By K.R. Nayar
From Narendra Modi Stadium
Ahmedabad. Travis Head turned the hopes of Indian fans on their head through a stubborn century, and together with Marnus Labuschangne’s half century, the two helped Australia lift the World Cup for a sixth time at the Narendra Modi Stadium. Their spirited knocks under tremendous pressure proved that a cricket match cannot be won even if played in front of nearly 100,000 partisan crowd. Australia’s six-wicket win justified their tag of the ‘mighty Australians’ having lifted the World Cup six times despite a not so dominant show in this World Cup.
Exhibiting immense fighting spirit, Head cracked 137 runs off 120 balls with 15 boundaries and four sixes. Labuschangne scored an unbeaten 58 off 110 balls with four boundaries to play the role of second fiddle with elegance. Together they put on a 192 runs partnership for the fourth wicket, lifting Australia from 47 for 3 in the first seven overs and win the match with 42 balls to spare.
Australia snapped India’s victory run of ten consecutive victories in this tournament. Head got a standing ovation only from his teammates on reaching his match winning century while the home crowd watched in a deathly silence.
It all began with a brilliant catch by Head to dismiss Indian skipper Rohit Sharma for 47 while a delivery from Australian skipper Pat Cummins forced Kohli to play on to his wicket at his score of 54. These two dismissals decided the fate of Indian innings.
Australian fielded brilliantly diving and saving runs to bowl out India for 240 in 50 overs. Rahul carried the score forward through a sedate knock of 66. Australian wicketkeeper Josh Inglis took five catches, the most by a wicketkeeper in a World Cup final.
When Australia needed two runs, Head got out to Mohammed Siraj caught by Gill at deep mid-wicket. Maxwelll came out and hit the two runs while Labuschangne remained unbeaten on 58 off 110 balls with four boundaries.
Chasing a run rate of 4.80, danger man David Warner chased at Mohammad Shami outside the off stump to be brilliant caught by Kohli in the slips for 7. Mitchell Marsh, went for his shots and even hit Shami for a six. In the fifth over, he slashed at Bumrah to be caught behind by wicketkeeper KL Rahul off an under edge for 15. Much was expected off Steven Smith, but he lasted just nine balls to score four runs before he was trapped leg before by Bumrah. He made the mistake of not reviewing as the ball was outside off.
Then Maruns Labuschagne joined Head. The dramatic first ten overs ended with Australia at 60 for 3. Head and Labuschagne put on a 50 runs partnership in 71 balls. Head reached his half century in 58 balls with six boundaries and a six. At the half way mark, Australia needed another 106 runs. The partnership swelled to 100 runs in 119 balls. Head, who had missed the first five matches due to a fracture to his left hand, reached his 100 in 95 balls with 14 boundaries and a six.
Virat Kohli was adjudged the Player of the tournament.
The tale of the final began with Australia winning the toss and electing to field. This got the fans very excited. Whether it was a right or wrong decision did not bother them. They wanted to see Rohit hit the ball hard and watch Australians chasing the ball.
All went off well till the fifth over when Shubman Gill’s short-arm jab went into the hands of Adam Zampa at mid-on for 4. He had added only 30 runs with his skipper Rohit who had done the majority of the scoring.
In the tenth over, Glenn Maxwell had Sharma brilliantly caught by Head. Sharma, attempting to loft over mid-on, landed slicing it and Head running back pulled off a stunner to silenced the crowd. None knew then that he would go on to further silence the crowd through his batting too. Once again Sharma fell in the 40s. His 47 off 31 balls had four boundaries and three sixes. In the next over, the consistent Shreyas Iyer got out caught by wicketkeeper Josh Inglis for 4.
With the crowd tense, KL Rahul joined Kohli. The run flow set by Rohit slowed down. India went past the 100 run mark in 16 overs losing three wickets. For nearly 98 balls no boundaries were scored until Rahul scored one off Maxwell to fine leg. Kohli reached his fifth successive half century.
When Kohli had added another four runs to his score, Cummins had Kohli play on to his wicket. His knock off 63 balls had four boundaries. That was a huge blow for India forcing fans to stop waving the flags. Kohli and Rahul had put on 67 runs in 104 balls for the fourth wicket.
Ravindra Jadeja joined Rahul with the score just over 150 and 30 overs up. Rahul reached his half century in 86 balls with just one boundary in the 35th over. With only 15 more overs left, big hits were needed. Jadeja fell in the 36th over caught behind off Hazlewood for 9 after adding 30 runs in 44 balls with Rahul.
After nearly 70 balls without a boundary, Surya Kumar Yadav hit the last ball of the 39th over off Zampa for a four to wide of short third man. Rahul then edged Starc to wicketkeeper Inglis for 66. His knock off 107 balls had only one boundary.
Next man Mohammed Shami flicked the second ball he faced from Starc for a boundary but lasted only 10 balls to score six runs before edging Starc to Inglis for his fourth catch. Zampa got Bumrah out leg before for 1. When Suryakumar too edged Hazlewood while going for a pull to give Inglis his fifth catch, India’s hopes of crossing the 250 run mark faded along with it.