Australia take control of WTC final as India contribute to own downfall

On a day of unbroken sunshine at the Oval India toiled in Australia’s shadow. Ascendant at the end of day one, Pat Cummins’ side were resplendent at stumps on day two and, though Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane led something of a late fightback, India ended the day on 151 for five, still 318 behind.

They will feel they contributed to their own downfall. There was some unexceptional bowling, occasionally downright wayward, as Australia reached a total of 469. Later Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara both fell to superlative deliveries, but they would have had a better chance of impeding their progress towards the stumps had they attempted to get their bats in the way.

If this game is drawn the trophy is shared, which rather takes away the incentive for a side to take any risks once they fall behind in the contest. India’s intention at the end of Australia’s innings must have been to slowly, carefully, find a foothold in the cliff face.

Perhaps they picked up on the fervour of the crowd, who greeted every run as if the scorer had just won a lifetime achievement Bafta, but little about what progress they made at the start of their innings was calm or careful.

The top four all fell having scored 13, 14 or 15, three of them when leaving or at least trying to. As captain, Rohit Sharma led the way, pinned lbw by Cummins. Gill followed in the next over, shouldering arms as a Scott Boland delivery swung towards middle and off. The delivery that did for Pujara was nearly identical, for all that it hit only one stump, Cameron Green finally claiming his first Indian Test wicket at the 389th attempt.

Then Mitchell Starc got one to rear viciously into Virat Kohli and, as the batter tried to get out of the way, it flicked off his right thumb, extended out beyond the handle of his bat, and looped to Steve Smith at second slip. When, moments later, the logo of the Indian cola brand Thums Up (sic), an International Cricket Council partner, appeared on the Oval’s big screen, it seemed like a personal affront.

Shortly afterwards, with the score on 87, Cummins had Rahane given lbw off what turned out to be a no-ball.

It took Rahane more than an hour to score another run as he and Jadeja belatedly brought a measure of solidity to India’s innings, and from 71 for four they precisely doubled the score before Jadeja edged Nathan Lyon to slip.

Cheteshwar Pujara of India is bowled by Cameron Green.
Cheteshwar Pujara of India is bowled by Cameron Green. Photograph: Alex Davidson/ICC/Getty Images

Australia had been on the front foot from the start, Smith hitting Mohammed Siraj’s second ball of the day for four to move to 99 and the next through midwicket to bring up his 31st century in 97 matches. “When I started the morning I couldn’t have asked for more than two half-volleys on the pads to get me over the milestone,” he said.

Three overs later Travis Head cut Mohammed Shami for four to take his score beyond 150, and six overs into the day Australia had added 34 to their overnight score to reach 361 for three.

Seven overs later it was 387 for six, as India belatedly and only temporarily saw fortune swing in their favour. Head fell for 163 off just 174 balls, victim as David Warner had been on Wednesday to an angled short ball that tempted him into a pull and clipped a glove. His partnership with Smith was worth 284 – Australians have only enjoyed five bigger in England, and three of those featured Don Bradman.

Green lasted seven balls before a loose drive gave Gill a chance to take a fine catch at second slip. Smith misjudged Shardul Thakur’s first delivery of the day, little more than a loosener, and diverted it into his stumps having scored 121, taking his average in six Test innings at the Oval to a frightening 102.4. “I thought I applied myself nicely, left well on Wednesday morning, hit the balls in my area and was pretty solid in defence,” he said. “Obviously Trav batted beautifully and the way he took their bowlers on, hit them off their lengths, really helped me at the other end.”

The dismissal of Starc seemed to confirm a shift in momentum. Shami, a right-hander, had briefly left the field and the left-handed Axar Patel replaced him at mid-off, and it was to his left side that Starc pushed the ball before calling for a single – he had just played and missed twice, which might have added to his desperation to get off strike. Patel gathered it and released it in one fluid movement, and Starc watched it clatter into the stumps and just kept running, altering his angle slightly to change his course towards the dressing room.

But India could not stem the scoring and after a slow start Alex Carey accelerated, hitting three boundaries in a single Shami over – one off the edge, to be fair – and biffing Jadeja over long-on for six. But during Australia’s recent Test series in India Carey repeatedly fell attempting reverse sweeps against spin and one ball later it was his undoing again here. Australia have not been perfect, but they are certainly pretty daunting.


Simon Burnton at the Kia Oval

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Labuschagne and Smith keep Australia in control of final after India fightback
Australia lead India by 296 runs with six second innings wickets intact after the third day of the World Test Championship at the Kia Oval

Simon Burnton at the Kia Oval

09, Jun, 2023 @5:51 PM

Article image
Kohli exposed as Australia beat India to win World Test Championship final
Australia wrapped up victory against India in the World Test Championship final, winning by an emphatic 209 runs

Simon Burnton at the Kia Oval

11, Jun, 2023 @12:02 PM

Article image
‘Ashes define eras’: Australia switch focus after easy India win in WTC final
Pat Cummins has said he is preparing for an ‘era-defining’ few weeks after leading Australia to victory in the World Test Championship final

Simon Burnton at the Kia Oval

11, Jun, 2023 @2:38 PM

Article image
Travis Head’s fluent 146 not out against India turns WTC final Australia’s way
Australia scored 327 for three on the first day of the World Test Championship final against India with Travis Head compiling a superb 146 not out

Simon Burnton at the Kia Oval

07, Jun, 2023 @5:55 PM

Article image
Late bloomer Scott Boland primed to deliver Ashes impact for Australia
Scott Boland was largely unknown arriving on the international stage at the age of 32 for Australia but the late bloomer’s weapons can make Ashes impact

Geoff Lemon at the Kia Oval

11, Jun, 2023 @4:59 PM

Article image
Pat Cummins loses cool but not threat as Australia’s attack excels again | Geoff Lemon
Australian bowlers may have seen chances go down but the fact they produce so many is more significant

Geoff Lemon at the Kia Oval

09, Jun, 2023 @6:00 PM

Article image
Cricket’s absurd championship climax perfect for brilliantly silly Test game | Andy Bull
The action crackled and fizzed while Australia and India locked horns in a Test that adds further intrigue for the Ashes

Andy Bull at the Kia Oval

07, Jun, 2023 @6:15 PM

Article image
Beware, England: Steve Smith looks like a batting immortal again | Geoff Lemon
The Australian’s dominant century in the World Test Championship final against India strikes an ominous note before the Ashes

Geoff Lemon at the Kia Oval

08, Jun, 2023 @5:52 PM

Article image
Virat Kohli gives India a glimmer of hope after Australia set daunting target
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane steadied the ship for India after they were set a daunting target of 444 by Australia

Simon Burnton at the Kia Oval

10, Jun, 2023 @6:26 PM

Article image
Reward or redemption? World Test Championship final looks entirely different for Australia and India | Geoff Lemon
While the two nations face off at The Oval, cricket fans will also be wondering about the future of the fixture

Geoff Lemon in London

06, Jun, 2023 @3:00 PM