It had been the World Cup of short balls. On a flat MCG deck, it had seemed bounce would be the bowlers' major ally. But so cocksure were Australia's pace phalanx of their quality, they left nothing to the vagaries of the surface, firing balls full, fast and straight to deliver Australia a seven-wicket win and its fifth World Cup in comprehensive fashion.
Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson shared five wickets, having sent down several spells of searing, swinging yorkers between them, and James Faulkner - slower but cannier than the other left-armers - claimed three scalps for himself. In all, eight wickets fell to full deliveries as New Zealand were felled for 183 in the 45th over.
There were early nerves in the chase, particularly when Aaron Finch fell in the second over, but Michael Clarke and Steven Smith stroked fluent half-centuries to run the target down inside 34 overs. Clarke, the departing captain, had a standing ovation when he left the field after his sparkling 74 from 72. Smith, his most likely successor, stayed at the crease to hit the last ball of the World Cup through deep square leg for four.
All through the tournament batting sides have broken games open in the final 15 overs of their innings, but Australia bent history in a different direction by blowing through New Zealand's middle order and tail during the death overs. New Zealand might have harboured hopes of a score of 250, perhaps even 300, when Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor's 111-run stand had repaired early damage. But when the batting Powerplay came on at the 35th over, Faulkner claimed two scalps from three balls to send the opposition into a nosedive.
His slower ball first took Taylor's outside edge en route to a diving Brad Haddin, before two balls later, Corey Anderson missed a straight yorker that made a mess of his stumps. Luke Ronchi was caught sharply at slip off Starc early next over, and Daniel Vettori castled by Johnson in the 41st. Elliott had played smoothly for his 82 ball 83, but was forced into a premature attack by the carnage at the other end, and was dismissed by a now-combative Faulkner, before a Glenn Maxwell direct hit found a languid Tim Southee short of his crease to end the innings.
In the end it was a final almost completely devoid of David v Goliath romance. New Zealand had captured neutral support partly because of the spirit with which they had played this World Cup, but all through the final, there were touches of arrogance from Australia to go with their overpowering skill and strength. Brad Haddin's sniping from behind the stumps was nearly incessant, several New Zealand batsmen had words shot at them as they departed, and the David Warner blows that kick-started Australia's chase smacked of disdain.
Luck too, favoured 21st century pragmatism over the fairytale. Daniel Vettori, the final's second oldest man, injured himself early in the second innings and could only pivot gingerly through his five overs. Brendon McCullum had attacked relentlessly in the field right through this campaign, but the moment Warner's assault bent his resolve out of shape, the next ball flew through second slip, where moments before a fielder had stood. Then the final slap in the face in the 15th over: Matt Henry's ball dribbled onto Smith's stumps, but did not dislodge the zing bails.
McCullum's World Cup final innings was a high-octane blur. Starc bowled fast and full, straightening the ball only a touch, but menacingly late. McCullum swung straight at the first, missed, then missed again when he advanced next ball. The third inswinging yorker clattered into the base of off stump. Starc took off toward square leg in celebration, the MCG's mighty roar in his ears. McCullum left his side at 1 for 1, having been comprehensively outdone.
The early wicket helped weigh the New Zealand batsmen down, but Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson were also muted by impeccable pace bowling from Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and later Johnson. They collected only two fours and a top-edged six in the first 10 overs. Having averaged more than seven an over through that period in the tournament, New Zealand were 31 for 1 when the field restrictions expired. Australia's lively ground fielding ensured even rare loose balls were punished minimally.
Australia grew red hot with the scalps of Guptill and Williamson - the former inexplicably missing an innocuous Maxwell offbreak, the latter spooning a return catch to Johnson in the 13th over. Elliott and Taylor combined to fight the fire, poking the first few runs through the offside with hard hands before Clarke slipped in a few overs from his supporting bowlers to inadvertently ease the pair in.
Elliott eventually took another top-edged six and laced a few through the covers to move to a strike rate of around 100. He was the only New Zealand batsman to appear comfortable at the crease while Taylor plodded at the other end. All through the partnership, Australia's quicks would earn thick edges, but these flew fast and high over the infield. Third man was a productive area for the batsmen.
Trent Boult raised hopes of an upset when in a scorching spell, he caught and bowled Finch to leave Australia 2 for 1. But Warner soon propelled Australia through the early overs, and Australia were not shaken after that. Warner was caught attempting a second pulled four for 45 off Henry, but Smith and Clarke combined to make 112 stress-free runs together to effectively close out the Cup.
Clarke was composed to begin with, but a brace of late boundaries - including four consecutive fours off Tim Southee's 31st over - he sent his side hurtling towards the trophy. He was out soon after for a 72-ball 74, but Smith capped a dream summer by completing his fifty the same over, then sealed the result soon after.
When New Zealand were all out for 183, the 1983 World Cup final was invoked. When Vettori began hobbling in what was probably his final international, comparisons with Muttiah Muralitharan's plight in the 2011 final were made. Australia's 1999 annihilation of Pakistan came closest to matching the narrative of this game. In the end, the final perhaps fit a 2015 tournament that has seen precious few close contests.
This is historical over from Henry fast bowler of NZ...here is coming....
Henry to Smith, FOUR, short and pulled away with a whirl of those rubber wrists! There she blows, the winning runs fittingly from Smith's bat - Australia win the World Cup final by seven wickets, New Zealand were just swept aside in the end. Smith has been one of Australia's leading lights and he had guided them home at the G"
9.45pm: The trophy has been held aloft and, after a six-week journey, Australia are crowned World Champions. They're off on a victory lap, which will take a while across the wide expanse of the MCG. The emotion briefly welled up again in Clarke when he paid tribute to Hughes; Australia play their cricket close to the edge but Clarke, in particular, makes them a likeable, human bunch. Both captains spoke with humility and praise for each other at the end and both sides have played a huge part in making this tournament memorable.
We've had a blast, haven't we? The batsmen certainly did, though the Man of the Final and Man of the Tournament were bowlers. We will remember spells from Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Wahab Riaz for as long as we do those innings of fury from Martin Guptill, AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell. Not to mention the contributions made from all across the cricketing world, from Shaiman Anwar and William Porterfield, Shapoor Zadran and Sean Williams.
The final, in the end, was something of a waltz but we'll not forget Baz and his Black Caps charging through the competiton with an aggressive approach that will forever leave its mark. The G got the result it wanted, however. We'll have plenty of reaction, appreciation and analysis coming up on the site, so stick around. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to bring you the action, we'll be back again in four years' time (possibly before then, too). From Sid and myself and all the guys and girls in New Zealand and Australia, India, England and the US, thanks for joining in and see you again soon. Bye!
9.25pm: Presentations, one last time this World Cup...
Mention of farewells for Sangakkara and Jayawardene, Misbah and Afridi, Clarke. Maybe Vettori too. Up come the officials for their medals, then the New Zealand players. Here's New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum:
It's been one hell of a ride for us, right the way through, we played some outstanding cricket. We ran into an outstanding team in Australia, they continue to set the standard. Michael Clarke bows out on a high note, they deserved to win. [Early dismissal] Probably unfolded not as planned, but we got ourselves back in the game at 3 for 150. With 180, you still dare to dream, could have ended up differently with a couple of things going our way. This is what you ask for as a cricketer, we've had the opportunity. We've forged memories and friendships that will last forever. Didn't lift the trophy but no regrets, the brand of cricket we've played and we walk away with our heads held high. It's the greatest time of our lives and that's how we tried to play the game, with a free spirit and heart. Still think we can be very proud of our achievements in this tournament."
There's a big cheer when it's announced that Sachin Tendulkar will present Man of the Match award. It is goes to James Faulkner: "Pretty amazing feeling, in front of 90,000 at the MCG. We've had an amazing journey the last couple of years. [Impact in the Powerplay] The skipper tosses you the ball and it works out like that sometimes. I thought I might not be here today, so this is an amazing feeling."
Man of the Tournament now, and it is Mitchell Starc, the master of the reverse-swinging yorker, heir to Wasim Akram, who picked up 22 wickets: "Amazing tournament, some outstanding performances but to cap it off. NZ have set the standard all tournament but we led it home. I've worked really hard for a number of months now, a few series ago we sat down and to see it come to fruition it's been phenomenal. Little lucky, it was a plan Craig and I had but to see it executed. Brendon's been fantastic all tournament. The fans have been fantastic, to win in front of this many people, there's nothing like it. Going to enjoy this one for now."
Finally, the triumphant captain, on his final day in the job, Michael Clarke: "Over the moon, what a tournament, Brendon and NZ deserve a lot of credit, always a tough team to beat, whenever we play them in any sport - so well done to Baz and his team, especially personally, he had an amazing performance. Thanks to every Australian and cricket supporter out there who've been behind us. The team and support staff, the support I've had since coming back into the team, they deserve to stand there with the trophy. Said we were ready mentally and we managed to get it all together physically. [No23 shirt?] Might give it back to Warney... Haven't given it much though, time is right to walk away from one-day cricket, I'll still be playing Test cricket. [Black arm bands] It's got PH on it, I'll wear it every time I play for Australia. Been a really tough few months and everyone would say we played this World Cup with 16 players. Tonight is dedicated to our little brother. Hughesy used to party as well as any of them. We're really proud, it's a wonderful achievement, to win in our own backyard in front of family and friends."
9.10pm: The men in yellow stream out on to the pitch, engulfing Smith. Big brother has prevailed and Australia can forget about 1992 - they've won the World Cup on home soil. For the fourth time in five, too. After the disappointment of 2011, they are a mean one-day machine again. New Zealand won a whole lot as well at this tournament, in terms of admiration and affection from beyond their own shores, but they came up short across the ditch. David Warner says he has lost his voice, as unlikely as it seems. "Thanks to everyone who has come out to support us, credit to you guys."
"They've been fantastic over the six weeks and the support we've had is unbelievable," says Darren Lehmann, of his players, moments before he gets an ice bucket dumped over him. "That's why I love them," he adds. Aaron Finch is chuffed to win in front of his home crowd, as you would expect. And Shane Warne has Smiffy alongside him: "Unbelievable feeling. We said we wanted to play out best games at the end of the tournament. To win three down is amazing... The bowlers set it up for us. Thanks for everyone coming out." He's with Mitchell Starc, whose spearing of Brendon McCullum after three balls was a huge tone-setter in this game. It's "topped off the summer," he says.
The Australians are all out there, on the pitch, having microphones shoved in front of them. Shane Watson has a word for New Zealand: "They've been the form side of world cricket the last six months, Brendon McCullum has done an incredible job, they have match-winners through their team. We're incredibly glad to have won." New Zealand, of course, had already laid to rest 1992 and, as Martin Crowe wrote beforehand, this final was always going to be the "perfect ending". But you can be sure they would have preferred to win.
Australia will be receiving the trophy shortly, their fifth World Cup. Two years ago, they were being whitewashed in India and going out of the Champions Trophy without a win. Lehmann has helped recapture their mojo, they'll certainly celebrate under the southern cross tonight. And at the end of the Australian summer, after the pain of Phillip Hughes' passing in November, this will also be a cathartic triumph.