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    Australia win their first T20 World Cup

    It was less a procession than a runaway train, but either way there was no stopping Australia as they raced to their first T20 World Cup title. They had promised to attack this game with bravery and aggression and their assault on a target of 173 certainly left New Zealand punch drunk, Mitch Marsh leading what amounted to a gleeful pile-on on a previously outstanding group of bowlers as his team raced to the finish line with seven balls to spare.

    From the toss to the moment Glenn Maxwell struck the winning runs Australia seemed in control, and after the 2015 and 2019 50-over World Cups the Kiwis add another runners-up medal to an unwanted and expanding collection. Kane Williamson said in the aftermath that “it’s always nice to get to the last dance” but it seems to be his side’s fate to still be in the ballroom at the 11th hour before turning into pumpkins when the clock strikes 12.

    It took a brilliant innings from the Kiwi captain to lift his side to something approaching a par score but Australia made it look trivial through a barrage of brutal and often brilliant batsmanship. The Black Caps might have been optimistic of defending their score of 172 but they needed quick wickets; when they got one, Trent Boult dismissing Aaron Finch in the third over, Marsh simply strolled in and in the space of three deliveries – six, four, four – took a hammer to their fragile confidence.

    New Zealand looked a beaten side long before the finish. Ish Sodhi has had an outstanding tournament, but it concluded with an over containing three wides, two boundaries and 16 runs, and at the end of it he looked broken. The Kiwis’ other spinner, Mitch Santner, bowled three overs of increasing pointlessness. It was not the way anyone had wanted this to end.

    In many ways it was all perfectly predictable. Though it was more one-sided than anyone had expected, the final very much followed tournament type: for the 10th time in 10 evening games in Dubai the team that won the toss chose to bat second and chased their target down. But such was Australia’s overall superiority it is hard to argue that luck played much of a part. New Zealand’s attempt to control Australia’s scoring started well enough, Boult’s excellent opening over bringing just a single run, but from then on it was pedal to metal cricket. David Warner was always the man New Zealand most feared, not just for his strength and aggression but because he is particularly strong against spin and the Black Caps would need Santner and Sodhi to get through some overs at some stage.

    But Warner survived into the middle overs, New Zealand had no choice to bowl them anyway, and it was at that stage that things fell apart. In the first three overs after the powerplay Australia scored 34, and when Williamson gave Jimmy Neesham the ball to end the spell of spin each batter helped themselves to a six. With his side now in dire trouble Boult returned in the 13th and burst one through the arc of Warner’s swing to take out middle stump, roaring to remind his teammates that the game was still alive. Not for long: Sodhi bowled the next, and we know what happened then.

    Having been put in to bat – Finch won his sixth toss in seven World Cup games, and a probability-defying 14th in 17 this year – New Zealand started their innings well. After three overs they had scored 23 runs and seemed on their way, but at that point things took a turn for the inexplicably pedestrian, and the last 17 balls of the powerplay went for just five runs.

    At the end of the sixth over New Zealand were 32 for one and in trouble. The only thing Martin Guptill, who scored 15 off his first 14 balls before losing his timing and intent, was giving his side was problems. By the time he heaved Adam Zampa to deep midwicket the Kiwis’ disappointment must have been cut with a little relief.

    Meanwhile, Williamson was flourishing after a slow start. He scored one run off his first seven, 21 off his first 21, and then he lifted his 22nd high towards Josh Hazlewood at fine leg who had time to set himself, lift his hands, and let the ball straight through them.

    He turned just in time to see it roll into the rope, and with that New Zealand’s captain was away.

    It was the only thing Hazlewood did all evening that was less than impeccable. His four overs cost just 16 runs and brought three wickets, including that of Williamson, though by then the 31-year-old had applied the defibrillators to his side’s innings. He was particularly electric when facing Mitchell Starc, against whom, and thanks in part to that drop, he scored 39 off 12 deliveries.

    To put that in some kind of context, Starc had not conceded 39 runs in total in any of his previous 10 T20s. In all Williamson hit 64 off his final 27 balls before falling midway through the 18th over, attempting to lift the ball over long-off and failing.

    New Zealand had spent the second half of their innings recovering from the mess they made of the first, but though scoring 115 from the last 10 overs was impressive Australia wasted little time in making it clear that it was not going to be enough.

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