Despite coming into the match on the back of ten consecutive victories, despite having players topping both the leading run-scorers and leading wicket-takers charts, and despite around 92,453 fans cheering and praying for them, India could not avoid the ‘big stage’ ghosts which have been haunting them in ICC events since the last decade. In the 2023 ICC World Cup final, India succumbed to a six-wicket defeat against Australia.
Chasing a target of 241 runs, Australia crossed the finish line in only 43 overs, at the loss of six wickets. Let us have a look at the ten big moments which defined this match:
1. Rohit’s Ravaging Start
The first big moment of the match was the start Indian captain Rohit Sharma – who led by example, albeit for a brief period – gave his team. The onslaught took all but an over to commence, as in only the second over, he smacked two consecutive boundaries off Josh Hazlewood’s bowling.
In Hazlewood’s second over, Rohit clobbered a leg-cutter to register his first six of the match, before following it up with another boundary. The aggressive intent was not deserted for a conservative approach when Shubman Gill was dismissed in the fifth over.
Ultimately, Rohit accumulated 47 runs in 31 deliveries, in a shortlived-yet-enthralling knock that featured four boundaries and three sixes.
2. India Lose Their Head, to Head
Despite an in-form Shubman Gill scoring only 4 runs, the scales were significantly tipped in India’s favour till Rohit Sharma was at the crease. After 9.3 overs, India’s score read 76/1. And then, calamity struck.
Despite having scored ten runs off the first three deliveries of Glenn Maxwell’s second over, Rohit opted to capitalise on what was the last over of field restrictions. He danced down the track and went for a big heave towards mid-on, but the ball spun away ever so slighty.
A leading edge went towards the point region, where Travis Head took a spectacular catch to hand the departure ticket to the Indian captain.
3. Shreyas Falters at the Worst Possible Time
Albeit Rohit’s dismissal was among the match’s major turning points, he scored exactly the same runs, 47, in the semi-final as well. What made a bigger difference was the faltering of Shreyas Iyer, who had scored two centuries and two half-centuries in his four appearances.
After getting off the mark with a boundary, Iyer edged a Pat Cummins delivery straight into the gloves of Josh Inglis, putting India in a precarious position at 81/3.
4. Kohli-Rahul Resilient Again
Australia might have won the match quite comfortably, but they would have had an even easier victory had it not been for the 67-run third-wicket partnership between Virat Kohli and KL Rahul.
As in the league stage fixture against Australia, Kohli and Rahul were entrusted with the task of stabilising an Indian batting order which was staring at a collapse. Albeit they took 109 deliveries to score those 67 runs, it was the need of the four.
5. Cummins Leads from the Front
Approaching the 150-run mark before the 30th over, India were in the perfect position to switch gears and revert to their attacking style. And they would have reverted, had it not been for Kohli’s dismissal.
With Maxwell struggling a tad, Pat Cummins did what any valiant leader would have done – put himself in the line of fire. Not only did he do that, but he extinguished the fire India had in their unit, as Kohli chopped down a harmless delivery into the stumps.
6. Jadeja’s Promotion
It might go under the radar, but a decision from the Indian think tank which has not made much sense in hindsight is that of promoting Ravindra Jadeja up the order, ahead of Suryakumar Yadav. Notably, Jadeja did not get the chance to bat in the two previous matches, and had batted in only four of India’s ten matches.
The move did not pay dividends, with the all-rounder scoring only 9 runs off 21 deliveries, before losing his wicket to Josh Hazlewood in the 22nd delivery.
7. India Crumble as Rahul Departs
Following Jadeja’s dismissal, all of India’s hopes lied on KL Rahul, who could not capitalise on the foundation he had laid. When batting on 66, in the 42nd over, he got the faintest of edges to a Mitchell Starc delivery, but that was all Australia needed to ensure the shift of balance.
8. 3 Wickets in 7 Overs
The target of 241 – even after considering the tricky and two-paced nature of the track – was not going to be daunting for the Australian batting unit. What India needed was wickets – both early, and aplenty – and the pair of Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah delivered just that.
The first seven overs produced three wickets, with Shami commencing the proceedings with David Warner’s dismissal, before Jasprit Bumrah got the wickets of Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith. It should also be mentioned here that Steve Smith’s dismissal was lucky, for replays showed he was wrongfully given out lbw.
Those three wickets were all India could celebrate in Australia’s innings, as what followed was a match-winning knock from Travis Head. The opening batter, who was among the main architects of Australia’s triumph over India in the World Test Championship final as well, scored 137 runs in only 120 deliveries.
10. Labuschagne Lucky, but Never Lacklustre
Head’s innings might have been the most pertinent reason behind Australia’s triumph, but it was not the solitary one. He needed someone to halt the procession of wickets at the other end, which was done by Marnus Labuschagne.
The batter, who was not even a part of Australia’s initial squad, scored 58 runs in 110 deliveries. In all fairness, he did have luck on his side, being saved by an umpire’s call when batting on 34.