AHMEDABAD, India (AP) — Virat Kohli covered his face with his India cap. Rohit Sharma walked off with his head down. What felt like the only cheers inside the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi stadium that was a sea of Indian blue all day came from the jubilant Australian players on the field.
Australia regained its status as the king of one-day cricket by claiming a record-extending sixth World Cup title on Sunday, ending India’s dominant run in its home tournament with a six-wicket victory in a low-scoring final on the back of a brilliant innings of 137 by Travis Head.
The crowd — officially announced as 92,453 — was silenced as Head combined with Marnus Labuschagne (58 not out ) in a 192-run partnership to chase down the target of 241.
Australia was wobbling in its chase on 47-3 after seven overs but Head and Labuschagne dug in to help their country add to its 50-over world titles in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015.
Head was dismissed off what proved to be the next-to-last ball of the match, caught in the deep while attempting to hit a title-clinching boundary. In came Glenn Maxwell and he ran two off his first ball, securing a victory that prompted fireworks above the world’s largest cricket venue.
India won all 10 of its matches before the final and was seeking a third trophy in its fourth appearance in a title match that brought a country of 1.4 billion people to a virtual standstill. They were outplayed in every department by battle-ready Australia, though, and restricted to 240 all out on a slow pitch after losing the toss with only Virat Kohli (54) and Lokesh Rahul (66) making half-centuries.
“We were not good enough today,” India skipper Rohit Sharma said. “We tried everything, but it didn’t work. We needed 20-30 more runs — we were looking at 270-280 but we kept losing wickets. When you have 240 on the board, you want to keep taking wickets. We took three, but credit to Head and Labuschagne for their partnership. We couldn’t open up the game.”
Kohli finished with 765 runs in 11 games with an average of 95.62. He was named player of the tournament.
The final, though, belonged to Head who was named man of the match. He became only the seventh player to score a century in a men’s World Cup final – and the third Australian after Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist – and he also delivered a significant moment in India’s innings when taking a diving catch running back from cover to remove Sharma (47).
Head’s ton saw him join an illustrious list, which includes West Indies’ Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, as well as Sri Lanka’s Aravinda de Silva and Mahela Jayawardene. Ponting’s 140 not out had also helped Australia beat India in the 2003 final. Jayawardene’s century is the only one in a losing cause with India winning the 2011 final.
“What an amazing day, I’m just thrilled to be a part of it,” Head said. “It’s a lot better than sitting on the couch at home.”
Head had started the tournament sidelined by a broken left hand.
“I was a little bit nervous, but Marnus played exceptional and it was just an amazing partnership. It’s going to be an amazing couple of days now,” Head said. “To be able to do that on the biggest stage, in front of a full house, under all that pressure . . . is something I’ll be able to look back on later in my life.”
Australia finished the 2023 tournament with a run of nine straight wins, after starting with back-to-back defeats to India and South Africa.
India won the World Cup in 1983 and 2011. Its last major success was winning the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. Former India winning captains and film stars were at the game, along with prominent politicians including India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.
India’s Mohammed Shami (1-47 in seven overs) was the most successful bowler in the tournament with 24 wickets, including the dismissal of attack-minded David Warner in the final. The opener was caught at slip for seven by Kohli, who had a chance to catch Warner off the first ball of the match. Australia’s Adam Zampa finished with figures of 1-44, ending the tournament with 23 wickets and equaling Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (2007) for most wickets by a spinner at a World Cup.
Steve Smith (4) finished on the winning side but will regret not reviewing his lbw dismissal by Jasprit Bumrah (2-43) as he would have been not out on impact.
Head scored 50 off 58 balls, and then reached 100 off 95 balls. In all, Head struck 15 fours and four sixes, each of them met with stoic silence from the stunned crowd.
Earlier, after Australia boldly decided to field first, Sharma provided another quick start for the home side, hitting four fours and three sixes. It made up for Shubman Gill’s tame dismissal for four runs. Sharma and Kohli put on 46 off 32 balls, hitting a flurry of boundaries to the delight of the Ahmedabad crowd.
Maxwell removed the dangerous Sharma, who had hit the spinner for a six and a four, but was greedy in going for another big shot only for Head, running back from cover, to hold a stunning diving catch.
India found itself at 81-3 before Kohli and Rahul stabilized the hosts with 67 runs for the fourth wicket. However, they could only add 50 runs from 88 balls as Australia began to take control of the match.
India lost its last five wickets for 37 runs, ending its innings with a whimper.
Australia captain Pat Cummins bowled exceptionally well, returning figures of 2-34 in 10 overs including the dismissals of Kohli and Shreyas Iyer. Kohli reached 50 off 56 balls before playing on off Cummins. The ensuing silence following his dismissal was likely not restricted just to the stadium but spreading across all of India.