Head’s magnificent 137 leads Australia to sixth World Cup title

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Australia 241 for 4 (Head 137, Labuschagne 58*, Bumrah 2-43) beat India 240 (Rahul 66, Kohli 54, Starc 3-55, Cummins 2-34, Hazlewood 2-60) by six wickets

India may be where the heart of the game now resides, but it has been proven once again that cricket’s coolest leader is the Australian. Travis Head, to be precise, who achieved his team’s sixth World Cup victory with a triumphant pace of 137 off 120 balls in Ahmedabad, but whose most significant contribution undoubtedly came some six and a half hours earlier, with a de the most shocking catches in ODI history.

What could have been for these two teams if Head had not latched on to a huge, extended take, running back through the sheets to clip India captain Rohit Sharma in his prime? Australia’s final target of 241 would have been significantly higher, no doubt, and judging by the ferocity with which India’s new bowlers clawed at their opponents in the powerplay – with Jaspit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami inevitably in first flat – there would have been more opportunities for his chase to fall off the tightrope.

Instead, Head held on and, in doing so, applied a handbrake to a runaway innings that would never be fully released. Under Rohit, India had racked up 10 fours and three sixes, along with 80 for 2 in the first powerplay, the highest phase total ever achieved while batting first in a World Cup final. Once he left, India mustered just four more fours and 160 more runs in the next 40 overs. It meant they couldn’t post a total big enough to mitigate the inevitable onset of dew – the main reason Pat Cummins had risked letting Rohit and company set the agenda in the first place.

And so Australia’s victory came at a canter in the end, with six wickets up and a whopping 42 balls unused, a margin that would have been even greater were it not for Head’s dismissal on the penultimate ball of the persecution. Undeterred, Glenn Maxwell took his first ball for two to take his team towards the goal of victory which, as fate would have it, was the exact total that England and New Zealand had failed to split by conventional means four years ago.

But that tranquility in the end said nothing of the danger that had preceded it. At 47 for 3 after seven overs, with Steven Smith inexplicably failing to check a Bumrah lbw that was shown to have hit his pad outside off, Australia were in the middle of a do-or-die tussle against two of the top performers. of India’s previously incomparable campaign.

David Warner, in his last ODI innings, had missed Shami’s first legitimate delivery to Virat Kohli at slip for 7, having fenced his own first ball of the innings (from Bumrah) beyond the same fielder’s boot. for four, and with Mitchell Marsh’s attempt to hit the rapids and end in a loose cut towards the goalkeeper, the crowd had found its full voice for the first time in the game.

But Marnus Labuschagne, retained in Australia’s starting XI despite the feeling, mid-tournament, that he and Head were competing for a solitary place, showed the value of his Test pre-eminence with a role as indomitable partner of 58 not out off 110 balls. One after another, run after run, he and Head extended their crucial fourth-wicket stand of 192, outpacing pace and spin alike until, at some indefinable moment around the twentieth over of the chase, the bite at a wicket of two rhythms was replaced by the uniform spray of the long-promised dew.