we bustled like sheep to the ground.


You can’t fake passion


As the MCG grew closer, my excitement built, but it was still measured.  It wasn’t football.  It wasn’t Australia versus England or South Africa.


It was Australia against New Zealand, and there’s hardly been any passion in those contests since Richard Hadlee retired.  I tried faking passion, but unless Brendan McCullum fired up the Kiwis were going to struggle.


Our seats were magnificent, behind the bowlers arm in the MCC members.  Russ and I went to the Fred Grey Smith bar for beers while his boys entertained themselves.  Russ loves the bar, which he calls the best bar in Melbourne.  He watched last year’s preliminary final there, against the glass, drinking with a mate.


It’s an impressive bar.  We read about Fred Grey Smith.  He was an impressive man.


Despite being 29 degrees, we were in shade. I needed my jacket.  The preliminary stuff took too long, but the crowd energy rose and when Mitchell Starc sprinted in and delivered the first ball, the ooh reverberated around the ground.


When he bowled McCullum for a duck, the roar was reminiscent of any I’ve heard at a grand final.  I was overcome with excitement, as half the crowd was.  As New Zealand’s captain trudged off, I figured the match was over.  McCullum had played with the intelligence of a man swatting flies.


It was aggressive, unintelligent nonsense that occasionally works.  Most often, in the first over of a big final, it isn’t going to.  McCullum, in getting out for a duck, put New Zealand on the back foot.


When Martin Guptill succumbed to a ball from Glenn Maxwell that actually spun, his choice of shot was more concerning than Brad Haddin’s belligerent send-off.  And Kane Williamson’s meek prod back to Mitchell Johnson left New Zealand reeling at 3-39.


Ross Taylor and Grant Elliot had to rebuild.  They did an admirable job but the Kiwis were always behind on the run-rate and were one wicket away from disaster.


The Australian bowlers offered no respite.  James Faulkner sent Taylor walking for 40 and triggered a horrible collapse of 7-31 in 59 balls.


Russ and I retreated to the Fred Grey Smith bar for a few more beers.  The mid-strength slop served in plastic cups was amazingly bad.  We watched New Zealand’s meek dismissals.


Someone carrying a tray of wine glasses slipped.  The mess reminded me of the Kiwi’s innings, how something with so much promise became a pathetic wet patch needing a mop.


I was disappointed for them.  There was no way back.  I’d hoped New Zealand would score 280 and push Australia hard.


Every team has a weak link.  Aaron Finch gave New Zealand some hope when he got out for a duck but David Warner and Steve Smith pushed the scoring along.  In the 12th over, Warner hooked a boundary to move to 45.  McCullum pushed Elliot back.  Warner hooked the next ball straight to Elliot.


Perhaps Warner didn’t see Elliot.  Perhaps he didn’t care and wanted to take him on.  Either way it was remarkable arrogance.


The match, already bereft of excitement, became a homage to Michael Clarke.  His exit on 74 elicited a groan that moved slowly around the MCG.


I didn’t care that he got out.  He’d guided Australia to victory.  It was what he wanted, what Australia wanted and the standing ovation was deserved.


We stayed until the never-ending presentation meandered into a slow walk around the MCG.  The match finished about 9:15.  The train we were herded onto was the 10:30 from Jolimont.  It was a presentation that went far too long.


Russ and I talked about the final, how the unfortunate nature of the contest was irrelevant.  Winning was all that mattered, but beating up on the Kiwis wasn’t worth bragging about.


It seemed inevitable before the game.  It was inevitable afterwards.


As I celebrated with a quiet beer at Paul’s house, I toasted inevitability, because when you want to win, there is nothing better…





About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

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