Bracken's lethal left-arm

BCCI PRESIDENT SHARAD PAWAR presents the Champions Trophy to Ricky Ponting, captain of the triumphant Australian team.-K.R.DEEPAK

A cracker of an opening, a sensational collapse, a rain intervention and a damp squib of a finish. The Champions Trophy final at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, fell way below expectations as West Indies proved easy prey for Australia. Vijay Lokapally reports.

For Ricky Ponting and his magnificent team, a dream was realised at the Cricket Club of India, Mumbai. The elusive Champions Trophy is now firmly in the grasp of a bunch of players who had conquered a motivated opposition and made a strong statement of their supremacy in world cricket.

It had been a long journey to the exalted position for Ponting's team. In 1998, its appearance lasted a mere match when Sachin Tendulkar smashed it out of contention in Dhaka. Since then the Champions Trophy had remained a distant dream, until the mission was accomplished in style. Australia has been an overwhelming favourite to dominate events in modern cricket. It had, for strange reasons, shown an uncharacteristic desperation in wanting to win this one title. Three World Cup conquests but not one in the Champions Trophy was certainly hard to digest for supporters of this great combination.

The Aussie spirit and resilience were prominent in this tournament once the team was jolted into performing after the disastrous beginning against the West Indies at the CCI. It made its point strongly at the same venue, triumphing convincingly, much to the delight of Ponting. He had indicated that the team was "desperate to win the Champions Trophy," but that was not the only motivation to do well.

The Australians back themselves in all conditions and the occasion was ideal for Ponting to whip his team into giving its best. From the time Steve Waugh propelled the team into the habit of winning by claiming the 1999 World Cup, the fans had come to expect Australia to sweep aside all opposition. It was different when it came to the Champions Trophy.

MAN OF THE MATCH Shane Watson-S. SUBRAMANIUM

The final brought the best out of the Australians. At one point the team appeared shattered when Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee were clouted all over like ordinary bowlers. It was a rare sight as McGrath stood dazed, hands on hips, unable to arrest the slide.

With Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in a menacing mood and McGrath and Lee out of their wits, it was left to Nathan Bracken to produce a spell that restored sanity and gradually swung the contest in favour of Australia. The intensity of the combat was worthy of the occasion. It is another matter that the match itself fell below expectations and left the audience hugely disappointed.

Bracken's spell was match-winning indeed. He did not wilt. His relentless probing dented the West Indian confidence and allowed McGrath to return for a stifling second spell. It was hard to believe that McGrath was the same bowler who had been clouted for 22 runs in two overs. His second spell read 5-3-2-2, well in keeping with McGrath's image.

The rollicking start by West Indies was a challenge to the Aussie character. Could Ponting script an Aussie resurgence or would he succumb to the fury of Gayle?

The lanky Jamaican was at his best as he took the Australians by the scruff, but then he had not reckoned with Bracken's craft with the new ball. The left-arm swing bowler came up with the `Ball of the Tournament' to snare the `Man of the Tournament.' The ball hardly had any gap to sneak through but the movement was just enough to leave Gayle dumbfounded. The star performer of the tournament had failed when West Indies needed him to excel and that was the turning point of the match.

Man of the Series Chris Gayle.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

The Australians staged a remarkable comeback after conceding 49 runs in the first five overs and 31 in the next five, thanks to Bracken.

Ponting's leadership was on test and he did not fail his team. At no point did he lose his composure. The confidence that marks Australia's cricket was on display at the CCI. Built over a period of time, this self-belief was the clinching factor as Australia dismissed the West Indies for a paltry 138. It then knocked off the runs after an initial hiccup when it lost Adam Gilchrist and Ponting cheaply. But `Man of the Match' Shane Watson and Damien Martyn finished the job with some sensible batting after a rain interruption presented Australia with a revised target.

Australia proved amply what it takes to become a champion. Its strong cricket structure allows the team the privilege of some exceptional replacements and the team realised its potential by wining its first Champions Trophy title in five appearances.

The best team in the competition and the best in the world had been crowned the champion. There is not a soul who would grudge this wonderful triumph of a spirited and talented combination.

* * * The Scores

Australia v West Indies, Final, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, November 5, 2006. Australia won by eight wickets (D/L method).

West Indies: S. Chanderpaul b Bracken 27; C. Gayle b Bracken 37; R. Sarwan c Hogg b Bracken 7; D. Bravo lbw b Hogg 21; B. Lara c Gilchrist b McGrath 2; R. Morton c Gilchrist b McGrath 2; M. Samuels c Ponting b Watson 7; C. Baugh lbw b Watson 9; I. Bradshaw b Lee 7; J. Taylor (not out) 5; C. Collymore (run out); Extras (lb-5, w-7, nb-2) 14. Total (in 30.4 overs) 138.

Fall of wickets: 1-49, 2-65, 3-80, 4-88, 5-94, 6-113, 7-125, 8-125, 9-136.

Australia bowling: Lee 7.4-0-49-1; Bracken 6-0-22-3; McGrath 7-3-24-2; Symonds 3-0-16-0; Watson 3-0-11-2; Hogg 4-1-11-1. Australia (target: 116 runs from 35 overs): A. Gilchrist c Gayle b Bradshaw 2; S. Watson (not out) 57; R. Ponting lbw b Taylor 0; D. Martyn (not out) 47; Extras (lb-4, w-5, nb-1) 10. Total (for two wickets, 28.1 overs) 116.

Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-13. West Indies bowling: Gayle 1-0-5-0; Taylor 7-0-42-1; Bradshaw 6-0-21-1; Collymore 6-1-19-0; Samuels 5-0-9-0; Sarwan 3.1-0-16-0.