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Travis Head’s greatest innings has propelled Australia to what may be their finest moment, a World Cup triumph over raging hot favourites India in Ahmedabad on Sunday night.
Head scored 137 from 120 balls with 15 fours and four sixes, his second century of the tournament, as Australia played brave cricket, overcoming early jitters to win by six wickets with 42 balls to spare. Australia finished on 4-241 after a brilliant bowling and fielding performance saw India bowled out for 240.
Party time: Australia reacted with joy after claiming a sixth World Cup with a superb performance against India.Credit: AP
Head was well-supported by anchorman Marnus Labuschagne (58 not out in 110 balls), who was not named in Australia’s original World Cup squad but gained opportunities through injuries and earned his place in the finals through weight of runs.
It was an anticlimax when Head was caught on the mid-wicket boundary with just two runs required. Glenn Maxwell swatted the next ball, from Mohammed Siraj, through square leg for a couple and suddenly Australia were World Cup champions for a sixth time.
Australia’s bravery began before the tournament when Australia decided to carry Head through the first half of their campaign with a broken wrist. It reaped abundant rewards with Head winning three player of the match awards in six games, including the semi-final against South Africa in Kolkata last Thursday for his batting and bowling.
Player of the match: Travis Head.Credit: AP
On Sunday, the award was for his fielding as well as his batting after he took a running, diving catch to get rid of rampant Indian captain Rohit Sharma for 47 scored in just 31 balls. Head finished the tournament with 329 runs for the tournament at an average of 55 and the imposing strike rate of 128.
Captain Pat Cummins proved a brave and decisive leader, continuing to take the game on after Australia lost their first two matches and were threatened with an early exit. They won their next nine straight.
To overcome previously unbeaten India so comprehensively in conditions tailor-made for the home side was one of the great achievements in 146 years of international cricket.
Cummins’ bravery continued on Sunday with his decision to win the toss and bowl against a side that had dominated the tournament batting first. It looked even braver when Indian captain Rohit Sharma propelled his team off to their usual rollicking start.
Marnus Labuschagne played an excellent supporting role in the run chase.Credit: AP
Yet Cummins stood up when it counted in his best bowling performance of the tournament, claiming two important wickets to finish with 2-34 from his 10 overs.
Shubman Gill (4) went early caught by Adam Zampa at mid-on swiping through the leg side, but Virat Kohli proved the rock to Rohit’s roll as he clubbed 47 in just 31 balls. The second of his three sixes was an audacious drive over mid-off from Mitchell Starc.
Continuing to play as he promised, Rohit finished the tournament as its second-highest run scorer with 597 at an average 54 and, most significantly, a strike rate of 126. The undisputed leader was Virat Kohli with 765 runs at 96 and a strike rate of 90.
But with Rohit so wonderfully caught by Head and the dangerous Shreyas Iyer caught behind off a delighted Cummins for just four, India were suddenly 3-81. The wave of noise generated from more than 100,000 fans in a sea of blue India shirts suddenly dropped to nothing. Iyer was coming off consecutive centuries, his most recent 105 from just 70 balls in the semi-final against New Zealand.
Getting rid of Iyer early was the perfect scenario for the Australians, bringing Kohli and KL Rahul together as accumulators relatively early in the innings. The madness went out of the game. Silence lingered as it was more like Test match batting, rotating the strike.
Cummins changed the game when he made a ball lift unexpectedly and Kohli (54 in 63 balls) chopped it into his stumps. The partnership with Rahul was 67 from more than 18 overs. Without Kohli, Rahul plodded on with no support, making 66 in 107 balls with just one boundary.
Along the way, Adam Zampa dismissed Bumrah for one, equalling the record for the most wickets by a spinner in a World Cup, 23, set by Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralidaran in the West Indies during 2007.
David Warner’s excellent World Cup with the bat and in the field came to an abrupt end when the death or glory approach of Australia’s top three saw him depart one ball into Australia’s second over.
Having edged the first ball of the innings from Jasprit Bumrah low between first and second slip to the boundary playing a glide, he tried the same shot against Mohammed Shami and Kohli took a sharp catch at slip.
Warner (7 from 3 balls) finished Australia’s leading run score for a second successive World Cup with 535 runs at an average of 49 and strike rate of 108, but a significant contribution on Sunday evening would have settled dressing room nerves.
Mitch Marsh (15 from 15 balls), went caught behind slashing, having hit an incredible six over mid-off from Bumrah’s bowling.
A compulsive reviewer, Steve Smith failed to take the chance on Sunday night, accepting the nod from his batting partner Head that he was indeed leg before wicket as Australia stumbled to 3-47 from seven overs.
After trudging off for four, scored from a lovely straight drive two balls earlier, Smith would have been mortified to later see the DRS replay showing the ball hitting him outside the off stump.
It ended a disappointing World Cup campaign for Smith, who passed 50 twice in just ten innings to average 34.
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