Ahmedabad: An outstanding Travis Head century and half-century by Marnus Labuschagne broke millions of Indian hearts as they guided Australia to lay claim to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup for the record sixth time by comprehensively beating the hosts by 6 wickets in the finals at the Narendra Modi Stadium here on Sunday.
Head’s was an incredible knock, especially when he saw top order batsmen falling in his presence and Australia struggling at 47/3. In the company of Labuschagne (58*), the Australian opener rebuilt the innings and saw the team cross the 100 runs mark.
Head (137 off 120) did not stop at that, he continued with the charge as Labuschagne dropped anchor at the other end, with the opener bringing up a phenomenal century. The pair saw Australia clinching the pole position that was greeted by deafening silence by stressed out fans at The Colosseum.
The icing on the cake for Australia, however, was the decision of Captain Pat Cummins sending India in to bat, probably reading the track rightly by producing a masterclass to bounce back from a powerplay blitz and tying India at 240 all out in the first innings on a difficult pitch.
The ball was coming off the pitch at a snail’s pace, making strokemaking difficult. Even the 360-degree batsman Suryakumar Yadav struggled to smack it around as he does under good circumstances quite often.
Despite the below par total, India fancied their chances, provided the pitch played on a slowish side. But it played differently, helping Australian batsmen to score freely in the run chase, except for the first 10 overs where the ball wobbled around, helping India get three early wickets.
Rohit began in his inimitable style, smacking two boundaries in the second over and clobbering a six and a four in the fourth.
Even as Josh Hazlewood was smashed around, his partner Starc managed to taste first blood for Australia in the fifth over as they saw Shubman Gill’s end off his mistimed front foot pull.
Both Virat Kohli and Rohit were in no mood to allow Starc to get into his groove after Gill’s departure.
Rohit slammed him over long-off for a six and then flicked, punched and cover drove, ensuring the pressure shifts on Australia.
However, India’s mutinous zeal froze towards the end of the first powerplay. Rohit mistimed a shot, and Travis Head took an absolute stunner, running back from the covers.
Soon after the first powerplay, the back-to-back century-maker Shreyas Iyer also walked back for 4, edging one to Josh Inglish behind the stumps.
After the early blows, Kohli and KL Rahul went into rebuilding mode. Cummins made several bowling changes to get a breakthrough, but India ambled through into the mid-innings without losing any wicket
Cummins kept ringing in the changes amongst his bowlers to get a breakthrough, however, India managed to get to the mid-innings mark without another loss.
Kohli got to his fifth consecutive fifty of this tournaments, and India appeared to pick up pace, but Cummins produced a beauty by pitching a short one to Kohli who played on to his stumps.
This dismissal pushed India into the defensive mode yet again. Ravindra Jadeja, who was sent ahead of Suryakumar Yadav, plodded around along with Rahul who reached his fifty in the 35th over mark.
As the ball started to reverse swing, Australia’s pacers found greater help from the wicket. Hazlewood struck in the 36th over, getting Jadeja to nick one behind the wicket.
India eventually reached their 200 in the 41st over. The team needed a push to get them to a solid total.
But wickets kept on falling, and Jasprit Bumrah was next to depart, trapped in-front by Adam Zampa, who finished with 1/44 from his ten overs.
And the silence was deafening at the stadium when Hazlewood picked up the key wicket of Suryakumar, who had bided his time until the last three overs before looking to go big, only to top edge one to the keeper.
Apart from Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins bagged two wickets each and Zampa and Maxwell bagged a wicket each.
The final-wicket pair looked to boost India in the death overs, and they took their team to 240 when Kuldeep Yadav was run out coming back for a second off the final ball of the innings.
Australia replied with a wild start with David Warner nicking the first ball through the slips, and getting 15 runs in an exciting first over.
And the thinking captain Rohit brought in Mohammad Shami before Mohammed Siraj, and immediately bore results by removing Warner in an uncanny second over laden with extras as the ball swung wide, with Warner hanging his bat at an away swinger to edge to slip.
As the the fans roared ‘India India’, and egged them to go for the wickets to boost their chances, just then Jasprit Bumrah struck by removing the dangerous Mitchell Marsh for 15, and then dismissing Steve Smith for 4.
With three of the top four back in the hut with the score at 47/3, India got themselves back into reckoning. But Tarvis Head and Marnus Labuschagne dug in and saw Australia reach 100 runs.
Head continued with the charge as Labuschagne dropped anchor at the other end, with the opener bringing up a fantastic fifty. The pair brought Australia closer to the pole position to lift the crown, with wickets in hand and plenty of overs to spare.
Australia required 241 to win after their bowlers produced a masterclass to bounce back from a power play blitz and tie India in knots in the first innings of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 final.