CENTURION, South Africa, (Reuters) – Australia captain Ricky Ponting praised Shane Watson’s coolness after the all-rounder’s century steered the champions to a six-wicket win over New Zealand in the Champions Trophy final yesterday.
Australia, chasing 201 for victory, had slipped to six for two before Watson proved guided them to victory with 105 not out off 129 balls, following his 136 not out in the semi-final against England.
“I think people have started to see the real Shane Watson in the last couple of matches. Now that he’s back to full fitness, he’s showing everybody how good he can be. He bowled terrifically against England and then went out and scored 130-odd, but you can’t get much tougher than tonight’s situation,” Ponting told a news conference.
“I’m ecstatic to win a tournament as big as this one, it’s the second biggest one, there’s nothing else outside the World Cup. It’s a very special achievement and a massive positive after the ups and downs of the last 18 months,” Ponting said.
The Australian captain said the performance of the younger players in the rarefied atmosphere of a major final had been especially pleasing.
“To see youngsters like Shane and Cameron White stand up tonight and get us across the line was very satisfying. I think it’s one of our strengths that when the so-called big names don’t stand up, others get up and do the job. The young guys are starting to make major impacts in world events,” Ponting said.
New Zealand were left in disarray when captain Daniel Vettori was ruled out of the final by a hamstring injury.
“Losing Dan was a huge blow because he’s been instrumental with bat, ball and with his captaincy,” stand-in skipper Brendon McCullum said. “He’s been huge not just in terms of his performance but also the way he has inspired us.”
McCullum said the Kiwis believed they could still win the match when they claimed the two early Australian wickets, including that of Ponting for a single, and restricted them to 37 for two after 16 overs.
“After those two quick wickets, we believed we could win and we were pretty pumped up. But we were probably 50 runs short.”
New Zealand also suffered a crucial fielding hiccup in the 18th over when McCullum dropped a skied pull by White off Ian Butler. White had 15 at the time and went on to score 62 in a match-winning third-wicket stand of 128.
“It was obviously a crucial miss and unfortunately I was responsible for it. I didn’t ever get set underneath it and in the end I was lucky to even get a hand on it,” McCullum said.