Century-maker Head joins exclusive Australian club

Opener adds his name to an elite list of compatriots to have posted a hundred in a World Cup final

Within Australia's rich World Cup history, there are but a handful of players to have hit a century in a final, with dynamic opener Travis Head the latest to produce a match-defining performance on the biggest stage.

All five hundreds have come in winning causes, though Head's is the first of those to have been played in the second innings.

Ricky Ponting 140no (121) v India, March 2003

Australia won by 125 runs

Having gone through the tournament unbeaten, Australia saved their most complete performance of the 2003 World Cup for the final in Johannesburg.

Sent in to bat by India skipper Sourav Ganguly, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden provided a lightning start before captain Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn combined for a record partnership that all-but secured Australia's third World Cup title.

Ponting took 74 balls to reach his half-century, hitting just one boundary, before he unleashed an extraordinary attack in the final overs. 

"It had taken me about 70 balls to get to 50," Ponting recalled recently. "And because the game was so under control and we were scoring quickly, I wanted to make sure I was there at the end.

"The 12th man came out and I said, 'Tell the boys to strap the seatbelts on, I'm gonna go flat-out from now and see what happens'.

"I got most of them in the middle from there on in."

Punter's World Cup final masterclass

The skipper launched consecutive sixes off Harbhajan Singh in the 39th over before peeling off another six maximums in an outrageous display of power hitting.

He finished unbeaten on 140, with his last 90 runs coming from just 47 balls.

"As the captain, it was my turn to stand up and I walked off 140 not out, having shared (an Australian record) partnership with Damien Martyn at the time and posted 360 in a World Cup final.

"You're walking off there and you're thinking, 'Well that's done, game over – we've stood up here'."

Karen Rolton 107no (128) v India, April 2005

Australia won by 98 runs

Like Ponting, Karen Rolton capped a remarkable career as one of Australia's great batters with a sparkling hundred in a World Cup final. Unlike Ponting, the South Australian did so while working in a post office.

One of the most dominant cricketers of her era, top-order batter Rolton had the capacity to play either the steady hand or the explosive counterpunching innings, and in the 2005 decider against India in Centurion, it was a case of the former.

Karen Rolton raises her bat after a fighting hundred // Getty

Rolton arrived in the middle at 1-24 but when Lisa Keightley fell soon after to join Belinda Clark back in the pavilion at 2-31, and Mel Jones was out for 17 with the score at 3-71, Australia needed a partnership.

They got it in the form of Rolton and Lisa Sthalekar (55), as the fourth-wicket duo teamed up to put on 139 and navigate the Aussies to a competitive total of 4-215.

Throughout, Rolton was the dominant hand, playing a measured innings that included 11 boundaries and becoming just the second woman, after England's Enid Bakewell, to score a century in a World Cup final.

For the 30-year-old left-hander who would go on to be named Player of the Tournament, it was redemption from the 2000 final, when she had been run-out for one as Australia lost narrowly to New Zealand, and after a resounding victory was secured, she expressed her relief.

Rolton all smiles with the World Cup trophy // Getty

"Coming into the final I was just trying to make up for the last World Cup," she said. "I would have been happy to have just got a few runs on the board, let alone 100.

"I was pretty nervous to start off with – I'm always nervous in a big game – but the longer I batted, the better I felt. This is really one of my proudest moments."

Adam Gilchrist 149 (104) v Sri Lanka, April 2007

Australia won by 53 runs (DL method)

Aided by small boundaries, a flat deck and a squash ball nestled inside his left glove, Adam Gilchrist's 149 in the 2007 World Cup final remains the highest individual score in a men's tournament decider and one of the greatest innings on ODI cricket's biggest stage.

Against a Sri Lankan attack featuring cricket's most prolific bowler Muthiah Muralidaran and limited-overs gun Lasith Malinga, Gilchrist sent the white ball to all parts of the Kensington Oval, which was overflowing with fans praying for clear skies and a proper battle in Bridgetown.

Gilchrist normally needed no invitation to up the ante at the top of an ODI innings and with rain reducing the match to 38 overs a side, he quickly kicked into gear.

Gilchrist's '07 final century was one of the finest of his incredible career // Getty

Veteran left-arm swing bowler Chaminda Vaas was the first to feel the wrath of hurricane Gilchrist – a four flicked behind square-leg followed by a heave over long-on for six forced wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara up to the stumps.

The tactic prompted a change that pinged off Gilchrist's bat back to bowler Dilhara Fernando, who couldn't hold on to the thunderous drive, and the next three balls bolted to or over the boundary.

Spin stemmed the run-rate somewhat but only for a time, as the free-swinging leftie dominated a century stand with Matthew Hayden, then reached three figures himself with a punch over the sprawling mid-off fielder to guarantee another entry in cricket's history books.

Jubilant as ever in celebration, Gilchrist paid special attention to his raised left hand, pointing to the bulging outside corner of the glove that had commentators and fans alike wondering what could possibly be lodged inside.

Gilchrist, squash ball in glove, celebrates his explosive hundred // Getty

Speaking after the game, where he was duly named player of the match, Gilchrist revealed it was in fact a squash ball, used to keep his bottom hand marginally off the bat, allowing for a lighter grip and more power. It worked.

Alyssa Healy 170 (138) v England, April 2022

Australia won by 71 runs

Alyssa Healy rewrote all sorts of records with one of the most remarkable innings in one-day history when she smashed 170 against England in Christchurch in the 2022 ODI women's World Cup final.

Healy's 138-ball knock was her second century in as many innings, following on from her 129 in the semi-final against West Indies.

The hard-hitting opener talked the talk pregame, declaring any chat about her being Katherine Brunt's bunny "junk", and then walked the walk, helping power Australia to a mammoth 5-356 after being sent in by England.

The right-hander was patient early against the moving ball from Brunt and new-ball partner Anya Shrubsole, then went on the attack when off-spinner Charlie Dean was introduced.

Healy hits new heights with World Cup classic

She was dropped on 41, reached her fifty from 62 balls, and then her second half-century took just 38 deliveries.

Rolton's record high score for a women's World Cup final was comfortably reeled in as Healy raced past 500 runs for the tournament.

Dropped again on 136, the dashing right-hander's 150 came off 129 deliveries, and despite struggling with what appeared to be a sore back, still she tormented England, treating Sophie Ecclestone with disdain as she whacked three consecutive boundaries off the tournament leading wicket taker.

The 26-boundary onslaught finally ended in the 46th over when she was stumped off Shrubsole, prompting the crowd at Hagley Oval to stand as one as the 32-year-old strode from the ground.

Travis Head 137 (120) v India, November 2023

Australia won by six wickets

Australia's brains trust rated the potential impact of Travis Head on the 2023 World Cup in India so highly that they were prepared to enter the tournament one man down – and with just one specialist spinner – as they waited for their opening batter's broken hand to heal.

"That was a big risk," said skipper Pat Cummins of Head's late introduction. "I think we could have been made to look really silly if that didn't pay off."

Head dominates run chase with classic Cup final hundred

Cummins needn't have worried. Head arrived late but rapidly made up for lost time, blazing a jaw-dropping 59-ball hundred against the Kiwis and then putting in a player-of-the-match performance in the semi-final against South Africa.

Yet the South Australian saved his best for the biggest stage. After taking a brilliant catch to remove Rohit Sharma early, Head survived an early onslaught from India's quicks to take the run chase by the scruff of its neck.

Chasing 241 to win, Australia had the dynamic opener to thank for making a difficult chase look relatively routine, as he kept the run rate well above what was needed to in turn allow his fourth-wicket partner Marnus Labuschagne to settle into his innings.

From 3-47 the pair carried Australia to within a couple of runs of victory, Head completely dominant in the 192-run stand as he used his feet beautifully to the spinners and dealt with anything short from the quicks with pure disdain.

His 137 from 120 balls accounted for 56.85 per cent of Australia's runs and while he fell at the last, he had firmly cemented himself among the legends who had preceded him with World Cup final hundreds.

Head eagerly awaits World Cup celebrations and reunions