Australia dashed India’s hopes of ending a 10-year title drought in an International Cricket Council (ICC) event as they outplayed the hosts by six wickets to win the 50-over World Cup for a record-extending sixth time on Sunday. Travis Head’s magnificent 137 off 120 balls meant the Aussies were home and dry with seven overs to spare on a slow wicket at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Pat Cummins won the toss and opted to field. it was a brave call and the Aussies backed it up with a stunning bowling display and terrific fielding. India, who were on a 10-match unbeaten run, could manage only 240 before being bowled out in exactly 50 overs.
The Men in Blue were under pressure the moment Head pulled off a brilliant catch to send back captain Rohit Sharma in the 10th over of the innings. Rohit, who made 47 from 31 balls, perished while trying to hit another boundary off Glenn Maxwell’s bowling after having smashed a six and four earlier in the over. Cummins snared the in-form Shreyas Iyer with the first ball of the next over and India were in trouble at 80/3.
Though the ever-consistent Virat Kohli and wicketkeeper-batter K L Rahul, who had a terrific tournament, tried hard, the Australians were always on top as the duo failed to hit a single boundary for a 97-ball period. Cummins returned to dismiss Kohli (54 off 63) and it was a real struggle for India to reach 240. The Indians hit just four fours in the last 40 overs as the squeeze was well and truly on. The Australian bowlers took the pace off and gave nothing away.
Though Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami reduced Australia to 47/3, the Indian bowlers could not sustain the pressure once Head and Marnus Labuschagne (58 not out off 110) joined hands. Head took the attack to the Indian bowlers, while Labuschagne was rock solid at the other end. Once the Aussies went past the 100-run mark, the Indians had no answer to the Head’s onslaught. Rohit did not even put had a slip in place when wickets were India’s only hope.
Australia needed only one big partnership to chase down the target and the 192-run stand between Head and Labuschagne provided it. The fact that the track played better under lights as the dew set in too helped their cause. The Aussies won a record-extending sixth World Cup, while India’s search for a third title continues.
Australia bounced back after starting their campaign with a couple of losses. Glenn Maxwell’s epic double hundred against the Afghans booked their place in the semifinals and they raised their level of game in the knockout stage. They were tested unlike the Indians en route to the summit clash. Only the Kiwis – in both league phase and semifinals – offered some resistance to India. The real challenge for India was always going to be how they fared in the knockouts. They cleared the semifinal hurdle unlike in 2015 and 2019. But on the big day, Australia did no wrong while the Indians had a game to forget.
The next World Cup is scheduled to be held in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027 and India will have to plan for that from now on. The likes of Rohit, Kohli, Shami and all-rounder Ravinda Jadeja have most probably played their final World Cup game. India need to desperately find a young seam-bowling all-rounder to add balance to the squad. The absence of the injured Hardik Pandya was felt big time in the final. India are a quality side for sure, but for them to become a champion team they need to have more depth in their ranks.