Clinical Australia lift Champions Trophy
Shane Watson hit his second successive century to propel Australia to Champions Trophy glory at the expense of New Zealand.
The all-rounder, whose unbeaten 136 earned him the match award in the semi-final against England, struck a magnificent 105 not out to underpin Australia’s pursuit of 201 to win at Centurion.
They overhauled their target with six wickets in hand and 4.4 overs to spare, Watson striking two sixes in a row off Jeetan Patel to go to three figures and seal a thrillingly efficient team performance which underlined Australia’s almost unfettered dominance.
As well as Nathan Hauritz and Brett Lee bowled in helping restrict New Zealand to 200 for nine on a pace surface at SuperSport Park, and as admirably as Kyle Mills and Shane Bond, the Black Caps opening bowlers, responded, Watson’s was unquestionably the finest individual performance in a one-sided contest.
He may have played second fiddle to captain Ricky Ponting against England three days ago, but the manner in which he marshalled Australia’s chase under the floodlights this evening confirmed his new-found status as an international batsman of the highest repute.
Watson’s composure limited any potential outbreak of nerves in the Australia dressing room after Ponting’s departure left them wobbling on six for two, and his third-wicket stand of 128 with Cameron White, who made 62, snowly snuffed out any hope a depleted New Zealand had of fashioning a remarkable upset.
Growing in assuredness as their partnership developed, Watson paced his innings to perfection - to such an extent that even James Hopes’ late cameo failed to deny him a third ODI hundred. The two ducks he made to start this tournament seemed a distant memory.
Watson put the seal on a miserable evening for New Zealand when he swung Patel over deep midwicket, although they deserve infinite credit for defying the odds - and the absence of four players through injury, Daniel Vettori the latest after a hamstring injury kept him out of this game - to reach the final.
Ultimately, they will reflect on their failings with the bat here. Having lost Vettori during the warm-up, they saw their most destructive batsman, Brendon McCullum, depart in the fourth over of the innings after they won the toss.
He failed to score off the 14 balls he faced, the last of which he edged behind as he attempted to cut Peter Siddle, but Martin Guptill responded by adding 61 for the second wicket with Aaron Redmond.
Guptill batted with as much fluency as any player managed in the match bar Watson, although the two driven fours he managed in one Mitchell Johnson over were the exception rather than the norm as Australia’s seamers maintained a disciplined line without sacrifing aggression.
It took the introduction of Hauritz to remove both, Redmond stumped as he came down the pitch to a delivery which was pushed through slightly quicker and wider, and Guptill gifting a simple return catch courtesy of a half-hearted push to depart for 40.
Ross Taylor was superbly held by Mike Hussey at backward point as he chased Johnson, and when Grant Elliott was struck on the toe by a Lee inswinger, New Zealand had lost four wickets in eight overs.
From the depths of 94 for five, however, they recovered thanks an enterprising sixth-wicket stand between Neil Broom and James Franklin.
Broom batted with considerable watchfulness before launching an assault on Watson during the batting powerplay, slashing him over gully and clearing mid-on and mid-off in the next over, but he perished for 37 to a needless run-out, two changes of mind mid-pitch as he pondered a single to point proving fatal.
Franklin, having struck four fours in his useful 33, had his off stump uprooted by a fired-up Lee, Hauritz turned one back in to have Ian Butler lbw, and Ponting’s direct hit did for Mills. It was left to Patel and Bond to see New Zealand past 200.
If New Zealand were to have any chance of winning, they required early wickets, and Bond and Mills duly delivered during brilliant new-ball bursts.
It took just two deliveries for Bond to make his mark - he located Tim Paine’s edge and saw Taylor take a smart catch low to his right at slip - while Mills was rewarded for a sensational spell that yielded figures of 7-2-9-1 by having Ponting lbw on the back foot.
Watson and White combined to deny New Zealand any further success for more than two hours, paying scant attention to the run-rate as they inched to 26 for two after 14 overs.
It hardly mattered, for runs flowed much more freely when Butler, Franklin and Patel were introduced into the attack.
Each suffered as Watson struck three fours in as many overs, while White made the most of being dropped by wicketkeeper McCullum on 15 - running back towards fine-leg as he attempted to claim a steepling top edge off Butler - to punish any errors in length.
The feeling that the game was beyond New Zealand was prevalent before Bond failed to break through in his second spell, and Watson and White went to 50 either side of the century partnership.
It was left to Mills to remove White in his first over back, the 35th of the innings, courtesy of an inside edge as he attempted to leave the ball, and it was a measure of Australia’s superiority that Hussey’s departure for 11 late on was largely irrelevant.