On Sunday, November 19, India and Australia met in the 2023 cricket World Cup final at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujrat. The Aussie skipper, Pat Cummins, won the toss and elected to bowl first. It was a bold decision from Cummins, as teams batting first had won the ODI World Cup seven times over the years, as opposed to five bowling first.
Playing in their backyard, undefeated India started as favorites, but Australians had a clear game plan. They used the dryness of the pitch to great effect, set the field accordingly, and bowled uncomfortable lines to the Men in Blue. The hosts, who had won 10 games on the trot leading up to the final, succumbed to the pressure, with none of their top-tier batsmen scoring at a rate fitting for ODI cricket. Led by gritty knocks from Virat Kohli (54 off 63) and KL Rahul (66 off 107), India put up 240 in 50 overs.
Australia had some wobbles at the start, with David Warner, Mitchel Marsh, and Steve Smith returning to the pavilion in quick succession. However, batters Travis Head (137 off 120) and Marnus Labuschagne (58* off 110) took a stand and propelled the Kangaroos to glory. Glen Maxwell scored the winning runs in the only ball he faced after Head’s dismissal in the 42nd over.
Defending a slim target of 240 was always going to be tricky for India, but it probably was not an impossible one. Here are the five lowest totals defended in cricket World Cup finals:
#5 West Indies (1975) – 291 Runs
In the inaugural edition of the Cricket World Cup in England, West Indies and Australia made their way to the final. The Windies batted first and took the scoreboard to 291/8 in 60 overs, courtesy of a sensational 102 of just 85 balls from skipper Clive Lloyd.
Australia made a strong start and looked on course for victory, only for Keith Boyce to spoil the party. The all-rounder, who also made a handsome 34 off 37 balls, took four wickets and helped bowl the Aussies out for 274 in 48.4 overs. There were a whopping five run-outs in Australia’s innings.
#4 West Indies (1979) – 286 Runs
Four years after lifting the inaugural cricket World Cup at Lord’s in London, West Indies returned to the biggest cricketing extravaganza once more, this time facing hosts England. Hero of the 1975 Cricket World Cup, Clive Lloyd failed to play a memorable knock, but Viv Richards and Collis King kept the scoreboard ticking. First-down Richards played an unbeaten knock of 138 off 157, while King made a blitzing 66-ball 86. Indies put up a target of 287 in front of the Englishmen.
England openers Mike Brearley (64 off 130) and Geoff Boycott (57 off 105) gave the hosts a strong start, but the others failed to follow suit after Michael Holding dismissed the pair. Ravaged by blistering spells from Joel Garner (5 wickets) and Colin Croft (3 wickets), England were all out for 194 in 51 overs and Windies lifted their second consecutive cricket World Cup.
#3 Australia (1987) – 253 Runs
A long 12 years after playing their first Cricket World Cup final, Australia returned to their grandest stage in the sport, facing arch-rivals England in the showpiece event at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India. In the first-ever World Cup outside of Britain, which also happened to be the first 50-over tournament, Australia reached a total of 253 runs at the expense of five wickets. David Boon (75 off 125) emerged as Australia’s leading scorer.
The total was not formidable on paper against the in-form English team, but disciplined bowling from the Aussies kept the Englishmen from stretching their arms. Allan Border and Steve Waugh took two wickets each as England finished 246/8 after 50 overs, marking Australia’s first World Cup win.
#2 Pakistan (1992) – 249 Runs
Although it took place in India and Pakistan, the Men in Green could not do anything of note at the 1987 Cricket World Cup. They returned with a vengeance in 1992, beating England in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia.
After the early dismissals of openers Aamer Sohail and Ramiz Raja, captain Imran Khan and second-down Javed Miandad took control of the game, scoring 72 off 110 and 58 off 98, respectively. Wasim Akram also scored a quick 33 off 18 deliveries to help Pakistan’s total to 249/6 after 50 overs.
Stunned by Akram’s swing (3 wickets) and Mushtaq Ahmed’s leg-break (3 wickets), England failed to climb the mountain, getting all out for 227 in 49.2 overs and succumbing to their third defeat in the cricket World Cup final.
#1 India (1983) – 183 Runs
India’s journey from cricketing underdogs to heavyweights started in 1983 — when they beat the odds to pick up a historic victory over reigning world champions West Indies.
Andy Roberts (3 wickets), Malcolm Marshall (2 wickets), Michael Holding (2 wickets), and Larry Gomes (2 wickets) cornered the Indian batters, with only Kris Srikkanth (38 off 57 balls) scoring over 30 in the first innings. The underdogs were all out for a modest 183 in 54.4 overs at Lord’s, making West Indies, who had scored over 280 at the same venue in the two previous finals, heavy favorites to clinch their third consecutive cricket World Cup.
India, however, refused to give in to the odds and put on a show of a lifetime. With Madan Lal and Mohinder Amarnath taking three wickets each, India bowled West Indies out for a mere 140 runs in 52 overs, bagging their first World Cup.