Australia 241 for 4 (Head 137, Labuschagne 58*, Bumrah 2-43) won India 240 (Rahul 66, Kohli 54, Starc 3-55, Cummins 2-34, Hazlewood 2-60) with six wickets.
And so Australia’s victory came at a trot in the end, with six wickets and a huge 42 balls unused – a margin that might have been greater had Head not been dismissed on the penultimate ball of the chase. Glenn Maxwell did not hesitate to pull his first ball for two to lead his side to a victory goal which – as fate would have it – was exactly the total that England and New Zealand had not been able to split by conventional means four years earlier.
But that ease in the end did not indicate anything about the danger that preceded it. At 47 for 3 after seven overs, with Steven Smith inexplicably failing to review the lbw from Bumrah who turned out to have hit his pad outside off, Australia were in the midst of a do-or-die struggle against two standout performers from India’s previously unparalleled campaign.
When Bumrah returned for the 28th over to throw the last throw of the dice as Australia began to accelerate away at 148 for 3, he was greeted by three flayed balls from Head, either side of the umpire’s agonizing call for lbw against Labuschagne that looked like the final proof that India’s hope had gold.
Ultimately, it was a decisive and deadly display of emotion from the world’s toughest winners. Every man in Australia’s squad played his part in sucking the marrow out of a contest that, judging by the sea of blue in the stands of the Narendra Modi Stadium and the expected presence of the Prime Minister himself, was intended to be a coronation. Instead, the final hour of the match was greeted in stunned silence by a 92,453-strong crowd, and nothing embodied the feeling of national failure quite like the lifting of the trophy itself, which left Cummins despondent on the podium for a full 20 seconds. Before his team could join him after accepting their handshake away from center stage.
Not that the lack of on-site tributes would hamper Australia’s sense of achievement. As Head’s pivotal catch in the end would prove, the tone for their victory was once again set on the field. As was the case in the semi-final against New Zealand, 37-year-old Warner was their measure, throwing himself enthusiastically to cut off several boundary balls, but while Rohit was on deck, it looked like Cummins’ brave decision to bowl first might soon overshadow him. , like many opponents before them, due to the exceptional weight of India’s hitmakers.
Instead, he backed the bowlers to complete the task they had begun in the extraordinary opener of the tournament in Chennai, where India’s top three made poor runs as they slumped to 2 for 3, only to have their under-par target of 200 picked out. Facilitates. This time, despite the dew, he believed the pressure of the big occasion might be heavier in the first innings than the second – especially if his attack could make early breakthroughs.
But then came the match’s unmistakable moment – a majestic fielding feat immediately comparable to Kapil Dev’s run-scoring shot off Viv Richards in the pivotal phase of the 1983 final. Rohit had already slammed ten runs in two balls off Glenn Maxwell’s second, when he took the lead To another smack over the long boundary, he misses high into the covers. Travis Head came back from the point with the ball swerving high over his shoulder, his eyes never leaving the prize, timing his jump to perfection to hang on with both hands.
At least in Kohli, India had a man whose pace they could trust in such conditions. On his team’s best days, despite his formidable tournament tally of 765 runs at 95.62 overs, his ruthless dedication to creating runs was mistaken as a weakness. Now his 56-ball 56 was the cornerstone of his team’s recovery, although the reaction to his latest landmark was a suppressed roar that exacerbated the anxious hubbub that had preceded it.
But Australia’s impressive attack was undeniable, especially after Cummins took advantage of his opponents’ apparent reticence to smuggle through a group of bowlers. Between them, Maxwell, Head and Marsh plundered ten overs for 44, a perfect holding pattern that led to buy-back options for the back end of the innings.
This included the return of the captain himself on the 29th. With the third ball of his second spell, Cummins hit an odd length with his short ball, and Kohli looked really emotional as he tapped his stumps with an angled bat, looking at the length it rose from, and glancing at it. His shoulder before turning away, as if evaluating the bullet he had chosen to keep in his safe.
But in ’66, he and the lower class faced another threat that the tailors of India would have to do without him. By preparing an obviously dry and rough set for this final, the curators have opened up the possibility of reverse swing, and few teams have more passionate supporters than Australia. Starc, from around the wicket, straightened an unplayable pass to Rahul’s edge and through to the keeper.
Although Ravindra Jadeja is famous for being devastating in such conditions, his promotion to number six could not compete with Hazlewood’s similar late move. After surviving one review of a backward catch, he surrendered the next ball for 6, at which point India’s easy lead to the final over caught up with them completely. With no situational experience to fall back on – and no pace at the wicket with which to reach the inverted V from fine leg to deep third – Suryakumar Yadav scored 18 off 27 before Hazlewood bowled the keeper, by which point he had faced five balls. Only out of a possible 17 in the ninth wicket stand with Kuldeep Yadav.
Kuldeep and Mohammed Siraj kept the innings alive till the last ball, but the mood inside the field was unable to emerge from its disarray. Australia came with a plan and proven knowledge of what it really takes to win the biggest title in the sport. Ahmedabad has turned blue all right, but only with a sad feeling of what could have been.
Andrew Miller is the UK editor for ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket