Praise for match-winner Watson

Australia captain Ricky Ponting lauded all-rounder Shane Watson for his match-winning unbeaten century that powered his side to victory over New Zealand in the Champions Trophy final.

Opener Watson hammered 105 for a second successive century as Australia overhauled New Zealand’s total of 200 with more than four overs to spare to complete a six-wicket win in the day-night match on Monday and retain the trophy.

Watson, named man of the match, also scored a hundred in his team’s victory over England in the semifinal at the same venue.

“I think people have now started to see the real Watson. He is showing everybody how good he can be,” Ponting said after the match.

Watson produced his best when his team really needed it, with Australia struggling at 6-2 before he and Cameron White (62) put on 128 for the third wicket.

The Australian skipper said he was happy to see the younger players making an impact in major tournaments.

“To see Watson and White stand up tonight and get us across the line was very satisfying. I think it’s one of our strengths that when the big names don’t stand up, others do the job,” said Ponting.

He said his team had one eye on the ICC Champions Trophy when they were involved in a seven-match one-day series in England before this competition, in which they thumped the hosts 6-1.

“Five months on the road has been a long time for the boys and we’ve played a lot of cricket.
We always had one eye on the Champions Trophy and wanted to perform well in this tournament,” said Ponting.

“To win a tournament as big as this one is a great reward for all the guys. It’s the second-biggest tournament after the World Cup, so it’s a very special achievement.”

Ponting also praised New Zealand for making their second appearance in the final of the Champions Trophy despite losing key players to injuries, including captain Daniel Vettori, during the tournament.

They won the second edition of the tournament, in 2000.

New Zealand, who were already without batsman Jesse Ryder, all-rounder Jacob Oram and paceman Daryl Tuffey, suffered a big blow when Vettori was ruled out of the final due to a hamstring injury.

“You have got to give a lot of credit to New Zealand. To lose the captain going into a big game was a major loss to them, but they performed very well,” said Ponting.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Brendon McCullum led New Zealand in Vettori’s absence.

“Losing him [Vettori] was a huge blow. He’s a huge player who we look to not only for performance but also for inspiration, so to lose him was obviously disappointing,” said McCullum.

The stand-in skipper said his bowlers could have put pressure on the Australian batsmen had New Zealand reached 250.

“I think if we could have got 250, the game would have been different. Kyle Mills and Shane Bond were brilliant, but unfortunately we didn’t provide them enough runs,” said McCullum.

“We are disappointed, but we are proud of what we have achieved. We are proud of the desire and the passion the team has shown through some tough times.”

New Zealand had a chance to keep the pressure on Australia after their early breakthroughs but McCullum dropped a difficult chance from White off paceman Ian Butler when the batsman was on 15 and the total was 41.

“It was crucial. Unfortunately, one went down and I was responsible for it,” said McCullum.—AFP

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