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Aussies seal record sixth crown in style

Australian players celebrate after winning the Cricket World Cup. Picture: AFP

Australian players celebrate after winning the Cricket World Cup. Picture: AFP

Published Nov 20, 2023

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“C’mon Aussie! C’mon Aussie! C’mon Aussie!”

This was the iconic tune that rang out of the colossal Narendra Modi Stadium’s speakers in Ahmedabad as Australia were crowned world champions for a record sixth time.

It had the dual effect of silencing more than 100000 people, including the prime minister after whom the stadium was named, all clad in Indian blue inside this most spectacular of venues, while spoiling the planned celebrations of millions more around this vast nation.

This was not the planned script.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), with the blessings of Modi, had spent billions of rupees for the coronation not only of the mighty Indian cricket team in his home town, but also the country’s status as an emerging power in the global landscape.

Everyone forgot, though, to mention all of this to Travis Head and the potent Australian bowling unit.

Head supplied what India had lacked in their innings earlier in the day: a hundred from a batter at the top of the order.

It was Head’s second century of the tournament, following his half-century that earned him the player-of-the-match award in the semi-final victory over South Africa.

All of this from a player who was still recuperating from a fracture to his left hand back home while Australia were losing their opening two matches of the tournament. But that all seems such a long time ago now.

Only the present matters, and this is where Australia reaffirmed their long, rarely interrupted dominance of the one-day game, and their particular affection for this World Cup title they first won in India almost 36 years ago.

Head did not play an uncertain stroke from the moment he entered the arena with David Warner in pursuit of the victory target of 241.

He played with both power and panache, striking 15 fours and four sixes in his majestic 137, with each boundary racing to the perimeter in complete silence.

But after losing Warner (7), Mitchell Marsh (15) and Steve Smith (4) that provided hope to the masses, Head required a partner just to stabilise the run chase. He found the perfect man for the job in Marnus Labuschagne.

Together they compiled a composed, studiously determined fourth wicket stand of 192 from 215 balls, which took Australia home – to the dismay of millions.

In the process, Head brought up his century off 95 balls with hardly a murmur of congratulatory applause, while Labuschagne also raised his bat for a half-century.

India were left to process how a campaign that had progressed so serenely to the final, with 10 victories on the trot, had managed to crash and burn at the most critical stage.

A further bitter pill to swallow was that it was also India’s second successive loss to Australia in a major final this year after Pat Cummins’s side eclipsed them in the ICC World Test Championship showpiece at The Oval.

Cummins had surprised all and sundry earlier in the afternoon when he called correctly and opted to insert the hosts in to bat.

It seemed at that stage that he was handing the initiative to Rohit Sharma’s team, and when India raced to 30 without loss within the first four overs the tide was certainly with the men in blue.

But Mitchell Starc is an experienced World Cup final campaigner, and the veteran of the 2015 triumph dragged it back with the opening wicket of Shubman Gill.

India still seemed in command, though, with Sharma (47) and Virat Kohli intent on taking the attack to the Australian bowlers.

The game-changer, though, came in the 10th over. And yes, you guessed it, Head had a critical role in it.

Sharma had just smashed Glenn Maxwell for a six and a boundary, and attempted to go over the top again, but on this occasion he only managed to splice it over cover where Head sprinted back before diving full length to take a splendid two-hander.

Kohli went on to make 54, but he too was dismissed by Cummins when well set. KL Rahul tried to keep it all together in the middle with a fighting 66, but Australia kept chipping away through Starc (3-55), Hazlewood (2-60) and the skipper Cummins (2-34) to restrict India to a total they ultimately cruised past in emphatic fashion.

Cape Times