World Cup final 2023

Australia beat hosts India in the final in Ahmedabad to win the 2023 World Cup. Nick Hoult’s report first appeared in the 2024 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

Ahmedabad, November 19, 2023 (day/night). Australia won by six wickets. Toss: Australia.

For several minutes, Pat Cummins stood alone on the podium, holding the trophy. His team-mates were off-stage, shaking hands with India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, which gave Cummins a moment to reflect on Australia’s sixth one-day World Cup triumph. Half an hour later, he would describe it as the “pinnacle of international cricket”, made all the more special by winning “here in India, in front of a crowd like this”. The sight of Cummins standing as a lone victor, silverware tucked under his arm, was emblematic on a night when Australia silenced an amphitheatre of 92,453, almost all wearing replica blue India shirts, and ruined what was supposed to be a coronation party. He had spoken before the game about silencing the crowd; by the time Maxwell hit the winning runs, to confirm a six-wicket victory, many had drifted into the night.

Unlike the 2019 final at Lord’s, this was a one-sided match, won with seven overs to spare. Australia’s attack suffocated India’s batting, before Head emerged as the hero of the night with a blistering 137 from 120 balls. “India Headbutted”, said The Times of India, but this was more than a one-man assault.

Cummins was immense. He had trusted his instinct when he chose to bowl, sensing that, if India lost early wickets, a lower order barely seen all tournament might crumble under pressure. And Australia would be chasing on a surface quickened, he hoped, by evening dew. He also forced Kohli to play on, just as he was on the cusp of grabbing hold of the game, and juggled his bowlers cleverly: nine times they sent down one-over spells and, by the 30th, Cummins had made 12 bowling changes; he also burgled 10 for 44 from Maxwell, Marsh and Head. India were bowled out for the first time in theWorld Cup, for 240.

At 47-3, after Smith had failed to review an lbw that hit him outside off stump, the crowd regained their voice, but Head and Labuschagne combined for a stand of 192, seeing off seam and spin with equal facility to calmly take their team to glory. At the moment of victory, Kohli covered his face with his cap, unable to look at the world. Head was just trying to take it all in: “Not in a million years did I think that would happen.”

Labuschagne had played the long game to perfection while Head slammed 15 fours and four sixes. “It’s hard for me not to believe in miracles,” said Labuschagne. “There’s someone above putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Head, the Player of the Match, had finished with the bat what he started in the field, taking a superb running catch to end Rohit’s powerplay fireworks. That made it 76-2 in the tenth. Four balls later, it was 81-3, as Iyer nibbled at Cummins to provide Inglis with the first of five catches. After nine fours and three Rohit sixes in the powerplay, India managed four fours in their remaining 40 overs, including boundaryless stretches of 97 and 75 balls.

Soon after the first drought had ended with a Rahul paddle-sweep off Maxwell, Kohli – who had compiled his ninth score of 50-plus in 11 innings – was bowled off the bottom edge by Cummins. He stood, stunned, as if overcome by the significance of his dismissal. Other than a pitch invader protesting on behalf of Palestine, it was the only moment Kohli had been inconvenienced. Rahul brought up an 86-ball half-century – the tournament’s slowest, until Labuschagne took 13 deliveries more – but touched a beauty from Starc, delivered round the wicket. Now the dry pitch played to Australia’s advantage, as the ball started to reverse. The last five India wickets fell for just 37.

Australia set off aggressively, trying to take chunks out of their target before the spinners came on. It cost them wickets. Warner steered to Kohli at slip, and Marsh went hard at Bumrah, but nicked to the keeper. Two overs later, Smith misjudged Bumrah’s off-cutter. After a moment’s consultation with Head, he walked off, despite Australia still having both reviews.

As the dew started to form, the two-paced pitch improved, and Australia’s fourth-wicket pair brought up the hundred stand, of which Labuschagne’s share was 34. He survived a close lbw shave against Bumrah: Richard Kettleborough said not out, and India’s review revealed an umpire’s call on leg stump. But otherwise the nearest India came to a meaningful breakthrough was when Head, on 99, chanced a single into the covers, and was spared only by Jadeja’s errant throw. His first fifty had taken 58 balls, his second 37. Australia’s dominance was established and never threatened again, even if Head couldn’t quite apply the coup de grâce, pulling Siraj to deep midwicket with two needed. Labuschagne ran after his partner, and offered a warm embrace. Moments later, with the stadium emptying rapidly, Head was back out in the middle, celebrating a famous win.

Player of the Match: TM Head. Attendance: 92,453.
Player of the Tournament: V Kohli.

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