Australia won a record-extending sixth 50-overs World Cup title after opener Travis Head smashed a magnificent century to fashion their six-wicket victory in yesterday’s final against the tournament’s form team India.
Put in to bat, India rode battling half-centuries by KL Rahul and Virat Kohli to post a below-par 240 all out in exactly 50 overs at a packed Narendra Modi Stadium.
Australia suffered a top order wobble of their own but Head’s 137 off 120 balls saw them romp home with seven overs to spare in a match that never reached great heights.
The majority of those present in the 132,000 capacity ground sat in deathly silence as the home team, who had won 10 matches in a row to make the final, succumbed to their first loss of the tournament in the all-important summit clash.
“What we’ve achieved today is unbelievable,” a teary-eyed Marnus Labuschagne, who combined with Head in a match-winning partnership of 192, said.
“It’s the best achievement I’ve ever been part of.
“India have been the team of the tournament, but you knew if you play your best cricket, you have a chance.”
Earlier, Pat Cummins’s decision to field, primarily to avoid operating with a dewy ball in the night, bemused many but Australian bowlers, aided by some superb fielding, stifled their opposition.
India captain Rohit Sharma had been playing tone-setting knocks in their batting template in the tournament and it was no different in the final despite the early loss of Shubman Gill.
Rohit smashed three sixes in his entertaining 47 but fell just before the end of powerplay.
Head celebrates after reaching his century
The opener stepped out against Glenn Maxwell but miscued his shot on the offside. Head ran backwards from cover to take a tumbling catch to get rid of the India captain.
Kohli (54) hit Mitchell Starc (3-55) for three boundaries in a row but India slumped to 81-3 in the 11th over when Cummins dismissed Shreyas Iyer caught behind.
Kohli and Rahul (66) then combined in a dour rebuilding job even if it meant going 16.1 overs without a boundary.
Kohli brought up his ninth 50-plus knock in 11 innings but soon departed after chopping a Cummins delivery on to his stumps.
Rahul hit just one four in his half-century illustrating how difficult the pitch was for shot-makers like him.
Australia wicketkeeper Josh Inglis took five catches, which is a record in a World Cup final.
Australia, when they came out to bat, slumped to 47-3 seven overs into what had looked like a straight-forward chase for them.
Mohammed Shami dismissed David Warner in his first over and Jasprit Bumrah removed Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith in his successive overs to inject some excitement into the match.
Player-of-the-match Head then combined with Labuschagne, who made 58 not out, to kill off the contest.
“What an amazing day! Just thrilled to be a part of it,” said the opener who missed the first half of the tournament with a broken hand.
“It was a great decision to bowl first and the wicket got better as the game went on.”
After a stellar knock that included 15 fours and four sixes, Head missed out on hitting the winning runs when he holed out to Gill with just two runs required for victory.
That honour went to Glenn Maxwell, who ran two to seal their victory in front of a crestfallen Indian crowd, which had already seen the writing on the wall and started thinning out.
The Australian cricketers stormed the field, rushing past their disconsolate Indian opponents.
Rahul sank to his knees, while Mohammed Siraj was in tears after the sad end to their remarkable run in the tournament.
Kohli, who was adjudged player-of-the-tournament for leading the run charts, sported a vacant look like most of his team mates.
“The result hasn’t gone our way and we know that we were not good enough on the day, but I’m proud of the team,” Rohit said.
“I thought when KL and Virat were batting, we were looking at 270-280 at that point but we kept losing wickets.”
“With 240 on the board, we wanted early wickets but credit to Travis Head and Marnus.
“They put us completely out of the game and I thought the wicket got better to bat under lights.”