Masters Over 35 Men
Australia v New Zealand
The final game of the tournament. New Zealand, who were beaten out of a Grand Final berth by England in Perth, versus Australia, current title-holders.
Australia have been playing great cricket all week and have not suffered a defeat--their smallest winning margin was 26 runs against South Africa. Even in that game, Australia had equalled South Africa's score after 12 overs, though it must be said that it took a third partnership of 49 to take the pressure of the last Australian pair.
New Zealand have had a variable week, registering some great wins but also suffering three losses and a draw--the losses were against South Africa and Australia (twice), the draw was against South Africa. In both games against Australia, the losing margin was over 80 runs.
So Australia, on form, are favoured to win. But home-crowd advantage and a bit of luck at critical times could see the previous games' form become irrelevant.
However, it was not to be. Although getting off to a great start with the first partnership (Marsh/Morgan), New Zealand's second pair (Erikson/Bunny) copped some very tight bowling and supportive fielding, climaxing in five wickets lost in the partnership's last two overs. Australia carried that form into the third partnership (Kinsella/Baker), and despite 15 runs coming off the tenth over, the partnership was restricted to 16. It was imperative that the last pair (Kerr/Cini) put on as many runs as possible, to give the New Zealand bowlers something to defend. But Australia managed a wicket in each of the first three overs, and two in the last, for a partnership of 9 and a team total of 53.
It was going to take something extraordinary to wrest this game back from Australia's grasp.
The Australian openers (Homfray/Dukes) survived a third-ball in the first over, then lost three wickets in their second. After two overs they had just 3 runs on the board, and New Zealand were doing enough to give their large contingent of supporters some hope. Another wicket in the third over, and Australia hadn't reached double-figures after three overs. Experienced heads came to the fore, and steady batting saw every ball bar one of the last over scored from, for a steadying 13 off the over and a partnership of 22. The next pair (Lahey/Cranwell) batted superbly, losing just one wicket and failing to score off just 3 of the remaining 31 balls of the partnership--they scored two's from 15 balls, eleven singles and just one 3. Far from spectacular, but very, very efficient. A partnership of 41, and Australia were in front on the score-board. The third pair (O'Brien/Powell) lost three wickets (including, we are told but have not yet had time to verify, the first dismissal of O'Brien for the tournament) but still managed 29 runs. Australia were now 39 in front, and the last pair (Robinson/Butler), under virtually no score-board pressure, cruised to a 22 run skin.
Australia proved to be the most consistent and efficient team of the week, and were worthy winners. New Zealand just couldn't lift themselves to seriously challenge them in this game--the long week certainly appeared to be taking its toll. But the men from NZ can definitely hold their heads high, having avenged their non-appearance in the 2001 Masters Final. The improved by one position from then to now--a similar rate of improvement for South Africa in two years and who knows?
But the day belonged to the Australian Men. They had successfully defended the title they won in Perth, and are once again World Masters Champions. Congratulations Australia.