Head helps Australia claim sixth World Cup title

After winning 10 consecutive games to reach the final, India was outplayed by Australia on a slow Ahmedabad ground, as the Australians won their sixth men’s World Cup title. If Australia’s bowlers put the chokehold on India, Travis Head delivered the last blow with his rollicking 120-ball 137 as they strolled to a six-wicket win. Head secured his place in history by playing pivotal roles in the World Cup semifinal and final, joining the likes of Mohinder Amarnath, Aravinda de Silva, and Shane Warne in winning Player of the Match awards in knockout games.

Australia fell to 47/3 in the early stages of the chase, despite having a strong run-rate. For the first time in this World Cup, Mohammed Shami was given the new ball, and he struck with his second delivery to get David Warner caught at slip. After giving up 15 runs in his opening over, Jasprit Bumrah recovered to trap Mitchell Marsh behind and outsmart Steven Smith with a slower ball. Replays eventually revealed that Smith had been struck outside off, but he decided not to review, displaying symptoms of nervousness during the pursuit.

But Head and a disciplined Marnus Labuschagne turned the tide with a 192-run stand, gently and surely. The pair adhered to their strategy of rebuilding with a combination of attack and defense because the spinners were having little success on a slow surface. Head first slog-swept Kuldeep Yadav for a six, and Jadeja was constantly milked as India’s second line of attack collapsed. As a result, the World Cup final was the only match in which India’s spinners failed to pick up a wicket since their slowness off the pitch essentially eliminated any threat they may have.

However, the pair exploited the situation admirably, smashing boundaries early in the resumption spells to guarantee that India would never have another opportunity. They struck up an incredible partnership for the fourth wicket to decisively defeat India in the match. Head ultimately dropped, leaving Australia in need of just two more runs, which Glenn Maxwell deservedly scored to complete the task initiated by their skipper with the ball. Earlier in the day, Australia had restricted India to a respectable score of 240 after sending them in to bat, thanks to a professional display of bowling to the conditions.

Despite India’s dominant batting record throughout the competition, Pat Cummins chose to take a gamble and bowl first on the dry pitch in front of a crowd in excess of 100,000 spectators. His assessment appeared to be incorrect as India, under the leadership of Rohit Sharma, regained the upper hand in the powerplay.

Shubman Gill miscued to mid-on, but Sharma set the tone with a series of boundaries that knocked Josh Hazlewood off his lengths. To maintain India’s run rate, Virat Kohli, like Sharma, got going and smacked Mitchell Starc for three straight boundaries.

Thus far, it has followed India’s script, with Rohit swiftly approaching a fifty-run score. However, Australia kept them alert by introducing spin, which was beneficial. A mishandled high ball by Sharma cost him the opportunity to target Maxwell, and Travis Head finished with an incredible catch sprinting back and across from cover-point. When Shreyas Iyer nicked behind a Cummins cutter, the already stunned audience was even more stunned.

After losing two wickets in the space of four balls, India had to consolidate, and KL Rahul and Virat Kohli did so with determination. Even though they didn’t waver, Australia was also exceptional with the ball during this time, allowing no freebies at all. The pair lasted 97 balls without a boundary, with Mitchell Marsh and other players keeping the lines tight during that time.

With his off-pace cutters having set the tone, Cummins (10-0-34-2 without giving up a boundary) led the way with the bowling plans for the pacers. However, India’s hopes were raised when Kohli hit his ninth fifty of the competition and his fifth one in a row. These ambitions were scuppered by Cummins’s ruse, as Kohli continued to chop after 54 thanks to another hit cutter. India was now cornered and it didn’t matter how many runs Kohli had scored during the tournament—he had amassed 765 at this stage.

In response, they promoted Ravindra Jadeja and shuffled the batting order. However, Australia’s boundaries remained intact despite this ruse because the boundaries just never materialized. Rahul held up one end and pulled up a fifty as well, but this time there was no spectacular finale to round it off. Australia has since discovered reverse swing, which has made things more difficult. Jadeja was nicking behind from around the wicket under Hazlewood, and Starc duplicated it at the other angle to remove the resolute Rahul.

India was eventually bowled out for 240, a total that proved insufficient in the face of Head’s methodical attack. Suryakumar Yadav’s attempts to both protect the tail and give his team a boost failed as he gloved a slow bouncer from Hazlewood.


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