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How to win a World Cup final

Updated on: 21 November,2023 08:45 AM IST  |  Ahmedabad
Ashwin Ferro |

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne reveals how he and centurion Travis Head tore Team India apart bit-by-bit, run-by-run on Sunday

How to win a World Cup final

Marnus Labuschagne (right) and Travis Head during their 192-run stand on Sunday. Pic/PTI

When a willow-wielding Marnus Labuschagne walked onto the field with the Australian score reading 47-3 at the fall of Steve Smith’s wicket in the sixth over, it would have felt like entering a war zone. India’s fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami were breathing fire on a wicket that offered decent bounce and movement in the first 10 overs. The one lakh-plus crowd were vociferously cheering every ball. India had posted a below-par 240 all out, but the visitors still needed another 194 for victory. The only advantage was that they had another 250-odd deliveries to get them in. And that was the foundation of what turned out to be a match-winning 192-run fourth-wicket stand that helped Australia beat India by six wickets to clinch their sixth ODI World Cup title.

It all began with a bundle of nerves for Labuschagne though. “I was quite nervous when I was waiting to come out to bat,” he told reporters in the mixed zone at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday night. 

“But the best benefit when you actually get onto the field is that nothing changes. You start watching the ball, you get in the zone, you start to focus and all that noise just gets blocked out, it gets into the periphery,” said Labuschagne, who finished with an unbeaten 58 off an extremely patient 110 balls (4x4) while his partner and opener Travis Head accounted for a well-made century—137 off 120 balls (15x4, 4x6)—as they steadily chased down the target with seven overs to spare.

Also ReaD: Never expected this, not in a million years: Travis Head

‘Treated this like a Test match’

In tense situations like these, it’s always mind over matter and that’s how Labuschagne approached the situation, “My mindset was to treat this like a Test match because when you’re batting with Head at the other end, it’s usually never about run-rate pressure. Also, the lower total helped us because when you’re chasing 230 [241], unless you’re really struggling, there’s not going to be run-rate pressure,” said the South African-born cricketer, who averages 37.90 in 49 ODIs this far.
Both Labuschagne and Head, who are of the same age, 29, and have a played a lot of junior cricket together, batted steadily in tandem, offering straight bats as they effortlessly played the Indian bowlers, including pacers Burmah, Shami, Mohammed Siraj and spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, into the gaps for ones and twos, slowly inching towards their molehill of a target. The World Cup-winning 215-ball partnership saw the pair play out a massive 104 dot balls while also picking up 84 singles, five twos, 17 boundaries and four sixes (there were seven extras).

‘It was all about staying positive’

“For me, it was all about staying positive, to lock in like I would if I was playing a Test match. Make sure you defend well, and when they bowl a bad ball, you score off that and start building a partnership. Being able to get the ball into the open spaces and run a lot of twos helped. Also, the slow wicket which had a lot of swing in the first 10 overs, later played out nicely and there was not much either,” he added.

Inevitably, the loud crowd volume slowly reduced until there was a funeral-like silence. Again, something this dashing duo had perfectly planned for. “The sound of silence is a great sound when you’re in India because it means you’re on top. So Travis and I were discussing that we’ve got them and everything is quiet now so let’s continue to stay engaged, keep playing every ball on its merit and keep the crowd out of it,” he concluded. 

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