Head the hero as Australia claim sixth ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup crown
November 20, 2023
Australia are the kings of the cricketing world once more after finishing atop India by four wickets in the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Final in Ahmedabad overnight behind a 137-run Travis Head explosion.
With a daunting sea of blue packed into the colosseum-like Narendra Modi Stadium, Australian skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and opted to ignore conventional cricketing wisdom by sending the hosts in to bat first.
Indian captain Rohit Sharma kickstarted the innings with the same trademark aggression that he has showcased for much of the tournament but lost opening partner Shubman Gill (4 off 7) just five overs in after the 24-year-old skied a Mitchell Starc delivery to Adam Zampa at mid-on.
Sharma (47 off 31) continued hitting fours and sixes before mistiming a shot off the bowling of Glenn Maxwell and inviting Head to take a match-defining catch moving backwards as the hosts fell to 2-for-76.
Momentum had shifted firmly the way of the visitors when Cummins found the edge of Shreyas Iyer (4 off 3) to claim the third wicket of the innings.
With Virat Kohli and KL Rahul sharing the crease, the runs dried up with boundaries becoming near impossible to come by – illustrated by a 97-ball boundary drought – as they looked to steady the innings and lay some type of platform for the backend of their 50 overs.
Their stand lasted 67 runs before a Kohli (54 off 63) inside-edge cannoned into the stumps as Cummins secured the breakthrough and notched his second wicket of the innings.
Ravindra Jadeja (9 off 22) was unable to make much of an impression nicking a Josh Hazlewood seed to wicketkeeper Josh Inglis before top-scorer Rahul (66 off 107) joined him in the pavilion soon after in the same manner off the bowling of Starc.
The tail struggled to make much of an impact with Kuldeep Yadav (10 off 18) run out on the final delivery as India finished all out for 240.
India struck early with David Warner (7 off 3) dismissed by Mohammed Shami on the first ball of the second over before Mitchell Marsh (15 off 15) was caught behind off the bowling of Jasprit Bumrah shortly after.
Steve Smith (4 off 9) was given out LBW off Bumrah and opted not to review the decision with replays showing that he was hit outside the line of off-stump.
At 3-for-47 just seven overs in and staring down another middle-order collapse, it was Head and Marnus Labuschagne who linked to put together one of the greatest partnerships in Australian white ball history.
Head proved the aggressor and Labuschagne the rock as the duo motored towards a triple-figure stand and beyond.
Head’s fifty came off 58 balls before upping his strike rate and securing his fifth ODI hundred off just 95 balls as a deafening hush enveloped Narendra Modi Stadium.
His hundredth run came off an ill-advised single that would have seen him run-out had it been a direct hit.
Instead, the 29-year-old joins Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting as the only Australians in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup history to hit a century in a final and becomes just the seventh players ever to do so.
Labuschagne – who revealed that even on the morning of the match he remained unconvinced that his spot in the XI was secure – surpassed 50 in far more suppressed fashion off 99 balls not long after.
Requiring just two for victory with plenty of balls to spare and the rest of the jubilant squad in the dugout preparing to storm the field, Head (137 off 120) skied a Mohammed Siraj ball to Gill on the legside boundary as he and Labuschagne’s (58* off 110) heroic, 192-run stand came to an end.
He was met by a raucous ovation in the dugout as Maxwell – who himself had proven the hero on multiple occasions throughout the tournament – made his way to the crease and took just the lone delivery to hit the winning runs.
Perhaps the most famous World Cup title in the nation’s history had been secured as Cummins’ squad celebrated next to the pitch, which had been subject to plethora of debate in the lead-up.
Head was awarded Player of the Match honours just days on from his semifinal heroics against South Africa which also earnt him a Player of the Match nod – a pair of accomplishments that he will display proudly next to his Compton-Miller Medal and ICC World Test Championship Final Player of the Match prize.
The title marks the sixth in Australia’s storied history – four more than the next closest nation – with Hazlewood, Maxwell, Smith, Starc and Warner repeating their success from 2015.
“In sports, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing a big crowd go silent,” Cummins told reporters prior to the match.
Cummins and men his delivered.