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Cricket World Cup: Head century guides Australia to record-extending sixth crown as India fall short in final

Australia won the Cricket World Cup for a record-extending sixth time as Travis Head’s century helped them complete a successful chase against previously unbeaten hosts India in Sunday’s final in Ahmedabad.

India’s bid to capture their first world title since 2011 on home soil got off to a decent start as captain Rohit Sharma helped them overcome the early loss of Shubman Gill to reach 76-1, but fine performances with the ball from Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins saw Australia take control of the contest.

Two wickets within the space of four balls put India in trouble before the end of the 11th over, and their scoring slowed as Australia excelled in the field from there, eventually bowling their hosts out for 240.

India might have hoped that total would be enough when Jasprit Bumrah’s double helped them reduce the Aussies to 47-3 within seven overs, but Head stepped in to form an excellent partnership with Marnus Labuschagne and snuff out the hosts’ hopes of a revival.

Head’s magnificent 137 off 120 silenced the 130,000-strong home crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium, and though he was caught by Gill in deep midwicket when going for a title-clinching boundary, the trophy was Australia’s on the very next ball as Glenn Maxwell came back for the required two.

The six-wicket victory sees Australia regain the trophy they previously won in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015, as a home tournament which promised so much ended on a miserable note for India.

Having been put in to bat by Australia, India saw their big day begin to unravel in the 10th over as Rohit fell victim to a brilliant diving catch from Head to depart for 47 off 31, having miscued Maxwell’s ball into the off side.

It was Shreyas Iyer’s turn to go for just 4 off 3 only four deliveries later, feathering an edge through to Josh Inglis off Cummins’ ball. KL Rahul (66) and Virat Kohli (54) came in to steady the ship, but India’s scoring had slowed dramatically by the time Cummins doubled up with the latter’s wicket.

Indeed, Rahul’s score came off 107 balls as India went 97 deliveries without a boundary from the end of the 10th over. An excellent ball saw Hazlewood remove Ravindra Jadeja for 9 in the 36th, and it was panic stations for India from then on as the Australian onslaught gathered pace.

Starc – who had set the tone by removing Gill early on – got his hat-trick as Rahul and Mohammed Shami (6) fell within the space of two overs, while Hazlewood helped himself to a double as Australia polished off the tail with ease, with Kuldeep Yadav the last to go as he was run out on the final ball.

India’s 240 did not look likely to present much of a challenge for Australia, though they found themselves under some unexpected pressure early on after taking up the bat.

Shami, the hero of India’s semi-final win over New Zealand, woke the home crowd up when he had David Warner caught by Kohli for 7 on just the seventh ball of the innings, and the atmosphere was at fever pitch when Bumrah subsequently got hold of the ball.

It was a rather routine delivery which got him his first scalp as Mitchell Marsh nicked behind to Rahul, but his second was the result of a trademark slowie, Steve Smith walking for 4 when replays showed a review would have saved him.

That decision ultimately wouldn’t cost Australia as Head drained the energy out of the home crowd with his imperious knock, Labuschagne offering support with a solid 58 off 110.

With India fading, the stadium was half-empty by the time Head looked to cap his incredible performance with the decisive six, only to pick out the palms of Gill at the boundary.

He departed to heartfelt hugs from his team-mates as Maxwell wrapped things up, heaving one into the leg side before coming back for the required second run as yellow shirts streamed onto the field and fireworks erupted above the famous ground.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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