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Travis Head's majestic century sinks Indian hearts as Australia cruise to record-extending sixth World Cup title

AHMEDABAD: India's robust and undefeated run at the World Cup 2023 was put to a screeching halt by Australia, who stormed to a record-extending sixth world title in the summit clash at Ahmedabad's Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday.

Travis Head's 5th ODI century and a gritty fifty from Marnus Labuschagne laid waste to India's hopes as Australia comprehensively chased down 241 to win the contest by six wickets and break a billion hearts as India's agonisingly long wait for an ICC title extends further.

Pat Cummins joined Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Ponting and Michael Clarke in an evergreen and legendary list of Australian World Cup captains.

Head, who missed the first four games of this World Cup due to a broken finger, got out on 137 when Australia needed just two more and even though he couldn't hit the winning runs, during the knock, Travis emulated Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist as the third Australia batter to hit a hundred in a World Cup final.

Towards the end, Head actually went into a Ponting-like beast mode from the 2003 final in Johannesburg, registering the fourth-highest individual score in a World Cup final, behind Gilchrist's 149 in 2007, Ponting's 140 and Viv Richards' 138.

The start of Australia's chase was dented by India's new-ball bowling pair of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, who combined to take out David Warner, Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith with just 47 on the board, but from there, Head and Labuschagne forged an unbeaten partnership of 192 runs and made the chase look easier than many believed.

The same surface on which Australia strangled India and conceded just four boundaries in 40 overs, eased out in the second innings. The ball was coming on to the bat nicely and the spin threat of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav was negated by Labuschagne and Kuldeep.

Things went awry for Team India from the first ball of the second innings itself, when a thick edge of David Warner flew between second and third slip with neither Virat Kohli or Shubman Gill attempting to go for the catch.

After blasting 28 off the first two, Shami, opening the bowling ahead of Siraj, got Warner out caught behind, and when Bumrah took out Marsh three overs later, the stadium erupted.

Steve Smith was going to be another big wicket that India needed to take before things went out of control, and the former Australia captain inadvertently aided India in their pursuit of a wicket when he did not take a DRS after being given out when the ball had impacted outside off.

At 47/3, India were on top before. Shami made Head play and miss countless times but once the Australia opener overcame a testing spell from the tournament's leading wicket-taker, the proverbial floodgates opened.

At the end of the 24th over, both teams were at 126/3, but where India struggled to get boundaries, Australia scored them at will. Bumrah, expected to break the partnership returned for his second spell in the 28th over and got hammered for 14. The writing was on the wall.

Australia did not put a foot wrong from the moment they won the toss. Cummins, who read the conditions brilliantly, had no hesitation in bowling first. Rohit Sharma did his thing, racing to 47 off 40 balls but the collective failures of Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer was a scenario India were not prepared for.

At 81/3, Kohli and KL Rahul went into a shell as Australia bowled out of their skins. The two made batting look like it was a Day 5 surface of a Test match in India. Australia batted on it as if it was Adelaide on a bright, sunny afternoon session on Day 1.

Kohli and Rahul batted with attrition, but just when it was time for both to take off, they perished. Kohli played on to a slower bouncer from Cummins, and Rahul nicked Mitchell Starc reversing the ball in full glory. Jadeja and Suryakumar Yadav were India's last hopes but Australia had done their homework against them.

Josh Hazlewood exploited the area outside off stump against Jadeja, and it paid off with the all-rounder nicking to Josh Inglis.

As for Surya, the Aussie pacers took all the pace they could while bowling against him as India crawled to a total that was easily gunned down.

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