Australia ride on Head ton to beat India and win Cricket World Cup

- November 19, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

India become first team in last four editions to not win Cricket World Cup as host nation; Australia chase 241-run target in 43 overs as Travis Head scores 137 and Marnus Labuschagne makes 66

Players of Australia celebrate after winning the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup following the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 Final between India and Australia at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. (Photo: Getty)

If there is a sound of silence, it could be felt at the Narendra Modi Stadium here in Ahmedabad as the one lakh-plus crowd was left stunned, made to fidget and yearn for miracle as clinical Australia romped to a six-wicket win in the final to end India’s unbeaten run and lift their sixth Cricket World Cup title.

But for the first powerplay phases in both the innings, when Rohit Sharma scored 31-ball 47 and India pace bowlers got three wickets, Australia displayed the big match temperament they are known for as they burst the bubble of invincibility surrounding India in this tournament.

The loss also continued India’s failure to clear the knockout phase of ICC events over the last 10 years and made them the first in the last four editions to not win the World Cup as host.

India, who had been restricted to 240 on a pitch that was slow but held no problems for batsmen, changed the opening bowling combination, giving the new ball to Mohammed Shami instead of Mohammed Siraj.

Shami had done well as first change. Given the new ball, he produced a wicket quickly, of David Warner at slip, but also leaked runs. Jasprit Bumrah at the other end was also milked for runs.

Australia raced to 41 in four overs but then twin strikes by Bumrah, of Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith — given out wrongly, brought the Indians back. The roars picked intensity as Australia managed to move to 60 in the first powerplay.

Skipper Rohit Sharma brought on his spinners expecting them to go for the kill. But the docile pitch, made more unresponsive by the dew which had perhaps prompted Australia to bowl first, did not aid sharp turn that could worry the batsmen. Siraj was brought on as the fifth bowler as late as the 17th over and rendered ineffective.

Both Travis Head, who scored 137 (120 balls, 15x4s, 4x6s) and Marnus Labuschagne (58 off 110 balls, 4x4s) batted with comfort, adding 50 in 70 balls, 100 in 119 balls and 150 in 176 balls to take Australia smoothly towards the target.

The spinners Kuldeep Yadav (0/56) and Ravindra Jadeja (0/43) completed their quota, making no impression at all.

While Labuschagne dropped anchor, Head once again turned India’s nemesis. It was Head who had taken the World Test Championship final away from India with an attacking 163 on the first day itself at The Oval in June.

Here also, the left-handed batsman stuck in deep and played his shots with great control, while also working the spinners around.

The 29-year-old had missed the first half of the tournament due to injury but came back with a century against New Zealand at Dharamsala and then made a crucial 62 in the low-scoring semi-final against South Africa.

By the time he was dismissed off Siraj, Australia needed just two runs to win and victory was achieved with as many as seven overs to spare.

This ride to target wouldn’t have been this smooth had Australia not shown improvisation in bowling and commitment as a fielding unit.

Pat Cummins rose to the occasion with his own bowling — 2/34 in 10 overs, including 1/16 in his first spell of five overs.

But it was his use of as many as seven bowlers in the first half of Indian innings, giving even one or two overs in a spell, which confused the batsmen. It was something India were not prepared for and they just kept guessing the bowlers while struggling for runs.

KL Rahul scored 66 but took 107 balls. Kohli made 54 off 63 balls but when he was expected to take charge, played on a Cummins delivery on to his stumps. Rohit had thrown away his wicket, albeit through a running-and-diving catch by Head.

India had no bowler save the five they had been using to surprise Australia and they wilted defending a below-par total on a good batting pitch.

Brief scores (Cricket World Cup Final): India 240 all out in 50 overs (KL Rahul 66, Virat Kohli 54, Mitchell Starc 3/55, Pat Cummins 2/34, Josh Hazlewood 2/60) lost to Australia 241/4 in 43 overs (Travis Head 137, Marnus Labuschagne 58 not out, Jasprit Bumrah 2/43)