2nd over: India 13-0 (Rohit Sharma 13, Shubman Gill 0) Hazlewood’s turn. Rohit has it in for him. The first is edged with candyfloss hands through the slips, but more acrobatic fielding prevents the boundary. Rohit then takes a step forward and pierces the covers for four, like a man thwacking a tennis ball for his dog, the next a thump through leg. Then an uncharacteristically ugly swipe that misses everything.
1st over: India 3-0 (Rohit Sharma 3, Shubman Gill 0) Mitchell Starc sprints into a curtain of sound. Huge appeal first ball – Starc likes it but it is drifting leg side.The second is wide on the off stump and Rohit pushes firmly, but sprinting sweeper Travis Head cuts off on the rope. An off drive from Rohit, classy, but Cummins is there at mid-off. Everyone breathe.
“Excited about this Indian team but also a little wary since the SF,” writes Latha from Chennai. “I do believe if NZ had had 1 or 2 more big hitters in their line up, India could’ve been in v real trouble. Aus does, hence the stomach churns. Good luck to both teams!! Hope to see a gr8 contest.”
Wow, what a sound! The stadium bubbles with nearly 100,000 voices. A quiet shout out here, for the dignified man sitting in the shade who has masterminded this Indian juggernaut –Rahul Dravid.
A golden yellow huddle, now here strides Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill.
Tanya is back, armed with caffeine, so I’ll hand over to her. See you in a few hours for the runchase.
The national anthems
The two umpires, Richard Illingworth and Richard Kettleborough, walk onto the field with the match referee Andy Pycroft. Then Sachin Tendulkar, a non-playing star of the tournament, strolls into the middle.
And finally, the most important people of all: 22 of them, about to play in a World Cup final like no other. Even on TV, on the other side of the world, it’s a mesmerising scene.
Some pre-match reading
And finally, this slightly scary glimpse of the future.
Hello, it’s Rob here for a few minutes while Tanya gets a well-deserved coffee. Pat Cummins’ surprising decision to bowl first – on a dry pitch, in a final – is still marinating. There has been a fair bit of intrigue about the pitch. Cummins hopes the tournament will end as it started: with a rampant runchase under the lights in Ahmedabad.
Do send me your thoughts – my email is [email protected], I don’t think the link is working – apologies, will fix.
Australia: David Warner, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell, Josh Inglis (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (capt), Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood.
India: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.
Rohit Sharma, wearing mirrored shades and a smile, talks to Ravi Shastri cosplaying as a heavyweight boxing announcer.
“I would have batted first,” he says. “It looks like a good pitch. Going to be amazing, …we’re going to stay nice and calm and get the job done. It’s a great feeling, a dream come true for me, but I know what lies in front of us, we just need to play well and get it done.”
India are unchanged from the semi final as well, as Rohit walks away and planes scream overhead.
Rohit Sharma tosses the coin, Pat Cummins, hands behind his back, calls heads. Heads it is.
“Looks like a dry wicket,” says Cummins. “We’ll bowl during the day and back ourselves to chase it.” Australia are unchanged since the semi-final.
“I’ve said all week, all Australia have to do is keep them [the crowd] quiet.” says Ricky Ponting. “What’s happened before now doesn’t matter a bit.”
Atherton pipes in. “Australia lost to India, lost to South Africa. Pat Cummins was under a bit of pressure both for his leadership, his bowling, the fielding was awful. But Australia are battle-hardened, experienced, they’ve got seven survivors from 2015 World Cup triumph.”
It is then tricky to hear Ponting, such is the noise from the ground, and the shout outs from the PA, but I think he says that Australia need to get Rohit out early and that Adam Zampa is key – if India get after him, Australia are toast.
The black soil pitch, I can report, is very dry and cracked. Ponting says the Aussies are convinced India are going to play their three spinners – we will shortly find out.
“ I think the big thing is don’t try and hide away from the enormity of the event,” says Ponting – and he should know. “Embrace it, World Cup finals are won by stars.”
“Hi Tanya.” Good morning, Jeremy Boyce! “Funny to think that it will soon be all over for another 4 years. No yellow shirts in the queues outside, but a big yellow banana skin waiting inside, unless India are right on top of their game and not feeling the pressure of 1.4 billion people weighing down on them. There is no better team than Australia for identifying a point of weakness and ruthlessly exploiting it. Fascinating few hours in prospect. Winning the toss could be crucial, watch out for double-headed coins… What would you do if you were Cummins and you won the toss ?”
I would bat, get runs on the board, and challenge India to score 350 against a scurrying Labuschagne in the field, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins pawing the ground, Adam Zampa deceptively floating to the crease.
The television coverage has started. DK, Ian Ward and Eoin Morgan are on the ground. The noise builds already, and a blue snake winds away from the stadium as far as the camera pans.
Are this Indian team stoppable? Yes, but only if they freeze in the moment and lose the litheness and the pomp that has carried them through the tournament untouched by failure. Despite the glories of the past, despite Dhoni, despite 2011, this is the greatest Indian white-ball team of all time. They have a King in Kohli, an emperor in Rohit, a batting line-up that carefully constructs before scoring effortlessly – four of the top five have made hundreds. As Mark Ramprakash says, they are classic cars.
With the ball? Well what can you say about a hand of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.
The pressure on them is something else, but they’re used to it. The live it, breathe it, play it in the IPL every year. In Barney’s hotel this morning,
“The staff were all in replica kit, as were 90 per cent of the guests. I was given a cup of coffee by Virat, who then went on to serve Virat, Virat and Rohit at the next table.”
This, is normal.
“No reason to be alarmed, but it was a little disappointing to see a minor crush at Gate 1 of the Narendra Modi stadium on the way in. Nobody injured, but people lifted off their feet as the crowd surged, watched by rows of armed police who seemed uninterested in stewarding. This is not unusual. There are a lot of people coming to this game, a lot of people in Ahmedabad and the access ways and stewarding is not as carefully managed as it might be. But it was still a little disturbing. The ICC runs this event (in theory) and any kind of crush around the stadium is too much of a crush. The ICC should be across such things well in advance.”
A bird’s eye view from Barney at the stadium.
Can anyone spot a yellow shirt?
Hello! You made it! We made it. India made it. And, to some surprise, Australia made it too. After 45 days and 47 matches, dew, pitch switches, heat, implosions (England), Kohli, Kohli and Kohli again, welcome to the final showdown – the World Cup final.
We’re in Ahmedabad, city of Gandhi, city of blue shirts, today a city where 1.4 billion people will be squeezed into the 90,000 Narendra Modhi stadium.
India arrive outrageous favourites, ten wins from ten games, a team of almost perfect combinations under the leadership of Rohit Sharma, a man who sucks in pressure and lets it dribble out unnoticed through his boots. Australia arrive with the lightness that comes from being almost forgotten, despite their pedigree – five World Cups already won. Pat Cummins told the press that he had one task – to silence the crowd. If that happens, for a breath, for two, three, a hundred, we have a game on our hands.
Play starts at 2pm local, 7.30pm AEDT, 8.30am GMT, please join us as we count down the minutes.