Australia win sixth Cricket World Cup title as Travis Head century rains on India parade
The Aussies produced a brilliant display to end India's 10-game winning run in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Australia produced a brilliant display with bat and ball to claim their sixth Cricket World Cup title against hosts India, with Travis Head’s devastating century silencing an expectant crowd in Ahmedabad.
India had won 10 matches in a row at the tournament, including a dominant group-stage victory over the Aussies, and were heavy favourites going into Sunday’s showpiece only to be bowled out for 240.
Inspired by the dangerous Jasprit Bumrah, India claimed three early wickets to bring themselves back into the contest, but an immaculate knock from Head – in which he soaked up pressure before slamming on the accelerator – ultimately saw Australia cruise to victory.
Pat Cummins won the toss and chose to bowl first, though that briefly looked like it might have been a mistake as Rohit Sharma hit a swashbuckling 47 off 31 balls before Head took a brilliant catch over his shoulder to remove the Indian captain.
Shreyas Iyer joined Shubman Gill, who fell cheaply in the fifth over, back in the dressing room to leave India on 81-3 with the game firmly in the balance.
The hosts reasserted some measure of control with Virat Kohli at the crease, though the runs were not coming easily or quickly. They had to wait 97 balls for a boundary, with Australia bowling and fielding superbly.
Yet Kohli’s classy form continued, racking up his fifth consecutive 50; the ship was steadied and at long last the Narendra Modi Stadium, the largest cricket ground in the world, had finally found their voice.
But just a few deliveries later, the 132,000-capacity crowd fell silent when Kohli was removed by Cummins. Now every run felt like a struggle, with Australia’s seamers getting the ball to dart around and reverse on a slow, pace-less surface.
KL Rahul made a dogged and determined stand, top scoring with 66 off 107 deliveries, but the wickets started to fall with increased regularity around him until Suryakumar Yadav was the last batsman standing. Usually India’s frenetic finisher, he was restricted to a frustrating 18 off 28.
India did manage to see out the full 50 overs, setting Australia a score of 241 to win, but it felt well below par – although it was just one run less than England and New Zealand managed in their thrilling 2019 final.
With the pressure on, in an intimidating stadium, against an explosive India bowling attack, perhaps it might just be enough.
An edge off Jasprit Bumrah’s very first delivery could have claimed an immediate wicket but landed between the two slip fielders. Despite that scare, David Warner and Head had no intention of playing safe and racked up 15 runs in the first over in a clear statement of intent.
But was it brave or reckless? The brilliant Mohammed Shami provided the answer in the second over as Warner went reaching and Kohli snaffled the catch this time. The noise that accompanied the wicket would have rattled eardrums all the way back in Australia.
In the early, fantastically chaotic stages of the chase the game seesawed wildly as a virtually unplayable over from Bumrah was followed by a gargantuan, crowd-silencing six from Mitchell Marsh against Shami. But then Bumrah struck again, serving up a string of dots before enticing the faintest of edges out of Marsh.
Steve Smith took a while to get off the mark before punching a beautiful straight drive through mid-on for four. Two balls later he was gone. He bizarrely chose not to review but ball tracking showed that Bumrah’s wicked delivery was hitting outside the line of off stump.
A maiden over from Shami followed and the Modi Stadium, under the lights, felt as though it was beginning to consume Australia’s batsmen. At this point, 241 looked a long, long way away.
The introduction of India’s spinners calmed the cauldron and slowed the run rate, but it also gave Australia a chance to breathe. Head capitalised, racking up 50 off 58 balls in an imposing knock, while Marnus Labuschagne anchored a partnership that allowed the Aussies to get back on top of the run chase.
Highest scores in Cricket World Cup finals
- 149 – Adam Gilchrist v Sri Lanka, 2007
- 140* – Ricky Ponting v India, 2003
- 138* – Viv Richards v England, 1979
- 137 – Travis Head v India, 2023
- 107* – Aravinda de Silva v Australia, 1996
India needed a breakthrough, they needed to reignite a crowd that were just starting to lose hope, and Rohit turned to Shami. But when his first ball was sent flying for four by Head, it only seemed to suck more air out of the stadium.
He had needed to survive a barrage early on but Head was cooking now while India were dealt a huge psychological blow when Labuschagne escaped an LBW scare courtesy of umpire’s call. At this stage of their innings India could not buy a boundary, but Head was starting to find the rope at will.
Head brought up his century with a scrappy single that could have been a run out, and he spent little time celebrating it despite the magnitude of the occasion; just a brief salute of his bat and nod to his team-mates. There was still work to be done. The next ball went for six and now he looked keen to finish off the job quickly.
While his team-mate was producing fireworks, Labuschagne continued to provide excellent support. He brought up his own 50, and the second-biggest partnership in Cricket World Cup history. The sea of blue in Ahmedabad started to disperse, the crowd knew it was over.
In the end, Australia coasted to victory – something that would have seemed barely believable when they lost their first two matches of the tournament. Head kept on accelerating to chalk up the fourth-biggest score in a final, a massive 137, but was caught late on with two runs left to get.
India ultimately wilted over the line, deflated and outplayed on the day, and Australia’s players were already celebrating with seven overs left to play. They have now won the World Cup just one less time than every other nation put together and remain the dominant force in this format.
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