March 2012

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Sunday, March 29th, 2015 10:08 am
Australia overwhelm New Zealand by seven wickets to win the World Cup for a fifth time at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:30 am

Posted by Anthony Wells

The tabs for the weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times are now up here. Topline figures are CON 32%, LAB 36%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 6%. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday, and the four point Labour lead equals the highest this year, so it looks like it could be an impact from the Paxman interviews. Then again, YouGov spat out a single four point Labour lead in one of their daily polls earlier this month that turned out to be just random noise, so this is nothing that couldn’t just be random error. To have any confidence about whether anything actually has changed in terms of voting intention, we need more polling.

In the meantime, what does the rest of the poll show? Well, leadership ratings do also suggest an improvement for Miliband. Asked if they are doing well or badly David Cameron’s net rating is up from minus 5 last week to minus 2 this week. Ed Miliband though is up from minus 39 to minus 29, so a solid jump (that said, Nick Clegg is up from minus 47 to minus 40 without being in the interviews at all…). Miliband also rose in the Best PM question – up four points since YouGov last asked this version of the question in November last year, but still 12 points behind Cameron (when YouGov ask the question for the Sun it’s Cameron v Miliband v Clegg, for the Sunday Times Farage is also an option – don’t compare the two, they give different results).

On the debate question itself, amongst people who watched the debates 49% of people thought Miliband came across better, 34% thought David Cameron did. This is of course very much in line with a movement to Labour in the headline voting intention figures… but why so different from the ICM poll after the debate? Part of the answer may well be that people have had longer to digest it, think about it and be influenced by discussing it with other people. First reactions are extremely important, but they aren’t everything.

Another factor though is who watched the debate – the ICM poll was weighted to be politically representative (though even weighted, the poll still ended with a sample showing an 11 point Labour lead rather than Con and Lab neck and neck), but a debate doesn’t necessarily get watched by a representative sample of the public. People from one party maybe more likely than another to watch it. Looking at the YouGov data, 31% of people who voted Labour in 2010 watched the debate, only 15% of people who voted Tory…so the sub-sample of people who watched the debate was actually a very Laboury group of people to begin with. This highlights a methodological challenge for pollsters in doing things like debate polls, how do you weight the sample? Do you try to make it politically and/or demographically representative of the country as a whole, regardless of who is actually watching? Or do you try to make it representative of the people who are actually watching, regardless of the political skews that brings? The second is probably more methodologically purer – all you can *really* measure is what people who watch think, but given what the media want is just a crude “who won” verdict, would it be fair to start out with a sample that was stronger biased one way or another?

Anyway, time will tell if the Paxman interviews actually did or did not make any difference. On other matters, YouGov found 11% of people said they were voting tactically at the election. Amongst that (obviously very small) sample people were pretty evenly split between voting tactically against the Tories (40%) and voting tactically against Labour (37%).

In my weekly round up I mentioned some YouGov polling about which taxes would rise under a Labour or Conservative government, conducted before Prime Minister’s Question time, Cameron ruling out a VAT rise and Ed Balls ruling out an NI rise. YouGov repeated those questions in this poll to see if they had changed. At the start of the week, 31% of people thought VAT would rise if the Conservatives won. Following David Cameron ruling out a rise in VAT, this is now…32%. At the start of the week 39% of people expected national insurance to rise if Labour won, but since Ed Balls ruled it out, that has changed to… 40%. A lovely illustration of how much of the politicians’ arguments, exchanges and pledges make not the slightest difference to public opinion.

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:54 am

Posted by Russell Jackson at the MCG and John Ashdown

Steve Smith ends unbeaten on 56.

Fitting for Smith to hit the winning runs. The new era's man stands at the pinnacle; takes in the view. #CWC15

Smith pulls to leg for four and it’s all over. Australia win by seven wickets. The final was a bit of a letdown really, but there’s no question that the best team in the tournament have won it.

33rd over: Australia 182-3 (Watson 2, Smith 52) Southee almost does for Smith from the penultimate ball of the over with a superb yorker. Smith shrugs with a half-smile that says “Well bowled”. A single from the last takes Australia to within two runs of victory as the team strain at the bit on the boundary.

32nd over: Australia 180-3 (Watson 1, Smith 51) McCullum was the first to rush over to Clarke to shake his hand after that wicket. Good to see. A shame he couldn’t finish it off, but at least he got his own send off. Smith goes to his 50, his fifth on the bounce. He has been incredible, and a little bit terrifying if you’re an England fan whose thoughts are beginning to stray to the Ashes.

Henry returns and wangs down a leg side wide. But he follows that up by wriggling one through Clarke’s defences. There’s clearly a lump in his throat as he walks off to another ovation.

31st over: Australia 174-2 (Clarke 74, Smith 47) The attendance at the MCG is 93,013, which is a record for a cricket match at the ground. And it’s party time in the stands as Clarke clumps Southee down to cow corner for a one-bounce four then clatters a wide one outside off through extra cover for four more. The third of the over is thrashed through point for four more, and the fourth follows suit! Four on the bounce for Clarke, who is going out with a bang. Seventeen from the over. Ten more required.

30th over: Australia 157-2 (Clarke 57, Smith 47) Between overs we get a plinky piano music montage of Clarke’s innings – the kind of musical accompaniment you get in a Zac Efron film while he wistfully yet determinedly sands down the hull of his boat. The Australia captain adds another moment for the post-match montage with a classical drive as Boult overpitches in search of a yorker. And the bowler ends his tournament with a dot ball.

29th over: Australia 151-2 (Clarke 52, Smith 46) Smith cuts Southee for two then thick edges over and wide of the slips for four. From the next he looks to thrash the ball off towards Tasmania but inside edges back past his stumps for two more. New Zealand were always going to need a chunky slice of luck and they’ve got really had any. Clarke mis-hits a drive from a full toss but gets just enough on it to take it over the top of McCullum at mid off. He hares off after the ball, of course, but there’s something tragically futile about it now.

“New Zealanders are getting to experience what the rest of the world feels watching the All Blacks,” writes Sam Lobascher.

28th over: Australia 140-2 (Clarke 50, Smith 37) Boult continues to surge in and the batsmen are remaining circumspect and respectful despite the proximity of victory. There’s been nary a hint of a cross-batted slog, not that that shot is particularly part of either batsman’s game. Smith clips a single into the leg side and that’s the only run of the over.

27th over: Australia 139-2 (Clarke 50, Smith 36) Clarke tucks Vettori into the leg side for a single that takes him to a half century. The MCG stands as one to applaud. It’s been a cracking little knock, whatever your view of his retirement announcement yesterday.

26th over: Australia 134-2 (Clarke 47, Smith 34) Trent Boult, with three more overs in the bag, returns with Australia 54 runs from victory. Clarke keeps out the first three then sends a bump ball through to the keeper. And from the last he drives fluidly back past the bowler for four.

This game has reached the rarely-seen 'Kiwis solemnly hugging each other' stage. #CWC2015

25th over: Australia 130-2 (Clarke 43, Smith 34) Vettori can barely get through his bowling action but he’s still hopping in for his team. The batsmen make like angry dairy farmers and milk furiously. That is until the fifth delivery, from which Clarke skips down the track and lofts the ball casually into the stands at long off.

24th over: Australia 119-2 (Clarke 33, Smith 33) Corey Anderson, who Bowls A Heavy Ball, into the attack for the first time. People talk about him having a golden arm but New Zealand need something diamond encrusted at this point. Clarke drives just wide of the man at short cover and they jog through for three. Smith, playing with zen-like calm, clips one off his hip for two more.

23rd over: Australia 112-2 (Clarke 30, Smith 30) Henry offers Clarke too much width and Clarke punches through the covers. McCullum hares after it like a man possessed and makes a brilliant diving stop on the rope to save a solitary run. He clearly hasn’t given up the ghost yet. But then CLONK! Clarke biffs one down to long on for four.

22nd over: Australia 103-2 (Clarke 23, Smith 28) Clarke calmly lofts Vettori back over his head for a single. A Mexican wave ripples around the ground.

Aua just ticking along now. in control.

21st over: Australia 100-2 (Clarke 22, Smith 26) Henry charges in once more with the fields getting ever more attacking, for Clarke at least. Smith dinks away a single to leg that brings up the Australia 100.

And at the end of the over cue more banging beats over the Tannoy, a slightly incongruous musical blast given the pretty flat stuff out in the middle.

20th over: Australia 98-2 (Clarke 21, Smith 25) Daniel Vettori returns. Will he throw away the glasses and tear his shirt to reveal the Superman beneath? Clarke Kent has a limp, though, and the batsmen nudge three more onto the scoreboard.

19th over: Australia 95-2 (Clarke 19, Smith 24) Lovely stuff from Smith, who guides one of his trademark slippery-as-greased-silk drives through the covers for three runs that take Australia to within double figures of the target. Clarke adds another boundary by rocking back and flicking over the top of Luke Ronchi for four more. From the fifth ball, a slashing drive flies wide of Guptill at gully. Twelve from the over thanks in no small part to the attacking field New Zealand have to run with. Just 89 more required.

18th over: Australia 83-2 (Clarke 10, Smith 21) Clarke finally plays a shot in anger and skews a thick edge over the slips for four. Southee follows it up with a toe-crushing yorker that the Australia captain does well to dig out.

17th over: Australia 76-2 (Clarke 4, Smith 20) These two are happy just to grind this out in risk-free fashion. Clarke, in particular, looks like a man who wants to be there at the end.

16th over: Australia 74-2 (Clarke 4, Smith 19) Southee returns to the attack and sends down a couple of wides, which presumably don’t figure on even the most inventive of McCullum’s ploys. The batsmen milk a few singles in addition.

15th over: Australia 69-2 (Clarke 3, Smith 17) Despair for New Zealand! Smith blocks the ball into his pads and it trickles through before rolling into the stumps. The bails, made of osmium if you listen to the commentators, refuse to budge. In truth, even balsa-wood bails would probably have stayed in place. Smith gets down to the non-striker’s end with a single, so we get McCullum’s Test Match board game field for Clarke:

14th over: Australia 68-2 (Clarke 3, Smith 16) Boult continues into his seventh over. Clarke is faced by two slips, a gully, a short-ish point, a man at short-ish mid on and a short midwicket. An edge, though, zips between a gap between the point and the gully.

Big ovation for Michael Clarke. Good job announced his ODI retirement yesterday or this final would have just been about his terrific team.

13th over: Australia 63-2 (Clarke 0, Smith 14) That was a bit of a trap that Warner fell into, but it’s a little like a bear falling into a trap after he’s already munched through all the villagers. So we get a standing ovation for Michael Clarke as he strides out for his final ODI innings. McCullum has a bevy of fielders in catching positions – seven by my quick count, with three slips and four in front of the batsman. It’s a bit of a double-bluff as Henry doesn’t test Clarke with any short stuff and the Australia captain survives with little fuss.

Warner pulls with the force of Thor’s hammer for another boundary but from the next he’s gone! This time he top-edges the pull and Elliott runs in from the boundary to take a decent low catch.

12th over: Australia 59-1 (Warner 41, Smith 14) Warner looks to cut Boult away but a bottom edge thunks into the turf and clambers over the bails like Javier Sotomayor in his pomp. From the next there’s another escape for Warner as he’s struck on the back pad – Dharmasena shakes his head and New Zealand opt not to review, denying us the opportunity to hear Marais Erasmus say “Rock and roll that”. Has anyone looped Marais Erasmus saying “Rock and roll that” over a banging techno beat? And if not, why not?

It was clipping the top of leg, but would’ve been umpire’s call anyway.

11th over: Australia 58-1 (Warner 40, Smith 14) Henry looks to rev himself up by threatening to throw down the stumps as Warner blocks out but this is very easy for Australia at the moment. A pleasant evening stroll.

10th over: Australia 56-1 (Warner 39, Smith 13) Boult continues and this is just glorious from Warner. The third ball is too full and Warner wristily thunks through the covers for four more. He’s whacked on the pad from the next, but it’s always drifting down leg.

“Has any country ever been football champions of Asia and world cricket champions?” wonders Patrick O’Brien. Nope – neither India nor Pakistan have ever got close to the Asian Championship.

9th over: Australia 49-1 (Warner 33, Smith 12) Matt Henry into the attack. Warner on the attack. The first is a bumper that the batsman hooks uppishly towards square leg – out on the rope Anderson seems to misjudge the flight, running in rather than across, but I’m not sure he would’ve got there anyway. A one-bounce four to start the over then, but Warner then picks out fielders with the remainder.

8th over: Australia 45-1 (Warner 29, Smith 12) Boult continues. A touch of width allows Smith room to drive through the covers for two, and they scamper a single off the next.

Smith moving so easily into the ball.

7th over: Australia 41-1 (Warner 28, Smith 9) Daniel Vettori into the attack. “If you get the chance - maybe as he takes his fifth wicket in a famous Kiwi victory, or maybe not - please include this photo in your OBO,” writes Sean Boiling. “Daniel Vettori aged 18 after his call up to the NZ team. 295 ODI’s later here we are.”

6th over: Australia 38-1 (Warner 28, Smith 6) Boult keeps Smith honest with a barrage of full balls, but mixes it up with a short one from the fifth of the over and gets pulled away to square leg for four as a result. The Australia No3 looks utterly at ease out their.

5th over: Australia 33-1 (Warner 28, Smith 1) Just sumptuous from Warner. A little too short, a touch too wide from Southee and the batsman crashes a back-foot drive through the covers for four more, a blow so meaty it should come accompanied by fries and a choice of mustards. He follows that up by flat-batting over the top of mid on for a one-bounce four, and the third of the over flies just wide of the man at slip. That trickles away for another boundary – three from the first three balls of the over – but it would’ve been a fairly simple catch had McCullum had a man at second slip. [INSERT YOUR OWN ‘JOKE’ ABOUT MCCULLUM BEING A TERRIBLE DEFENSIVE CAPTAIN HERE]. Three slips are in for Smith but he dabs into the on side to get off the mark.

4th over: Australia 18-1 (Warner 18, Smith 0) Boult offers up the first truly bad ball of the innings – a wide near-half-volley that Smith strokes through the covers for four. He’s looking busy and dangerous. Boult responds with a well-directed yorker but then sends one down the leg side and is flicked away for three more.

3rd over: Australia 9-1 (Warner 9, Smith 0) The atmosphere at the MCG has cranked up from Excited Buzz to Feverish Crackle. Warner chops Southee away for two into the off and then flicks off the pads for two more. From the second, Vettori on the square leg boundary hobbles sadly to gather the ball, like someone finally getting back to the car after a long and surprisingly arduous shopping trip. He looks in all manner of trouble sadly. Warner blocks down the ground for a third two of the over and then skitters a single from the last. Seven from the over.

2nd over: Australia 2-1 (Warner 2, Smith 0) Two balls for Smith to survive. Boult is finding some vicious swing – look at him, the terror:

"In Boult We Trust" pic.twitter.com/Z7Gd80svWE

Trent Boult, of course, from the Members End and Warner has a big flash at a wide loosening. He connects only with the early evening Melbourne air. Next up he’s at it again – another Jason Vorhees-esque slash at an even wider delivery but again a swing-and-a-miss. McCullum brings in a fourth slip and Boult tries the double-bluff with the next, looking for the yorker. Warner is alive to it and digs it out for a single. From the next HE’S GOT HIM! Finch’s edge loops up off the pad and time stands still as the bowler waits for the ball to arrive. Eventually it does and the Kiwis in the stands go off the charts. That’s the start they needed.

1st over: Australia 1-0 (Warner 1, Finch 0) Tim Southee surges in from the Great Southern Stand End. He strays onto Warner’s pads and the opener gets his team off the mark with a flick down to backward square leg for a single. Aaron Finch blows a risky bubble with his gum – how awkward would it be if it popped all over his grille? – then plays and misses outside off at one that seams away deliciously. And he repeats the trick with the last. A good start for New Zealand, though ‘good’ isn’t going to be enough for them in the circumstances. They need ‘extraordinary’.

Out come the players. 184 runs stand between Australia and a fifth World Cup triumph.

Cheers Russ and hello everybody. From the MCG – where, from the sounds of it, greats of the game are popping peeled grapes into the mouths of Russ and Geoff while sweet, sweet fizzy pop gushes from every faucet and the scent of grilled meat wafts tantalisingly on the breeze – to north London, where we’re fuelled by RoboTea, all surfaces are slightly clammy and the air smells of mild disappointment.

And talking of mild disappointment if you’ve tuned in hoping to see the Karate Kid beat Cobra Kai, I can tell you that poor old Ralph Macchio has taken a beating and Mr Miyagi has been left in a pile of his own teeth, his bonsai garden turned into ornate kindling. Elisabeth Shue has gone off with the bad guy. And that subplot with the lost kittens? Yeah, that didn’t end well either …

What a performance from the Aussies. Bar Grant Elliott’s magnificent counter-punching 83 and the calming 111-run partnership he shared with Ross Taylor (40), the Kiwis were a bit of a rabble.

Often their inspiration, New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum departed for a manic duck and it went downhill from there. 39-3 was the score when Taylor and Elliott came together and after Taylor departed it fell away very quickly. Four Kiwis departed with ducks as Johnson (3-30 off 9), Starc (2-20 off 8) and Faulkner (3-36 off 9) ran rampant.

Has Maxwell run out Southee? Yes he has! Johnson makes Boult uncomfortable, forcing him to fend to Maxwell at short mid-wicket and with Southee backing up too far at the other end the Aussie throws down the stumps in fine style and claims the final wicket. New Zealand are all out for 183. Is that anything close to enough? We’ll soon see.

Economical to a degree rarely seen against the top sides at this World Cup, Johnson continues in search of a third wicket and gets it when he pitches up to Henry and watches him guilelessly scoop a full toss straight into the hands of Starc at point. Another Kiwi duck.

Reader Giles Brooke is getting desperate. “As Australia only scored 151 at Eden Park, do we (NZ) win on the away goals rule?”

44th over - New Zealand 181-8 (Southee 10, Henry 0)

Southee bides his time until Faulkner gives him something to hit and the fifth delivery of the over is duly dispatched out to the cover boundary for three. That’s the only score of another miserly over. The Kiwis still have hope in this game but 30-40 from this pair would help even more.

43rd over - New Zealand 178-8 (Southee 7, Henry 0))

Boof! Southee is on a seek and destroy mission here, thumping Johnson’s first ball over long-on for a towering six. As far as slower-balls go, that was a backfire for the left-arm quick. Matt Henry makes his intentions just as clear but can’t get it off the square.

no team except Pakistan has defended a sub 265 target in this World Cup... so there's that. Already too far?

42nd over - New Zealand 171-8

Bless you Grant Elliott, bless you. Not perturbed by the chaos occuring around him, New Zealand’s star of the finals rocks back and deposits Faulker through cow for another boundary, raising hope that he could yet reach triple figures and also drag the Kiwi score over 220.

Fresh from a disastrous New Zealand PowerPlay period (15 for 3 was the result of that) Vettori departs thanks to a Mitchell Johnson yorker to the stump. Wrong timber, Dan. That came a ball after Elliott had been put down by Smith at gully. It’s all happening as Bill Lawry would say. The Aussies are in pole position.

40th over - New Zealand 165-6 (Elliott 78, Vettori 8)

With the cricket gods smiling on him for now, Elliott picks up four by cleverly gliding one through the short third man to the boundary. Faulkner has been a gem today and six from the over is no great disaster. He’s got 2-29 from 7 overs now - excellent work.

I know nothing. Hawk-Eye says it was clipping middle at the very top but it’s thrown back to Dharmasena, whose original ‘not out’ verdict stands.

Faulkner thinks that he’s trapped Elliott in front and it looks very close indeed.

39th over - New Zealand 159-6 (Elliott 73, Vettori 7)

Mitchell Starc is not impressed with the temerity of Daniel Vettori clipping him to leg for two so he sends down a steepling bouncer to give him something else to think about. That’s the only action in the over.

38th over - New Zealand 157-6 (Elliott 73, Vettori 5)

Though his instincts might be pushing him in different directions, Elliott elects to take a single on offer from the first ball of Faulkner’s over. There follows a delay as Vettori becomes distracted by the sight of a yellow balloon in the area blacked for the sight-screen. Vettori scratches around and then produces a moment of class, showing Faulkner the full face of the bat to drive him for a straight four.

37th over - New Zealand 151-6 (Elliott 73, Vettori 0)

We all know that Daniel Vettori is perfectly capable with the bat but facing his first ball here form Starc he almost gives Brad Haddin some more catching practice, fencing at it in heart-stopping fashion. Can he hang around while Elliott lifts this score towards respectability?

Calamity! After all but running out Elliott, Ronchi swipes artlessly at his first ball from Starc and sends an edge through to Michael Clarke at first slip, meaning he too departs for a duck and the Kiwis are right back in strife with the fall of three quick wickets. He’s escorted off the ground - on the MCG screen at least - by the ‘Castrol Duck’, a truly tragic cartoon figure. Not the kind of experience you dream about as a young lad.

36th over - New Zealand 150-5 (Elliott 72, Ronchi 0)

Are the Aussies sledging Luke Ronchi at the moment? You’d think so becaus he used to walk among them in a brief ODI career for Australia. Now he’s out in the middle of the MCG in a World Cup final representing the country of his birth. Faulkner is breathing fire at the moment but the Kiwi keeper safely negotations his first three balls.

Now Corey Anderson goes! It’s Faulkner again, wiggling one through the new batsman’s defences and skittling him. Anderson had one sighter before the wicket ball but it wasn’t enough to prevent his demise for a duck. Faulkner is ecstatic and well he might be because the man he’s removed can be a destructive batsman at the death.

He’s gone! Perhaps the query was whether it was a bump ball - Faulkner’s delivery was pitched up outside off stump and Taylor played a slashing drive - but either way he’s out. He nicked it through and it carried into the outstretched right hand of a diving Brad Haddin. What a catch! Finally the Aussies get their breakthrough.

Faulkner thinks he has Taylor caught behind. Taylor doesn’t agree and neither do the umpires in the strictest sense because they’ve thrown it upstairs.

35th over - New Zealand 150-3 (Taylor 40, Elliott 72)

Who is your favourite Shane? Is it Shane Warne, Shane Richie, Shane from The Shield? Maybe it’s Shane Watson. If so you’re in for a treat because he’s bowling another over here. He starts with a wide, so as to delay and extend our gratification, which soon comes when Elliott flicks him past the outstretched hands of Haddin for four. Watson looks like he’s been shot. I can’t see a lone sniper on the roof so we’ll have to concede it’s just disappointment.

34th over - New Zealand 142-3 (Taylor 37, Elliott 68)

Hazlewood is into the attack after drinks and Elliott tucks into a little more sustenance when he leans back and quite deliberately glides him over the cordon for four. With a single that follows, he also brings up the 100-run partnership between he and Taylor, which came off 126 deliveries. A repeat of the boundary strike is less effective when a man is dropped back to protect the third man boundary.

Elliott playing another kebab stick in the eye of an innings. An absolute blinder. 139-3, 100 stand with Taylor. Key phase imminent.

33rd over - New Zealand 134-3 (Taylor 35, Elliott 62)

Speaking of leading men, Patrick Swayze Shane Watson is back into the attack for another bowl. His body language seems almost recalcitrant each time he returns to his mark but as long as he’s only conceding a couple of singles as in this over, he’s an asset to his side. Speaking of assets, there’s a giant Gatorade bottle on the field so like Pavlov’s dog I will join the players and stop for a moment’s hydration.

32nd over - New Zealand 132-3 (Taylor 34, Elliott 61)

Maxwell toils on, all loping strides and rubbery arms. He’s milked for six runs - four singles and a two to Elliott - but he’s performing his job with as frugal an outcome as could be hoped. If the middle overs of an ODI were a movie he’d be Steve Buscemi; no-one’s idea of a leading man but providing enough kooky moments to keep you interested.

31st over - New Zealand 126-3 (Taylor 32, Elliott 57)

I’m sure it’s not just me thinking that itchell Johnson has lost something of his earlier spark at the Members end. Elliott and Taylor trade in singles this over, content to wait for a really loose one.

30th over - New Zealand 121-3 (Taylor 30, Elliott 54)

Glenn Maxwell continues with mixed bag of off-spinners and keeps things a little tidier this time, so an Elliott flick to leg for two and Taylor’s driven single are the only damage.

One more imp knock by Elliot under pressure. Need to continue if NZ has to post a fighting total. #CWC15

29th over - New Zealand 118-3 (Taylor 30, Elliott 51)

It seems as though Clarke was about as impressed with Watson’s over as Roger Ebert was with Patrick Swayze’s turn* in Road House, because he’s been banished to mid-on in favour of Mitch Johnson. The latter does a better job of containment, conceding a leg bye and a few singles in a far tighter over.

28th over - New Zealand 115-3 (Taylor 29, Elliott 50)

Maxwell returns again though with no great impact, milked for five singles either side of a leg-side wide before Elliott lofts him over mid-off for the run that brings up a well-compiled 50 from 51 deliveries. “If there’s any time for a flame-thrower celebration it’s a Grant Elliott half-century,” notes my colleague Geoff Lemon. He’s right too.

27th over - New Zealand 108-3 (Taylor 26, Elliott 47)

Watson has an opportunity to extend his repertoire of disappointed looks after he entices Taylor forward but then watches the outside edge fly through a vacant slip cordon for four. Nine come from the Watson over, which is the precise amount of times I’ve dropped a Patrick Swayze reference into a live blog.

26th over - New Zealand 99-3 (Taylor 21, Elliott 44)

Grant Elliott is batting in a dream now. He plasters Faulkner through cover for another boundary and then nonchalantly flicks him down to third man for a single. Off strike is where the Aussies want him right now. He’s also the key wicket for them to claim; if he bats another 15 overs his side will be flying.

25th over - New Zealand 93-3 (Taylor 20, Elliott 39)

A lumbering all-rounder nods at his captain, removes his cap and slowly trots across to the umpire, which can only mean one thing: It’s Watto time! He nearly produces a wicket too when Elliott lives on the edge by cutting over Smith’s head at gully to pick up too. Watson does his best Patrick Swayze, throwing his head back like in the beach football scene in Point Break, right when he realises the identity of Johnny Utah.

24th over - New Zealand 89-3 (Taylor 20, Elliott 35)

Faulkner switches to the southern end of the ground but a few balls later he probably wishes he hadn’t; he’s clattered over the top of cover for another Elliott boundary to bring up the 50 partnership from 69 deliveries. This is great counter-attacking batting from the New Zealanders. They consolidated and now they’re starting to launch.

23rd over - New Zealand 83-3 (Taylor 19, Elliott 30)

MCG so small! Now Starc is getting the treatment, hooked for a slightly streaky but nevertheless spirit-lifting six by Elliott. It was a little straight but he rocked back and threw the kitchen sink at it.

22nd over - New Zealand 77-3 (Taylor 19, Elliott 24)

Bang! Now Elliott hammers Maxwell as well, latching onto a short on and cutting for four. He’s looking very comfortable indeed now.

21st over - New Zealand 70-3 (Taylor 18, Elliott 18)

Shot! Elliott gets on the front foot to the returning Starc and cracks a splendid cover drive out to the boundary for three as he continues to feel his way into the match. He and Taylor are steadying the ship.

NOT OUT! Successful review from Elliott. #NZ 3-66 (20). LIVE: http://t.co/AnGAEEqFQ3 #cwc15 #AUSvNZ pic.twitter.com/LKOdkTJ63l

20th over - New Zealand 66-3 (Taylor 18, Elliott 15)

The thing I really love about Glenn Maxwell - and let’s be honest, there’s so many to choose from - is the way he reacts as though he’s fractionally missed out on a wicket at least four times an over. He genuinely did nearly snuff out Elliott there, I suppose. He turned it too much on that occasion.

Going down leg by a mile in fact. I could almost see that from side-on.

...and the batsman sends it upstairs. Was it going down leg?

19th over - New Zealand 62-3 (Taylor 17, Elliott 12)

Like Johnson, Faulkner seems to stoop ever lower as he bounds towards the batsman before rising into an athletic delivery stride. Again his over costs only three runs, which is precisely the kind of middle-over economy that’s his bread and butter. It’s the task of Elliott and Taylor to pull NZ out of their rut but for now that will be an arm-wrestle.

18th over - New Zealand 59-3 (Taylor 17, Elliott 9)

Glenn Maxwell has been the man with the golden arm at times and now he’s back in search of another - let’s be totally honest - arsey wicket. He almost gets one too when Elliott shuffles forward and almost edges to Haddin. Never one to miss an opportunity for a stumping, the Aussie keeper also makes a mess of the stumps but to no avail.

17th over - New Zealand 54-3 (Taylor 14, Elliott 7)

If looks are anything to go by, Grant Elliott at least wears the kind of steely glare that makes you believe he’s in for another big one today. Perhaps the confidence bred by his innings on Tuesday will course through his veins now. Either way, he’s got a new bowler to contend with now in James Faulkner. His over costs just three singles and by the end of it he’d scrambling across the pitch to save one.

16th over - New Zealand 51-3 (Taylor 13, Elliott 5)

Is it time to give Josh Hazlewood a rest now? Into his seventh over now he offers up a juicy half-volley that Taylor cracks wide of mid-wicket for three and otherwise looks a little down on penetration as drinks approaches. The drinks come out in fact, as good a chance as the Kiwi pair will get to regroup and talk through this difficult start. For now the Aussies are well on top.

Just did my first aimless, nervous lap of the living room. First of many I think.

15th over - New Zealand 47-3 (Taylor 10, Elliott 4)

The MCG really is too big for Ross Taylor. He drives Johnson beautifully through cover but only picks up three as Starc hauls the ball in at the boundary. It was a lovely stroke to be fair and his partner tucks in for a double dose, collecting two through the same region to get himself moving.

Jimmy Neesham already bringing the goods. You've got company in the OBO stakes, @rustyjacko.

14th over - New Zealand 41-3 (Taylor 7, Elliott 1)

With the dangerous Guptill removed, Clarke decides that Maxwell has done his job and benches him again in favour of Hazlewood and all-out attack. Not a bad idea to try and press home the early advantage. His over is a maiden and by the end of it Taylor - perhaps a little too lavishly given the state of the game - drives and almost edges behind to Haddin.

13th over - New Zealand 41-3 (Taylor 7, Elliott 1)

Cometh the hour, cometh...Grant Elliott? He was the hero of the Black Caps’ semi-final win and he’s going to have to pull it out of the bag again here because his side is reeling. He gets off the mark with one to a fumbling Warner at gully.

Calamity strikes again! This time it’s Williamson. Johnson squares him slightly and there’s something almost surreal about the shot - proppy and startled - sending the ball straight back into the eager hands of Johnson. He can’t believe his luck. Australia can’t believe it’s luck. The Kiwis are 39-3 and sinking into a very unfortunate hole. Johnson’s aggression and accuracy really won out there.

12th over - New Zealand 38-2 (Taylor 5, Williamson 12)

Ross Taylor is the new man at the crease and he restores a little bit of sanity by clattering Maxwell to the boundary through cover. It was a full toss, so he really needed to.

Oh dear. Maxwell has come into the attack and immediately struck in customary style: with some absolute filth. Guptill should have pummeled a half-tracker to the boundary to start the over but cracked it to cover instead and the next ball, innocuously thrown up on an off-stump line, is missed entirely. Guptill is bowled. A disaster. The Kiwi - a flightless bird - is a rather apt metaphor for New Zealand’s failure to launch so far.

11th over - New Zealand 33-1 (Guptill 15, Williamson 12)

Now Johnson produces a gem to Williamson, pitching it on middle stump and cutting it away from the outside edge. From my side-on perspective he cuts a menacing figure as he crouches low into the delivery stride, like a very athletic version of Bangers (of Mash?) about to hurl a projectile. A pair of singles is the only damage in this over. Johnson is mostly nailing his line and length.

10th over - New Zealand 31-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 11)

Finally Williamson gets moving and he does it in style, stroking Hazlewood for a wonderful straight drive down to the boundary on the southern side of the ground before handsomely pulling him wide of fine leg for two. Guptill has a bash at a straight drive himself and after one bounce it almost decapitates Hazlewood on his follow-through.

9th over - New Zealand 24-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 4)

Clarke elects to conserve some of Starc’s energy and overs, bringing Johnson on from the Members end to fling it down for the first time today. He’s right on the money too, forcing Guptill back and across to defend towards gully. On an excellent pitch the early loss of McCullum has New Zealand back in its shell a little. Will the shackles be removed soon? A leg-side wide is the only run of the Johnson over.

8th over - New Zealand 23-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 4)

Hazlewood’s bowling with a lot more heat now and his fourth ball of this over is a belter, fast and always rising towards Williamson’s chest, putting him in two minds whether to take evasive or attacking action. He sort of does neither, swaying at like a drunk might a suddenly-appearing street sign. Hazlewood’s over is a very productive maiden.

7th over - New Zealand 23-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 4)

Mitchell Starc knows that he’s one of the main attractions of this match so he’s decided to give the crowd better value for their money by bowling at least an extra ball per over. First up here he sends another fast bouncer trampolining over Guptill’s head, too high to count as intimidation you’d think. It’s the only score of the over though.

6th over - New Zealand 22-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 4)

Is Josh Hazlewood bowling a tad straight for a man with only a fine leg and short mid-wicket in place? Perhaps Michael Clarke thinks so becayse now he shifts James Faulkner across to mid-on as Williamson scratches around.

5th over - New Zealand 18-1 (Guptill 13, Williamson 1)

On reflection, you’d have to say that Brendon McCullum’s dismissal earlier was reflective of the way he plays the game (all out attack) but it really was a mad couple of minutes. Williamson, who has replaced him, is far more circumspect here against Starc but twice almost perishes hanging his bat out at short ones.

4th over - New Zealand 17-1 (Guptill 13, Williamson 0)

Hazlewood starts his second over with a little more accuracy than his last but the penetration isn’t quite what he’d like against Guptill. The latter tries to slap him to point but it’s cut off by two converging Australians but he goes even better two balls later, hooking a wild and hairy six over the top of the keepers’ head. Did he have much control? No, but it was still brilliant. I think it’s also fired up Hazlewood because by overs’ end he’s adopting the tea pot pose.

Hate how top edges can go for 6 on these small boundaries.

3rd over - New Zealand 11-1 (Guptill 7, Williamson 0)

Starc starts his second over with a fearsome LBW shout against Guptill but the batsman lives to fight another day when Kumar Dharmasena - the first man to both play in and umpire a World Cup final - turns him down. The Australians pass up the chance of a review.

2nd over - New Zealand 6-1 (Guptill 2, Williamson 0)

It’s Josh Hazlewood who pairs with Starc and after conceding a single down leg side to Guptill, he also gets a crack at the new man Kane Williamson. Williamson gets a gift from the burly New South Welshman, but his boundary to fine leg comes off the thigh pad rather than bat.

1st over - New Zealand 1-1

McCullum is bowled! And it’s an absolute jaffa from Starc, who’d had him in trouble in the two balls prior too. What a start for the young Aussie bowler, his celebration is a near lap of the ground, arms flailing as he’s swamped by teammates.Two balls later he’d gone right through the gate as McCullum drove loosely and now the Kiwi skipper is gone in a huge blow to their chances. Starc’s in-swinging yorker to castle him was just a delight.

We’re moments from Mitchell Starc’s opening delivery

But just a couple of last-minute observations: that anthem seemed a very emotional experience for Michael Clarke. Did I spot tears? On a happier note, a gentleman just in front of me is dressed as Lance Cairns - beige from head to toe - including (and I had no idea such things existed) a beige terry toweling hat.

As the anthems begin, our first ground-invader!

He’s a slip of a thing and the security guards make minced meat of him. For first-time visitors to the MCG that’s at least given an insight into the type of action you can expect at an AFL game at the ground.

Doing it for Martin Crowe

Michael Hall emails in with one slightly sombre thought on this joyous day. “I would draw fellow OBOers attention to yesterday’s excellent piece on today’s game potentially being the last game that Martin Crowe may ever see. A beautiful batsman to watch and a man unfairly maligned by some in this country not least because of his hair restoration ads. Whatever happens I hope he goes out on top.” Hear hear, Michael.

"Batting first in this World Cup has been very important." - Martin Crowe on the @BLACKCAPS batting first. #AUSvNZ pic.twitter.com/m9G0LS5Ywp

The atmosphere at the ground

...is not like any other event I’ve been to at the MCG. Right now the fielding circle is ringed with giant flags for each of the competing nations. The surface looks an absolute picture and in a few moments, the teams will assemble for the national anthems. It’s as tense as a venue can feel while giant balls of flame shoot out of the sight screens.

Butterflies are building up!! Players are about to come out for the anthems http://t.co/6PNZWdDVsZ #AUSvNZ #cwc15 pic.twitter.com/jxgHdb9BFF

Our first random celebrity spot of the day

New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter is in the house. Why? I’ve absolutely no idea.

New York @Yankees legend Derek Jeter would love to field on this @MCG surface - it's like a billiard table. #CWC15 pic.twitter.com/DpS3pbXJW2

Some other reading before this game gets under way

There’s a nice preview of this game by Vic Marks, who also takes a gallop through the history of aggressive, power-based sides at the World Cup. Vic also picks his team of the tournament, opening the way for some debate on the issue. There’s also some details on Michael Clarke’s retirement from one-day international cricket, a case for baseball fans embracing cricket and also my own look at the role this magnificent venue might play in the outcome of the game.

New Zealand win the toss and will bat

“It’s an honour to be here and have this opportunity to try and win it,” says Michael Clarke as he and Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum walk out for the toss. McCullum calls heads, wins it and elects to bat first.

Crowd update

There’s been a lot of pre-game talk that the MCG would be a sea of black with neutrals taking up the Kiwi cause but I must say, even at quarter-full as it is right now, bright yellow shirts are predominate. Also spied was a pair of gentlemen dress from head to toe in 1980s Kiwi beige, patriots and heroes the both of them.

Just on the topic of the MCG…

For my own amusement I took a look through the MCG record of each individual playing today and there was plenty of food for thought. Things I discovered:

Still believe M.Hayden's nonsense about the MCG? Get around this from http://t.co/Q6N8nZBjmt #MCGsobig @BLACKCAPS pic.twitter.com/rrHDCc4LDk

Preamble

Hello OBOers and welcome to glorious, sunny Melbourne for this tantalizing World Cup Final match-up between co-hosts New Zealand and Australia. The prospect of these two teams facing off for the main prize has had Anipodean hearts aflutter for, well, at least 12 months. Now it’s happened.

Russell Jackson is at the MCG and, trying not to be too smug, in a prime front-row position to bring you all the action from this World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand. Before he starts hammering away at his keyboard though, have a read of his match preview:

When Australia meet New Zealand in Melbourne on Sunday they will enter a contest between two evenly matched teams; both possessed of left-arm pacemen of destructive capabilities, back-ups of more understated qualities and batting lineups of an explosiveness that no ground could contain.

Or can it? On the modern cricketer’s endless summer traversing the globe, he might dismiss with a quiet smirk the concept of home-ground advantage, but you wonder how much confidence Australia take into this game from knowing the venue like the back of their collective hand, not a confidence their opponents boast.

Continue reading...







Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:37 am

Posted by Press Association

Government reaches deal with GlaxoSmithKline on price of Bexsero, which was recommended by advisers a year ago

All babies in the UK will soon have a potentially life-saving vaccine against meningitis B under a landmark deal, the health secretary has announced.

Jeremy Hunt said Britain would become the first country in the world with a nationwide meningitis B vaccination programme, after the government reached a deal with the drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

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Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:32 am

Posted by Stuart James at Sammy Ofer Stadium

• ‘I don’t need to answer the critics,’ says Real Madrid forward
Wales forward scored twice in 3-0 win over Israel
Wales now top of Euro 2016 qualifying group

Gareth Bale has insisted he has no need to silence his critics after he responded to his recent problems at Real Madrid by scoring twice to inspire Wales to a convincing victory over Israel. A superb free-kick and a well-taken second goal gave Wales a 3-0 win in their European Championship qualifier in Haifa and took Bale’s tally for his country to 16 in 49 internationals, lifting him above John Charles on the all-time list.

After being on the receiving end of some flak in Madrid, where his performances have come under increased scrutiny following a poor run of results, Bale’s display against Israel felt like a fitting riposte to those who have questioned him and wondered if his confidence has been affected.

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Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:20 am

Posted by Paul Weaver at the Sepang International Circuit

• German wins first race since December 2013, Hamilton second
• ‘Ferrari is back! Grazie, grazie,’ bellows Vettel
How the race unfolded in our lap-by-lap coverage

Sebastian Vettel won his first grand prix since the end of 2013 and left the seemingly unbeatable Lewis Hamilton not only well beaten but very frustrated.

“Yes, yes,” bellowed Vettel as he took the flag, and then “Ferrari is back! Grazie, grazie.” He was very emotional at the end, when he added: “There are plenty of positives. We beat them fair and square. Today was a very special day and will always remain part of me.” Hamilton said: “Sebastian and Ferrari did a great job today. Ferrari were too fast for us.”

Continue reading...
Sunday, March 29th, 2015 08:52 am
Sebastian Vettel takes a stunning maiden victory for Ferrari, winning a straight fight with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in Malaysia.
Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:20 am

Posted by Russell Jackson at the MCG and John Ashdown

27th over: Australia 139-2 (Clarke 50, Smith 36) Clarke tucks Vettori into the leg side for a single that takes him to a half century. The MCG stands as one to applaud. It’s been a cracking little knock, whatever your view of his retirement announcement yesterday.

26th over: Australia 134-2 (Clarke 47, Smith 34) Trent Boult, with three more overs in the bag, returns with Australia 54 runs from victory. Clarke keeps out the first three then sends a bump ball through to the keeper. And from the last he drives fluidly back past the bowler for four.

This game has reached the rarely-seen 'Kiwis solemnly hugging each other' stage. #CWC2015

25th over: Australia 130-2 (Clarke 43, Smith 34) Vettori can barely get through his bowling action but he’s still hopping in for his team. The batsmen make like angry dairy farmers and milk furiously. That is until the fifth delivery, from which Clarke skips down the track and lofts the ball casually into the stands at long off.

24th over: Australia 119-2 (Clarke 33, Smith 33) Corey Anderson, who Bowls A Heavy Ball, into the attack for the first time. People talk about him having a golden arm but New Zealand need something diamond encrusted at this point. Clarke drives just wide of the man at short cover and they jog through for three. Smith, playing with zen-like calm, clips one off his hip for two more.

23rd over: Australia 112-2 (Clarke 30, Smith 30) Henry offers Clarke too much width and Clarke punches through the covers. McCullum hares after it like a man possessed and makes a brilliant diving stop on the rope to save a solitary run. He clearly hasn’t given up the ghost yet. But then CLONK! Clarke biffs one down to long on for four.

22nd over: Australia 103-2 (Clarke 23, Smith 28) Clarke calmly lofts Vettori back over his head for a single. A Mexican wave ripples around the ground.

Aua just ticking along now. in control.

21st over: Australia 100-2 (Clarke 22, Smith 26) Henry charges in once more with the fields getting ever more attacking, for Clarke at least. Smith dinks away a single to leg that brings up the Australia 100.

And at the end of the over cue more banging beats over the Tannoy, a slightly incongruous musical blast given the pretty flat stuff out in the middle.

20th over: Australia 98-2 (Clarke 21, Smith 25) Daniel Vettori returns. Will he throw away the glasses and tear his shirt to reveal the Superman beneath? Clarke Kent has a limp, though, and the batsmen nudge three more onto the scoreboard.

19th over: Australia 95-2 (Clarke 19, Smith 24) Lovely stuff from Smith, who guides one of his trademark slippery-as-greased-silk drives through the covers for three runs that take Australia to within double figures of the target. Clarke adds another boundary by rocking back and flicking over the top of Luke Ronchi for four more. From the fifth ball, a slashing drive flies wide of Guptill at gully. Twelve from the over thanks in no small part to the attacking field New Zealand have to run with. Just 89 more required.

18th over: Australia 83-2 (Clarke 10, Smith 21) Clarke finally plays a shot in anger and skews a thick edge over the slips for four. Southee follows it up with a toe-crushing yorker that the Australia captain does well to dig out.

17th over: Australia 76-2 (Clarke 4, Smith 20) These two are happy just to grind this out in risk-free fashion. Clarke, in particular, looks like a man who wants to be there at the end.

16th over: Australia 74-2 (Clarke 4, Smith 19) Southee returns to the attack and sends down a couple of wides, which presumably don’t figure on even the most inventive of McCullum’s ploys. The batsmen milk a few singles in addition.

15th over: Australia 69-2 (Clarke 3, Smith 17) Despair for New Zealand! Smith blocks the ball into his pads and it trickles through before rolling into the stumps. The bails, made of osmium if you listen to the commentators, refuse to budge. In truth, even balsa-wood bails would probably have stayed in place. Smith gets down to the non-striker’s end with a single, so we get McCullum’s Test Match board game field for Clarke:

14th over: Australia 68-2 (Clarke 3, Smith 16) Boult continues into his seventh over. Clarke is faced by two slips, a gully, a short-ish point, a man at short-ish mid on and a short midwicket. An edge, though, zips between a gap between the point and the gully.

Big ovation for Michael Clarke. Good job announced his ODI retirement yesterday or this final would have just been about his terrific team.

13th over: Australia 63-2 (Clarke 0, Smith 14) That was a bit of a trap that Warner fell into, but it’s a little like a bear falling into a trap after he’s already munched through all the villagers. So we get a standing ovation for Michael Clarke as he strides out for his final ODI innings. McCullum has a bevy of fielders in catching positions – seven by my quick count, with three slips and four in front of the batsman. It’s a bit of a double-bluff as Henry doesn’t test Clarke with any short stuff and the Australia captain survives with little fuss.

Warner pulls with the force of Thor’s hammer for another boundary but from the next he’s gone! This time he top-edges the pull and Elliott runs in from the boundary to take a decent low catch.

12th over: Australia 59-1 (Warner 41, Smith 14) Warner looks to cut Boult away but a bottom edge thunks into the turf and clambers over the bails like Javier Sotomayor in his pomp. From the next there’s another escape for Warner as he’s struck on the back pad – Dharmasena shakes his head and New Zealand opt not to review, denying us the opportunity to hear Marais Erasmus say “Rock and roll that”. Has anyone looped Marais Erasmus saying “Rock and roll that” over a banging techno beat? And if not, why not?

It was clipping the top of leg, but would’ve been umpire’s call anyway.

11th over: Australia 58-1 (Warner 40, Smith 14) Henry looks to rev himself up by threatening to throw down the stumps as Warner blocks out but this is very easy for Australia at the moment. A pleasant evening stroll.

10th over: Australia 56-1 (Warner 39, Smith 13) Boult continues and this is just glorious from Warner. The third ball is too full and Warner wristily thunks through the covers for four more. He’s whacked on the pad from the next, but it’s always drifting down leg.

“Has any country ever been football champions of Asia and world cricket champions?” wonders Patrick O’Brien. Nope – neither India nor Pakistan have ever got close to the Asian Championship.

9th over: Australia 49-1 (Warner 33, Smith 12) Matt Henry into the attack. Warner on the attack. The first is a bumper that the batsman hooks uppishly towards square leg – out on the rope Anderson seems to misjudge the flight, running in rather than across, but I’m not sure he would’ve got there anyway. A one-bounce four to start the over then, but Warner then picks out fielders with the remainder.

8th over: Australia 45-1 (Warner 29, Smith 12) Boult continues. A touch of width allows Smith room to drive through the covers for two, and they scamper a single off the next.

Smith moving so easily into the ball.

7th over: Australia 41-1 (Warner 28, Smith 9) Daniel Vettori into the attack. “If you get the chance - maybe as he takes his fifth wicket in a famous Kiwi victory, or maybe not - please include this photo in your OBO,” writes Sean Boiling. “Daniel Vettori aged 18 after his call up to the NZ team. 295 ODI’s later here we are.”

6th over: Australia 38-1 (Warner 28, Smith 6) Boult keeps Smith honest with a barrage of full balls, but mixes it up with a short one from the fifth of the over and gets pulled away to square leg for four as a result. The Australia No3 looks utterly at ease out their.

5th over: Australia 33-1 (Warner 28, Smith 1) Just sumptuous from Warner. A little too short, a touch too wide from Southee and the batsman crashes a back-foot drive through the covers for four more, a blow so meaty it should come accompanied by fries and a choice of mustards. He follows that up by flat-batting over the top of mid on for a one-bounce four, and the third of the over flies just wide of the man at slip. That trickles away for another boundary – three from the first three balls of the over – but it would’ve been a fairly simple catch had McCullum had a man at second slip. [INSERT YOUR OWN ‘JOKE’ ABOUT MCCULLUM BEING A TERRIBLE DEFENSIVE CAPTAIN HERE]. Three slips are in for Smith but he dabs into the on side to get off the mark.

4th over: Australia 18-1 (Warner 18, Smith 0) Boult offers up the first truly bad ball of the innings – a wide near-half-volley that Smith strokes through the covers for four. He’s looking busy and dangerous. Boult responds with a well-directed yorker but then sends one down the leg side and is flicked away for three more.

3rd over: Australia 9-1 (Warner 9, Smith 0) The atmosphere at the MCG has cranked up from Excited Buzz to Feverish Crackle. Warner chops Southee away for two into the off and then flicks off the pads for two more. From the second, Vettori on the square leg boundary hobbles sadly to gather the ball, like someone finally getting back to the car after a long and surprisingly arduous shopping trip. He looks in all manner of trouble sadly. Warner blocks down the ground for a third two of the over and then skitters a single from the last. Seven from the over.

2nd over: Australia 2-1 (Warner 2, Smith 0) Two balls for Smith to survive. Boult is finding some vicious swing – look at him, the terror:

"In Boult We Trust" pic.twitter.com/Z7Gd80svWE

Trent Boult, of course, from the Members End and Warner has a big flash at a wide loosening. He connects only with the early evening Melbourne air. Next up he’s at it again – another Jason Vorhees-esque slash at an even wider delivery but again a swing-and-a-miss. McCullum brings in a fourth slip and Boult tries the double-bluff with the next, looking for the yorker. Warner is alive to it and digs it out for a single. From the next HE’S GOT HIM! Finch’s edge loops up off the pad and time stands still as the bowler waits for the ball to arrive. Eventually it does and the Kiwis in the stands go off the charts. That’s the start they needed.

1st over: Australia 1-0 (Warner 1, Finch 0) Tim Southee surges in from the Great Southern Stand End. He strays onto Warner’s pads and the opener gets his team off the mark with a flick down to backward square leg for a single. Aaron Finch blows a risky bubble with his gum – how awkward would it be if it popped all over his grille? – then plays and misses outside off at one that seams away deliciously. And he repeats the trick with the last. A good start for New Zealand, though ‘good’ isn’t going to be enough for them in the circumstances. They need ‘extraordinary’.

Out come the players. 184 runs stand between Australia and a fifth World Cup triumph.

Cheers Russ and hello everybody. From the MCG – where, from the sounds of it, greats of the game are popping peeled grapes into the mouths of Russ and Geoff while sweet, sweet fizzy pop gushes from every faucet and the scent of grilled meat wafts tantalisingly on the breeze – to north London, where we’re fuelled by RoboTea, all surfaces are slightly clammy and the air smells of mild disappointment.

And talking of mild disappointment if you’ve tuned in hoping to see the Karate Kid beat Cobra Kai, I can tell you that poor old Ralph Macchio has taken a beating and Mr Miyagi has been left in a pile of his own teeth, his bonsai garden turned into ornate kindling. Elisabeth Shue has gone off with the bad guy. And that subplot with the lost kittens? Yeah, that didn’t end well either …

What a performance from the Aussies. Bar Grant Elliott’s magnificent counter-punching 83 and the calming 111-run partnership he shared with Ross Taylor (40), the Kiwis were a bit of a rabble.

Often their inspiration, New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum departed for a manic duck and it went downhill from there. 39-3 was the score when Taylor and Elliott came together and after Taylor departed it fell away very quickly. Four Kiwis departed with ducks as Johnson (3-30 off 9), Starc (2-20 off 8) and Faulkner (3-36 off 9) ran rampant.

Has Maxwell run out Southee? Yes he has! Johnson makes Boult uncomfortable, forcing him to fend to Maxwell at short mid-wicket and with Southee backing up too far at the other end the Aussie throws down the stumps in fine style and claims the final wicket. New Zealand are all out for 183. Is that anything close to enough? We’ll soon see.

Economical to a degree rarely seen against the top sides at this World Cup, Johnson continues in search of a third wicket and gets it when he pitches up to Henry and watches him guilelessly scoop a full toss straight into the hands of Starc at point. Another Kiwi duck.

Reader Giles Brooke is getting desperate. “As Australia only scored 151 at Eden Park, do we (NZ) win on the away goals rule?”

44th over - New Zealand 181-8 (Southee 10, Henry 0)

Southee bides his time until Faulkner gives him something to hit and the fifth delivery of the over is duly dispatched out to the cover boundary for three. That’s the only score of another miserly over. The Kiwis still have hope in this game but 30-40 from this pair would help even more.

43rd over - New Zealand 178-8 (Southee 7, Henry 0))

Boof! Southee is on a seek and destroy mission here, thumping Johnson’s first ball over long-on for a towering six. As far as slower-balls go, that was a backfire for the left-arm quick. Matt Henry makes his intentions just as clear but can’t get it off the square.

no team except Pakistan has defended a sub 265 target in this World Cup... so there's that. Already too far?

42nd over - New Zealand 171-8

Bless you Grant Elliott, bless you. Not perturbed by the chaos occuring around him, New Zealand’s star of the finals rocks back and deposits Faulker through cow for another boundary, raising hope that he could yet reach triple figures and also drag the Kiwi score over 220.

Fresh from a disastrous New Zealand PowerPlay period (15 for 3 was the result of that) Vettori departs thanks to a Mitchell Johnson yorker to the stump. Wrong timber, Dan. That came a ball after Elliott had been put down by Smith at gully. It’s all happening as Bill Lawry would say. The Aussies are in pole position.

40th over - New Zealand 165-6 (Elliott 78, Vettori 8)

With the cricket gods smiling on him for now, Elliott picks up four by cleverly gliding one through the short third man to the boundary. Faulkner has been a gem today and six from the over is no great disaster. He’s got 2-29 from 7 overs now - excellent work.

I know nothing. Hawk-Eye says it was clipping middle at the very top but it’s thrown back to Dharmasena, whose original ‘not out’ verdict stands.

Faulkner thinks that he’s trapped Elliott in front and it looks very close indeed.

39th over - New Zealand 159-6 (Elliott 73, Vettori 7)

Mitchell Starc is not impressed with the temerity of Daniel Vettori clipping him to leg for two so he sends down a steepling bouncer to give him something else to think about. That’s the only action in the over.

38th over - New Zealand 157-6 (Elliott 73, Vettori 5)

Though his instincts might be pushing him in different directions, Elliott elects to take a single on offer from the first ball of Faulkner’s over. There follows a delay as Vettori becomes distracted by the sight of a yellow balloon in the area blacked for the sight-screen. Vettori scratches around and then produces a moment of class, showing Faulkner the full face of the bat to drive him for a straight four.

37th over - New Zealand 151-6 (Elliott 73, Vettori 0)

We all know that Daniel Vettori is perfectly capable with the bat but facing his first ball here form Starc he almost gives Brad Haddin some more catching practice, fencing at it in heart-stopping fashion. Can he hang around while Elliott lifts this score towards respectability?

Calamity! After all but running out Elliott, Ronchi swipes artlessly at his first ball from Starc and sends an edge through to Michael Clarke at first slip, meaning he too departs for a duck and the Kiwis are right back in strife with the fall of three quick wickets. He’s escorted off the ground - on the MCG screen at least - by the ‘Castrol Duck’, a truly tragic cartoon figure. Not the kind of experience you dream about as a young lad.

36th over - New Zealand 150-5 (Elliott 72, Ronchi 0)

Are the Aussies sledging Luke Ronchi at the moment? You’d think so becaus he used to walk among them in a brief ODI career for Australia. Now he’s out in the middle of the MCG in a World Cup final representing the country of his birth. Faulkner is breathing fire at the moment but the Kiwi keeper safely negotations his first three balls.

Now Corey Anderson goes! It’s Faulkner again, wiggling one through the new batsman’s defences and skittling him. Anderson had one sighter before the wicket ball but it wasn’t enough to prevent his demise for a duck. Faulkner is ecstatic and well he might be because the man he’s removed can be a destructive batsman at the death.

He’s gone! Perhaps the query was whether it was a bump ball - Faulkner’s delivery was pitched up outside off stump and Taylor played a slashing drive - but either way he’s out. He nicked it through and it carried into the outstretched right hand of a diving Brad Haddin. What a catch! Finally the Aussies get their breakthrough.

Faulkner thinks he has Taylor caught behind. Taylor doesn’t agree and neither do the umpires in the strictest sense because they’ve thrown it upstairs.

35th over - New Zealand 150-3 (Taylor 40, Elliott 72)

Who is your favourite Shane? Is it Shane Warne, Shane Richie, Shane from The Shield? Maybe it’s Shane Watson. If so you’re in for a treat because he’s bowling another over here. He starts with a wide, so as to delay and extend our gratification, which soon comes when Elliott flicks him past the outstretched hands of Haddin for four. Watson looks like he’s been shot. I can’t see a lone sniper on the roof so we’ll have to concede it’s just disappointment.

34th over - New Zealand 142-3 (Taylor 37, Elliott 68)

Hazlewood is into the attack after drinks and Elliott tucks into a little more sustenance when he leans back and quite deliberately glides him over the cordon for four. With a single that follows, he also brings up the 100-run partnership between he and Taylor, which came off 126 deliveries. A repeat of the boundary strike is less effective when a man is dropped back to protect the third man boundary.

Elliott playing another kebab stick in the eye of an innings. An absolute blinder. 139-3, 100 stand with Taylor. Key phase imminent.

33rd over - New Zealand 134-3 (Taylor 35, Elliott 62)

Speaking of leading men, Patrick Swayze Shane Watson is back into the attack for another bowl. His body language seems almost recalcitrant each time he returns to his mark but as long as he’s only conceding a couple of singles as in this over, he’s an asset to his side. Speaking of assets, there’s a giant Gatorade bottle on the field so like Pavlov’s dog I will join the players and stop for a moment’s hydration.

32nd over - New Zealand 132-3 (Taylor 34, Elliott 61)

Maxwell toils on, all loping strides and rubbery arms. He’s milked for six runs - four singles and a two to Elliott - but he’s performing his job with as frugal an outcome as could be hoped. If the middle overs of an ODI were a movie he’d be Steve Buscemi; no-one’s idea of a leading man but providing enough kooky moments to keep you interested.

31st over - New Zealand 126-3 (Taylor 32, Elliott 57)

I’m sure it’s not just me thinking that itchell Johnson has lost something of his earlier spark at the Members end. Elliott and Taylor trade in singles this over, content to wait for a really loose one.

30th over - New Zealand 121-3 (Taylor 30, Elliott 54)

Glenn Maxwell continues with mixed bag of off-spinners and keeps things a little tidier this time, so an Elliott flick to leg for two and Taylor’s driven single are the only damage.

One more imp knock by Elliot under pressure. Need to continue if NZ has to post a fighting total. #CWC15

29th over - New Zealand 118-3 (Taylor 30, Elliott 51)

It seems as though Clarke was about as impressed with Watson’s over as Roger Ebert was with Patrick Swayze’s turn* in Road House, because he’s been banished to mid-on in favour of Mitch Johnson. The latter does a better job of containment, conceding a leg bye and a few singles in a far tighter over.

28th over - New Zealand 115-3 (Taylor 29, Elliott 50)

Maxwell returns again though with no great impact, milked for five singles either side of a leg-side wide before Elliott lofts him over mid-off for the run that brings up a well-compiled 50 from 51 deliveries. “If there’s any time for a flame-thrower celebration it’s a Grant Elliott half-century,” notes my colleague Geoff Lemon. He’s right too.

27th over - New Zealand 108-3 (Taylor 26, Elliott 47)

Watson has an opportunity to extend his repertoire of disappointed looks after he entices Taylor forward but then watches the outside edge fly through a vacant slip cordon for four. Nine come from the Watson over, which is the precise amount of times I’ve dropped a Patrick Swayze reference into a live blog.

26th over - New Zealand 99-3 (Taylor 21, Elliott 44)

Grant Elliott is batting in a dream now. He plasters Faulkner through cover for another boundary and then nonchalantly flicks him down to third man for a single. Off strike is where the Aussies want him right now. He’s also the key wicket for them to claim; if he bats another 15 overs his side will be flying.

25th over - New Zealand 93-3 (Taylor 20, Elliott 39)

A lumbering all-rounder nods at his captain, removes his cap and slowly trots across to the umpire, which can only mean one thing: It’s Watto time! He nearly produces a wicket too when Elliott lives on the edge by cutting over Smith’s head at gully to pick up too. Watson does his best Patrick Swayze, throwing his head back like in the beach football scene in Point Break, right when he realises the identity of Johnny Utah.

24th over - New Zealand 89-3 (Taylor 20, Elliott 35)

Faulkner switches to the southern end of the ground but a few balls later he probably wishes he hadn’t; he’s clattered over the top of cover for another Elliott boundary to bring up the 50 partnership from 69 deliveries. This is great counter-attacking batting from the New Zealanders. They consolidated and now they’re starting to launch.

23rd over - New Zealand 83-3 (Taylor 19, Elliott 30)

MCG so small! Now Starc is getting the treatment, hooked for a slightly streaky but nevertheless spirit-lifting six by Elliott. It was a little straight but he rocked back and threw the kitchen sink at it.

22nd over - New Zealand 77-3 (Taylor 19, Elliott 24)

Bang! Now Elliott hammers Maxwell as well, latching onto a short on and cutting for four. He’s looking very comfortable indeed now.

21st over - New Zealand 70-3 (Taylor 18, Elliott 18)

Shot! Elliott gets on the front foot to the returning Starc and cracks a splendid cover drive out to the boundary for three as he continues to feel his way into the match. He and Taylor are steadying the ship.

NOT OUT! Successful review from Elliott. #NZ 3-66 (20). LIVE: http://t.co/AnGAEEqFQ3 #cwc15 #AUSvNZ pic.twitter.com/LKOdkTJ63l

20th over - New Zealand 66-3 (Taylor 18, Elliott 15)

The thing I really love about Glenn Maxwell - and let’s be honest, there’s so many to choose from - is the way he reacts as though he’s fractionally missed out on a wicket at least four times an over. He genuinely did nearly snuff out Elliott there, I suppose. He turned it too much on that occasion.

Going down leg by a mile in fact. I could almost see that from side-on.

...and the batsman sends it upstairs. Was it going down leg?

19th over - New Zealand 62-3 (Taylor 17, Elliott 12)

Like Johnson, Faulkner seems to stoop ever lower as he bounds towards the batsman before rising into an athletic delivery stride. Again his over costs only three runs, which is precisely the kind of middle-over economy that’s his bread and butter. It’s the task of Elliott and Taylor to pull NZ out of their rut but for now that will be an arm-wrestle.

18th over - New Zealand 59-3 (Taylor 17, Elliott 9)

Glenn Maxwell has been the man with the golden arm at times and now he’s back in search of another - let’s be totally honest - arsey wicket. He almost gets one too when Elliott shuffles forward and almost edges to Haddin. Never one to miss an opportunity for a stumping, the Aussie keeper also makes a mess of the stumps but to no avail.

17th over - New Zealand 54-3 (Taylor 14, Elliott 7)

If looks are anything to go by, Grant Elliott at least wears the kind of steely glare that makes you believe he’s in for another big one today. Perhaps the confidence bred by his innings on Tuesday will course through his veins now. Either way, he’s got a new bowler to contend with now in James Faulkner. His over costs just three singles and by the end of it he’d scrambling across the pitch to save one.

16th over - New Zealand 51-3 (Taylor 13, Elliott 5)

Is it time to give Josh Hazlewood a rest now? Into his seventh over now he offers up a juicy half-volley that Taylor cracks wide of mid-wicket for three and otherwise looks a little down on penetration as drinks approaches. The drinks come out in fact, as good a chance as the Kiwi pair will get to regroup and talk through this difficult start. For now the Aussies are well on top.

Just did my first aimless, nervous lap of the living room. First of many I think.

15th over - New Zealand 47-3 (Taylor 10, Elliott 4)

The MCG really is too big for Ross Taylor. He drives Johnson beautifully through cover but only picks up three as Starc hauls the ball in at the boundary. It was a lovely stroke to be fair and his partner tucks in for a double dose, collecting two through the same region to get himself moving.

Jimmy Neesham already bringing the goods. You've got company in the OBO stakes, @rustyjacko.

14th over - New Zealand 41-3 (Taylor 7, Elliott 1)

With the dangerous Guptill removed, Clarke decides that Maxwell has done his job and benches him again in favour of Hazlewood and all-out attack. Not a bad idea to try and press home the early advantage. His over is a maiden and by the end of it Taylor - perhaps a little too lavishly given the state of the game - drives and almost edges behind to Haddin.

13th over - New Zealand 41-3 (Taylor 7, Elliott 1)

Cometh the hour, cometh...Grant Elliott? He was the hero of the Black Caps’ semi-final win and he’s going to have to pull it out of the bag again here because his side is reeling. He gets off the mark with one to a fumbling Warner at gully.

Calamity strikes again! This time it’s Williamson. Johnson squares him slightly and there’s something almost surreal about the shot - proppy and startled - sending the ball straight back into the eager hands of Johnson. He can’t believe his luck. Australia can’t believe it’s luck. The Kiwis are 39-3 and sinking into a very unfortunate hole. Johnson’s aggression and accuracy really won out there.

12th over - New Zealand 38-2 (Taylor 5, Williamson 12)

Ross Taylor is the new man at the crease and he restores a little bit of sanity by clattering Maxwell to the boundary through cover. It was a full toss, so he really needed to.

Oh dear. Maxwell has come into the attack and immediately struck in customary style: with some absolute filth. Guptill should have pummeled a half-tracker to the boundary to start the over but cracked it to cover instead and the next ball, innocuously thrown up on an off-stump line, is missed entirely. Guptill is bowled. A disaster. The Kiwi - a flightless bird - is a rather apt metaphor for New Zealand’s failure to launch so far.

11th over - New Zealand 33-1 (Guptill 15, Williamson 12)

Now Johnson produces a gem to Williamson, pitching it on middle stump and cutting it away from the outside edge. From my side-on perspective he cuts a menacing figure as he crouches low into the delivery stride, like a very athletic version of Bangers (of Mash?) about to hurl a projectile. A pair of singles is the only damage in this over. Johnson is mostly nailing his line and length.

10th over - New Zealand 31-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 11)

Finally Williamson gets moving and he does it in style, stroking Hazlewood for a wonderful straight drive down to the boundary on the southern side of the ground before handsomely pulling him wide of fine leg for two. Guptill has a bash at a straight drive himself and after one bounce it almost decapitates Hazlewood on his follow-through.

9th over - New Zealand 24-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 4)

Clarke elects to conserve some of Starc’s energy and overs, bringing Johnson on from the Members end to fling it down for the first time today. He’s right on the money too, forcing Guptill back and across to defend towards gully. On an excellent pitch the early loss of McCullum has New Zealand back in its shell a little. Will the shackles be removed soon? A leg-side wide is the only run of the Johnson over.

8th over - New Zealand 23-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 4)

Hazlewood’s bowling with a lot more heat now and his fourth ball of this over is a belter, fast and always rising towards Williamson’s chest, putting him in two minds whether to take evasive or attacking action. He sort of does neither, swaying at like a drunk might a suddenly-appearing street sign. Hazlewood’s over is a very productive maiden.

7th over - New Zealand 23-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 4)

Mitchell Starc knows that he’s one of the main attractions of this match so he’s decided to give the crowd better value for their money by bowling at least an extra ball per over. First up here he sends another fast bouncer trampolining over Guptill’s head, too high to count as intimidation you’d think. It’s the only score of the over though.

6th over - New Zealand 22-1 (Guptill 14, Williamson 4)

Is Josh Hazlewood bowling a tad straight for a man with only a fine leg and short mid-wicket in place? Perhaps Michael Clarke thinks so becayse now he shifts James Faulkner across to mid-on as Williamson scratches around.

5th over - New Zealand 18-1 (Guptill 13, Williamson 1)

On reflection, you’d have to say that Brendon McCullum’s dismissal earlier was reflective of the way he plays the game (all out attack) but it really was a mad couple of minutes. Williamson, who has replaced him, is far more circumspect here against Starc but twice almost perishes hanging his bat out at short ones.

4th over - New Zealand 17-1 (Guptill 13, Williamson 0)

Hazlewood starts his second over with a little more accuracy than his last but the penetration isn’t quite what he’d like against Guptill. The latter tries to slap him to point but it’s cut off by two converging Australians but he goes even better two balls later, hooking a wild and hairy six over the top of the keepers’ head. Did he have much control? No, but it was still brilliant. I think it’s also fired up Hazlewood because by overs’ end he’s adopting the tea pot pose.

Hate how top edges can go for 6 on these small boundaries.

3rd over - New Zealand 11-1 (Guptill 7, Williamson 0)

Starc starts his second over with a fearsome LBW shout against Guptill but the batsman lives to fight another day when Kumar Dharmasena - the first man to both play in and umpire a World Cup final - turns him down. The Australians pass up the chance of a review.

2nd over - New Zealand 6-1 (Guptill 2, Williamson 0)

It’s Josh Hazlewood who pairs with Starc and after conceding a single down leg side to Guptill, he also gets a crack at the new man Kane Williamson. Williamson gets a gift from the burly New South Welshman, but his boundary to fine leg comes off the thigh pad rather than bat.

1st over - New Zealand 1-1

McCullum is bowled! And it’s an absolute jaffa from Starc, who’d had him in trouble in the two balls prior too. What a start for the young Aussie bowler, his celebration is a near lap of the ground, arms flailing as he’s swamped by teammates.Two balls later he’d gone right through the gate as McCullum drove loosely and now the Kiwi skipper is gone in a huge blow to their chances. Starc’s in-swinging yorker to castle him was just a delight.

We’re moments from Mitchell Starc’s opening delivery

But just a couple of last-minute observations: that anthem seemed a very emotional experience for Michael Clarke. Did I spot tears? On a happier note, a gentleman just in front of me is dressed as Lance Cairns - beige from head to toe - including (and I had no idea such things existed) a beige terry toweling hat.

As the anthems begin, our first ground-invader!

He’s a slip of a thing and the security guards make minced meat of him. For first-time visitors to the MCG that’s at least given an insight into the type of action you can expect at an AFL game at the ground.

Doing it for Martin Crowe

Michael Hall emails in with one slightly sombre thought on this joyous day. “I would draw fellow OBOers attention to yesterday’s excellent piece on today’s game potentially being the last game that Martin Crowe may ever see. A beautiful batsman to watch and a man unfairly maligned by some in this country not least because of his hair restoration ads. Whatever happens I hope he goes out on top.” Hear hear, Michael.

"Batting first in this World Cup has been very important." - Martin Crowe on the @BLACKCAPS batting first. #AUSvNZ pic.twitter.com/m9G0LS5Ywp

The atmosphere at the ground

...is not like any other event I’ve been to at the MCG. Right now the fielding circle is ringed with giant flags for each of the competing nations. The surface looks an absolute picture and in a few moments, the teams will assemble for the national anthems. It’s as tense as a venue can feel while giant balls of flame shoot out of the sight screens.

Butterflies are building up!! Players are about to come out for the anthems http://t.co/6PNZWdDVsZ #AUSvNZ #cwc15 pic.twitter.com/jxgHdb9BFF

Our first random celebrity spot of the day

New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter is in the house. Why? I’ve absolutely no idea.

New York @Yankees legend Derek Jeter would love to field on this @MCG surface - it's like a billiard table. #CWC15 pic.twitter.com/DpS3pbXJW2

Some other reading before this game gets under way

There’s a nice preview of this game by Vic Marks, who also takes a gallop through the history of aggressive, power-based sides at the World Cup. Vic also picks his team of the tournament, opening the way for some debate on the issue. There’s also some details on Michael Clarke’s retirement from one-day international cricket, a case for baseball fans embracing cricket and also my own look at the role this magnificent venue might play in the outcome of the game.

New Zealand win the toss and will bat

“It’s an honour to be here and have this opportunity to try and win it,” says Michael Clarke as he and Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum walk out for the toss. McCullum calls heads, wins it and elects to bat first.

Crowd update

There’s been a lot of pre-game talk that the MCG would be a sea of black with neutrals taking up the Kiwi cause but I must say, even at quarter-full as it is right now, bright yellow shirts are predominate. Also spied was a pair of gentlemen dress from head to toe in 1980s Kiwi beige, patriots and heroes the both of them.

Just on the topic of the MCG…

For my own amusement I took a look through the MCG record of each individual playing today and there was plenty of food for thought. Things I discovered:

Still believe M.Hayden's nonsense about the MCG? Get around this from http://t.co/Q6N8nZBjmt #MCGsobig @BLACKCAPS pic.twitter.com/rrHDCc4LDk

Preamble

Hello OBOers and welcome to glorious, sunny Melbourne for this tantalizing World Cup Final match-up between co-hosts New Zealand and Australia. The prospect of these two teams facing off for the main prize has had Anipodean hearts aflutter for, well, at least 12 months. Now it’s happened.

Russell Jackson is at the MCG and, trying not to be too smug, in a prime front-row position to bring you all the action from this World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand. Before he starts hammering away at his keyboard though, have a read of his match preview:

When Australia meet New Zealand in Melbourne on Sunday they will enter a contest between two evenly matched teams; both possessed of left-arm pacemen of destructive capabilities, back-ups of more understated qualities and batting lineups of an explosiveness that no ground could contain.

Or can it? On the modern cricketer’s endless summer traversing the globe, he might dismiss with a quiet smirk the concept of home-ground advantage, but you wonder how much confidence Australia take into this game from knowing the venue like the back of their collective hand, not a confidence their opponents boast.

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Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:20 am

Posted by Paul Weaver at the Sepang International Circuit

• German wins first race since December 2013, Hamilton second
• ‘Ferrari is back! Grazie, grazie,’ bellows Vettel
How the race unfolded in our lap-by-lap coverage

Sebastian Vettel won his first grand prix since the end of 2013 and left the seemingly unbeatable Lewis Hamilton not only well beaten but very frustrated.

“Yes, Yes,“ bellowed Vettel as he took the flag, and then “.” He was very emotional at the end, when he added: “There are plenty of positives. We beat them fair and square. Today was a very special day and will always remain part of me.” Hamilton said: “Sebastian and Ferrari did a great job today. Ferrari were too fast for us.”

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Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:00 am

Posted by Neil Spencer

Rich in detail, but Johnny Rogan’s biography fails to capture the blithe spirit of the great songwriter

Internecine strife is a routine hazard of rock’n’roll life. Bitter conflicts over writing credits, who’s playing too loud, who’s hogging the limelight, or who sits where on the tour bus; petty acts of sabotage and full-on fist fights – these are commonplace at all levels of fame and fortune. Think the Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin. But most of all think the Kinks, where the usual animosities were amplified by the sibling rivalry of Ray and Dave Davies.

The brothers’ feud (still raging today) was carried over from their sprawling working-class family, in which they competed for the attentions of their parents and six elder sisters. They were polar opposites: Ray, the shy, sensitive insomniac (deemed “a miserable little bleeder” by one uncle); Dave, the happy-go-lucky youngest of the brood. The Kinks was simply business as usual played out in public, though the pair could unite against a common enemy, with mild-mannered drummer Mick Avory a particular target in the group’s early days. A bloody onstage fracas duly ensued.

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Sunday, March 29th, 2015 09:00 am

Posted by Kathryn Bromwich

Performance poet Hollie Poetry on why always wanting to throw up before a gig is a small price to pay for spreading the word

Long before she quit her day job and adopted the stage name Hollie Poetry, Hollie McNish was scribbling poems on whatever surface she could find. She started at the age of four, and when we meet she is clutching a folder full of her teenage work. “They’re terrible,” she laughs. “They’re mainly about sex and not getting into nightclubs.”

But she kept writing, slowly developing her poetry until, aged 23, her partner urged her to start reading it out loud for other people. It took her a year of attending a poetry night in Covent Garden, London, to work up the courage to go on stage, but once she started there was no stopping her and soon she was attending open-mic nights up and down the country. “I still get scared though,” she says. “Standing on the stage makes me want to vomit before most gigs.”

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