AHMEDABAD (India), Nov 20 — Australia once again showed their ability to produce their best on the grandest of occasions yesterday when they toppled India to win the 50-overs World Cup title and cement their status as the most successful team in the tournament’s history.
Australia opener Travis Head smashed a magnificent century to fashion their six-wicket victory against the tournament’s form team who posted a below-par 240 all out and were reeled in with seven overs to spare.
Head hit a superb 137 off 120 balls to ease Australian nerves after a top-order wobble before they romped home in a contest that never reached great heights.
Australia entered the match as clear underdogs against an all-conquering India side, who had won 10 matches in a row to storm into the final.
And if their brand of fearless cricket was not intimidating enough, Rohit Sharma’s team were also assured of vociferous support from predominantly Indian fans at the world’s largest cricket stadium.
The stars appeared to have aligned for India to win the tournament and end a global title drought stretching back to the 2012 Champions Trophy.
After all, the Australia team under Pat Cummins, who began their campaign with back-to-back defeats, lacked the aura of the Ricky Ponting-led side who had steamrollered India in the 2003 final.
Cummins raised a few eyebrows in his pre-match press conference where he expressed his desire to silence the sea of Indian fans at the colossal Narendra Modi Stadium.
His team mates took on the task yesterday and deathly silence prevailed at the 132,000 capacity ground for a major part of the match that ended with Australia comfortably prevailing.
Cummins led by example, taking the bold decision to field after winning the toss, which entailed the tricky task of chasing under lights.
India’s batting template in the tournament had skipper Rohit Sharma setting the tone with unbridled aggression at the top and Virat Kohli playing the anchor with others batting around them.
They stuck to the formula in the final but Australia’s immaculate bowling, aided by sharp fielding, frustrated India when it mattered the most.
Head took a stunning catch to dismiss Rohit for 47 and player-of-the-tournament Kohli chopped a delivery onto his stumps to depart after a fluent 54.
KL Rahul made 66 but it was a remarkable job by the Australian bowlers to restrict India to 240 all out in exactly 50 overs.
Australia slumped to 47-3 seven overs into what should have been an easy chase before Head combined in an epic stand of 192 with Marnus Labuschagne to kill off the contest.
Australia’s triumph snapped the trend of a host country winning the title that had held since the 2011 edition and followed their recent victory in the World Test Championship and retaining the Ashes against England.
“I think that’s the pinnacle of international cricket, winning a one-day World Cup,” Cummins said.
“It’s been a big year for everyone, but our cricket team has been here in India, the Ashes, World Test Championship and to top it off with this is just huge.
“These are the moments that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
It was a remarkable campaign by Australia, who dug deep into their experience of competing in the business end of showpiece events to lift themselves.
Head and Marnus Labuschagne, who forged the match-winning partnership, were not even certain of playing the tournament.
Head missed the first five matches with a broken hand while Labuschagne was not even in the original squad, and was included only after spinner Ashton Agar missed out with injury.
For India, faltering at the final hurdle after a near-flawless campaign was a heavy blow and they looked disconsolate while Australia celebrated.
Rahul sank to his knees, while Mohammed Siraj was in tears. Even Kohli found little solace in being named player of the tournament.
“We ran a really good campaign, really proud of the boys,” India coach Rahul Dravid told reporters.
“We were the favourites because we were playing well but Australia is also a very good cricket team.
“They also came here with eight wins on the bounce, so we were under no illusions that this was going to be a tough contest.
“We were confident that if we played well, we’d get the right result but unfortunately on the day they played better than us.” — Reuters