India had been flawless all tournament and cruised into the knockout stages having won every group game, but they faltered at the final hurdle, and Australia managed to becalm the more than 100,000-strong partisan home crowd and claim the title.
The stage had been set for Rohit Sharma’s India to emulate the feats of the 2011 team, who lifted the trophy on home soil to write their names into the history books, but 12 years later, they were unable to do enough to beat the Australians. As the post-match fireworks launched into sky, it was not for the team they had been intended for, and some of the crowd had already made their way out of the Narendra Modi Stadium.
Head led his side to the trophy with a stunning 137 after Australia had been faltering in their run chase at 47 for three in pursuit of the low total set by India of 241 to win. But the opener stood strong, he was not content to just play the ball around for singles and weather the storm as the hosts had done in their innings, but instead went on the attack, and India did not have an answer.
With the early wickets falling, the crowd was deafening, but it was the cool heads of Head and Marnus Labuschagne (58) who rebuilt the innings and led their side to the trophy.
Head was out with just two runs needed and it was Glenn Maxwell who came to the crease to hit the winning runs, sparking Australian celebrations.
India had made the perfect start. They had David Warner out for seven chasing a wide one, Mitchell Marsh smashed 15 before he was out, and Steve Smith fell shortly afterwards for four, but they could not sustain it.
Labuschagne and Head dug in and batted expertly: they did not offer any chances and saw their side over the line with seven overs to spare.
India will lament their lack of runs on the board. In the first innings, Sharma got the hosts off to a blistering start, smashing 47 from just 31 deliveries to set a platform. But his side were not able to maintain that output and bat Australia out of the game, perhaps in part due to the weight of the expectations of a nation sitting on their shoulders
When the wickets fell, Virat Kohli (54) and KL Rahul (66) dug in. They both finished with half-centuries but, unlike Head, did not go on to inflict damage on Australia and put them on the back foot.
Ultimately it was a lack of intent that stifled them, India’s batters hit four fours between the 11th and 50th overs and no sixes. Australia were exceptional in the field, diving stops were frequently deployed in both the ring and the outfield, especially by Warner, to keep the runs and the boundary count as low as possible.
For the first time in the tournament, the Indian batters were under pressure – the wickets continued to fall and they did not have an answer.
Australia bowled well, Cummins brought himself on at the right times and was able to rotate the bowlers around consistently to find the required breakthroughs just as partnerships started to build. Then, when it was their turn to chase, they kept the pressure on the fielders.
India had been the favourites going into the tournament, a tag they justified by winning every match in cruising to the final. That run included getting the better of the Aussies in their first match but, under the pressure of the final, Cummins’s side employed the better tactics and executed them perfectly.