Travis Head’s heroic 137 runs knock sinks India’s ship, guides Australia to sixth World Cup title

Australian opener Travis Head smashed a heroic 137 runs knock and Marnus Labuschagne contributed an unbeaten 58 to help their side beat favourites India by six wickets in the final to lift the World Cup for the record sixth time on Sunday (November 19, 2023).

Australia defeat India to win 50-over World Cup for sixth time. Photo Courtesy: Cricket Australia X page

Stunning the 100,000-strong home crowd that assembled at the showpiece Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahemadabd with the hope of seeing their heroes lift the 50-over title after 12 years, Australian bowlers first used the pitch conditions to their favour to bowl out India for 240 runs and then reach the target of 241 runs by losing four wickets with 42 balls to spare.

Australia further increased their supremacy in the 50-over format by adding the title to their crown for the sixth time. The nation had previously won the World Cup in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015.

Chasing 241 for victory, Australia got off to a quick start but lost three quick wickets to give the spectators some moments to cheer up and shout out loudly for the home side which was playing their fourth World Cup final.

Mohammed Shami drew the first blood by taking the wicket of experienced opener David Warner (7). Jasprit Bumrah then struck twice when he took the crucial wickets of  Mitchell Marsh (15) and Steven Smith (4).

Head and Marnus Labuschagne took charge of the innings from that point and ensured the visitors reached the target without any further hiccups.

The Indian spinners-Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja- failed to pick a single wicket in the innings, adding pressure on the pacers who also struggled in the later half of the game.

Head dominated the proceedings and hammered 15 boundaries and four sixes in his charismatic knock, silencing the crowd in the stadium where Bollywood celebrities and politicians, including PM Narendra Modi, attended.

Marnus Labuschagne remained unbeaten at 58 runs, adding 192 runs in the fourth-wicket partnership which created all the differences between the two sides.

Mohammed Siraj dismissed Head in the 43rd over but by then the match had already slipped out of India’s grip.

Glenn Maxwell, who will be remembered for his gutsy double-century knock against Afghanistan in this tournament, remained unbeaten at 2.

Interestingly, India put up a dominant show in the tournament where Rohit Sharma and his men defeated Australia in their opening match and went ahead to clinch nine more games to book their seat in the final.

The final match was seen as revenge for 2003 by Indian spectators as Ricky Ponting’s Australia had thrashed a spirited India, which was led by former skipper Sourav Ganguly, in South Africa, twenty years ago.

Earlier in the day,  Virat Kohli (54), who remained the highest scorer of the tournament, and KL Rahul’s (66) played cautious knocks to guide India to 240 runs in the final match which was dominated by Australia.

Australia, who started their World Cup victory script in 1987 from the east Indian city of Kolkata, won the toss and opted to field first.

Rohit Sharma put up a strong show like he did in the semi-final clash against New Zealand and provided India a commanding start.

However, Australia soon pulled things in their favour by dismissing Shubman Gill (4) early.

Starc picked up Gill’s wicket to give India the first blow in the fifth over of the high-profile encounter. India’s scorecard read 1-30 at that point of the game.

Sharma continued his power hitting and hammered four boundaries and three sixes before Maxwell dismissed him in the 10th over. Head took a spectacular catch to ensure Sharma’s exit from the field and keep India struggling for runs from that point of the match.

Shreyas Iyer (4) soon followed Rohit Sharma as skipper Cummins scalped his wicket to leave the Indian ship tottering at 3-81.

Virat Kohli and KL Rahul joined to stitch a 67 runs fourth-wicket partnership which helped India recover after the sudden jolts it received.

However, Cummins did not let the match slip out of the Australian hands and bowled Kohli, the highest scorer in the ongoing edition of the 50-over World Cup, in the 29th match to keep India struggling all through the innings.

Kohli’s dismissal left the crowd in the world’s largest cricket stadium stunned and silenced.

KL Rahul played a heroic knock of 107-ball 66 runs that helped India cross the 200-run mark.

With Australian bowlers keeping things tight and picking up wickets at regular intervals, Indian batsmen hardly found the opportunity to deliver in the grand event.

Ravindra Jadeja (9), Suryakumar Yadav (18) failed to deliver as the bowlers kept putting pressure on the famed batting lineup which is hunting for their third World Cup victory.

Indian bowlers Mohammed Shami (6), Kuldeep Yadav (10) and Mohammed Siraj (9) made major contributions which helped India to post 240 on the scorecard.