Captain Cummins-led pace attack, Travis’ ton flatten hosts as sixth World Cup title underlines Australia’s supreme big-tournament pedigree
AHMEDABAD: After India were a bit underwhelming with the bat, a billion hopes rested on their bowlers – particularly the in-form Jasprit Bumrahand Mohammed Shami – to create some early havoc. They did too, reducing Australia to 47/3 by the end of the 7th over chasing 241.EnterTravis Head, hero of the day for the Aussies, who obviously had other ideas.
Head (137 off 120 balls, 15×4, 4×6), after surviving some hellish deliveries from both Bumrah and Shami, displayed skill and steel. He was ably partnered by Marnus Labuschagne (58 n.o off 110 balls, 4×4), who was not even named in the preliminary Aussie squad for the tournament and only got in after an injury to spinner Ashton Agar. The two added 192 runs for the fourth wicket to soothe Aussie nerves and guide the team home with six wickets and 42 balls to spare. Their stand broke a billion hearts, and with it, captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid’s dreams of winning the Cup.
After going hard in the powerplay, Head settled down. With little asking rate pressure, there was no need to attempt big shots. Those came only when the game was in the bag as Mohammed Siraj, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav were hit for sixes to hasten the end. Head and Labuschagne apart, Aussies need to also thank their bowlers, especially skipper Pat Cummins. After he impressed with the ball, not conceding a boundary in his 10-over quota while taking 2-34, he also dazzled with his tactics as captain.
Cummins won a crucial toss and fielded on a dry and slow pitch that was expected to play better under lights. Indian batters were chained by the discipline and ability of the tall Aussie pacers to hit hard lengths. Tigerish fielding by the inner circle where David Warner, Labuschagne, Smith and Glenn Maxwell cut off the singles added to the pressure as India were unable to break free and were bowled out for 240 in 50 overs.
India had gone 97 balls without a boundary from the 10th over to the 27th as KL Rahul laboured to a 107-ball 66 and was unable to rotate strike. Kohli scored a skillful 54 (63 balls, 4×4) but the damage had been done. Skipper Rohit Sharma, who was the protagonist in powerplay again with a quickfire 47 (31 balls, 4×4, 3×6) played his customary impact innings, which enabled India neutralise the early loss of Shubman Gill.
But Rohit departed, caught brilliantly by Head running backwards, trying to take one risk too many off the last over in the powerplay, miscuing a lofted stroke over cover off Maxwell. The reaction of a pumped-up Maxwell and the rest of the Aussies indicated they now had control. Cummins dismissed the in-form Shreyas Iyer caught behind and then broke a crucial stand of 67 between Kohli and Rahul by getting Kohli to chop on for 54, his ninth 50-plus score in 11 games.
Once Mitchell Starc dismissed Rahul, India had no set batter to accelerate. They ended with a below-par score and a question – would it have been different if they had played on a true, fresh pitch instead of a used, slow one?