Australia claimed their sixth ICC Cricket World Cup title on Sunday night as they defeated India in the final at Ahmedabad.
Travis Head was the star of the show, hitting a match-winning 137 as the Aussies chased down 240 with six wickets and seven overs to spare.
That knock followed a game-turning catch from the South Australian to dismiss Rohit Sharma — the highlight of an outstanding fielding display from the green and gold.
A few eyebrows were raised when Aussie captain Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bowl, although the conditions at Narendra Modi Stadium suggested batting would be easier under lights with a bit more moisture in the surface.
While the likes of Rohit, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul threatened to take control of the game at various stages, Australia’s clever bowling plans and desperate work in the outfield made it difficult for the Indian batters to find any rhythm.
Between the 10th over and the 17th, the Aussies did not conceded a single boundary, with Kohli and Rahul at the crease for the vast majority of that 97-ball stretch.
Cummins (2/34) led from the front with his into-the-wicket, off-pace variations, while Mitchell Starc (3/55) was dangerous throughout and Adam Zampa (1/44) put in yet another rock-solid display of leg-spin bowling.
But the undisputed turning point of the game was Rohit’s dismissal.
Having cruised to 47 from 31 balls with a six and a four off consecutive deliveries, the Indian skipper attempted to hit Glenn Maxwell over wide long-on again and instead skied it over the covers off a thick outside edge.
For a long while it looked as though the ball would fall safely in the outfield, but Head scrambled back out of the circle and timed his dive to perfection to take what will go down as one of the greatest catches in Cricket World Cup history.
That set up a brilliant day out for the Australian opener, although the run chase did not get off the smoothest of starts.
Despite chasing a modest total, the Aussies came out with an ultra-aggressive approach as they looked to take advantage of India’s wicket-seeking tactics.
While the runs came early as Australia reached 40 inside four overs, both David Warner and Mitchell Marsh fell to wild shots outside off stump as they swung for the fences.
That approach changed as soon as Steve Smith reached the crease, but when the former captain walked without reviewing a dubious LBW call in the seventh over, Australia were 3/47 and in desperate need of some cool heads.
The selectors’ decision to stick with Marnus Labuschagne proved critical, as the Queensland star’s Test nous came to the fore with a composed anchoring knock that allowed Head to go about his business.
With those two at the crease, Australia were happy work singles and put away the loose balls until they had regained their footing in the game.
Even after they were well and truly back in control, Head and Labuschagne never needed to go full tilt as they guided Australia to 4/239 — a partnership that ended with Head’s dismissal in the 43rd over.
The new batter, Maxwell, needed only one ball to finish the job as Australia dealt India their only defeat of the 2023 Cricket World Cup campaign.
Kohli finished a sensational individual tournament as the top batter with 765 runs, including three hundreds and six fifties from 11 innings.
Indian seamer Mohammed Shami was the top tournament wicket-taker with 24 at 10.70, while Zampa — the only spinner among the top seven in the standings — claimed 23 scalps at 22.39.
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