After Australia lost its first wicket in the T20 World Cup final, all the wincing eyes went to captain Aaron Finch, out for five, shaking his head, chewing his gum and blowing little one-word thought bubbles.
In the background, Mitchell Marsh was running out to have his hit.
The ground announcer pressed play on Sir David Dobbyn’s 1986 Footrot Flats soundtrack classic Slice of Heaven — a tune to salute Trent Boult’s wicket and the Kiwis’ mood.
But the lyrics could’ve been written for the resurgent Marsh, a 30-year-old athlete whose international future has often seemed iffy.
Hey, I gotta lot of faith in ya. I’ll stick with you kid, that’s the bottom line.
The selectors had that sentiment in July when they told him he was going to bat at number three in the World Cup.
David Warner played the next three deliveries to see out the over, letting Marsh settle for a couple of minutes at the non-striker’s end.
It was 1-15 after three overs.
To win the tournament, Australia needed another 158 runs at an average of 9.29 runs per over.
Quickie Adam Milne bowled the following ball to the West Australian and Marsh’s bat found it rising at box height, belting it 86 metres behind square leg into a row of spectators that might not have expected to field any catches that far from the fence.
Marsh acknowledged the six by punching Warner’s batting glove without saying a word; his expressionless face suggested he was in a rare state of flow, playing without fear or insecurity.
He hit the next two balls for four.
Warner had a similar calmness throughout their clever and powerful nine-over partnership of 92.
“I’m always pumped,” he said after being named player of the tournament. “There was a little bit of nerves around with a good [New Zealand] total on the board.”
Warner was out to Boult for 53 when the score was 107.
Glenn Maxwell completed the victory with Marsh, who finished the innings of his T20 career on 77 not out from 50 balls.
Coach Justin Langer also mentioned the team’s chemistry.
“This is such a special group of people,” he said. “We’ve got some amazing cricketers here. We haven’t had a chance to play together because [of] different reasons for the past 12 months, so when we all got back together it was almost like a reunion. And there’s so many close relationships there.”
Australia’s decisions to choose an experienced squad and place an emphasis on aggression were rewarded with six wins from seven matches.
Matthew Wade’s thrilling 41 not out (17 balls) in the semi-final epitomised the Aussies’ approach to this breakthrough World Cup triumph.
Leg spinner Adam Zampa’s brilliant bowling (Finch thought he should’ve been player of the tournament) was another highlight.
Significantly, such performances will stay in the memory of cricket watchers in Australia.
For the first time, children whose families could afford to pay for the TV coverage got up in the middle of the night to see the national men’s T20 team at its best in games that mattered.
Some adults went to work this morning tired but happy after seeing Marsh’s brave and brutal knock, the win conjuring comparisons to the 1999 ODI World Cup finale.
It might be a turning point in public interest for the shortest form of the game.
The decade-old Big Bash League is likely to benefit from the buzz when it resumes on December 5.
And next year Australia will try to defend its title at home.
The game’s administrators must be concerned that there is no free-to-air broadcast partner for the World Cup down under.
Regardless, matches will draw large crowds because the locals are defending champions.
At community level, cricket organisers might be moved to schedule more T20 games for young players hoping to play professionally.
Until recently, there has been a hesitancy to prepare kids to play ‘T20-style’ from the earliest age, given Test cricket is still treasured by old-school club volunteers and coaches.
Warner’s example of announcing himself in T20 before flourishing in Test matches has seemed an anomaly since 2009.
If marvellous Mitch Marsh gets picked to play in the Ashes from his form in the UAE, it’ll be another fillip for the game with the musical interludes.
Yeah, you have a lot of fun, don’t you? And living with you is a ball of a time.