Travis Head struck a classy century to lead Australia’s fightback on the opening day of the ICC World Test Championship Final, with Head steering their side to 170-3 at tea, and the Aussie number five bringing up his ton midway through the evening session.
Head’s century, his first in Tests in England, came at a strike rate of just shy of a run-a-ball, and left India with some headaches as they look to get their hands on the WTC mace at the second time of asking.
Early momentum in the WTC Final had been firmly in India’s favour when they picked up the third wicket of the day shortly after the lunch interval through Mohammed Shami, but Australia responded well as the session went on at The Oval.
The leader of India’s attack bowled well without reward in the morning session, but picked up a wicket with his very first delivery after lunch, seaming a peach of a ball back through the gate to clean up Marnus Labuschagne (26).
That dismissal left Australia in a spot of bother on 76/3, but Head’s immediate counterattack saw Australia get more of a foothold in the game as the sun burned away most of the cloud cover on a largely bright June afternoon in south London.
Head raced to 28 off his first 19 deliveries, slowing down slightly to bring up his half-century from 60 balls.
Smith very nearly fell just before tea when a nick fell agonisingly short of Shubman Gill at second slip. But with Smith still out there alongside Head, Australia will be confident of turning the screw as conditions continue to ease toward the close of day one
Australia and India wrestled for control in the morning session of the ICC World Test Championship Final, with Australia heading into lunch at 73/2.
Earlier in the day India’s pace quartet of Shami, Umesh Yadav, Siraj and Thakur troubled Australia’s batters for much of the first hour of play, with Shami and Siraj in particular getting plenty of movement off the seam under the grey south London skies
Siraj got the edge to get the key wicket of Khawaja in the fourth over and it was looking like an inspired decision by India skipper Rohit Sharma to elect to field after he won the toss and chose to bowl.
Mohammed Siraj made inroads with the new ball after India won the the toss and opted to bowl first in the ICC World Test Championship Final.
But as the sun began to poke out after a tricky start to the contest, Australia’s batters started to get on top and Warner found scoring more easier to come by and even took 16 from one Umesh over.
Warner flayed at a wide one down the leg side from Thakur on the stroke of lunch to give India a lifeline after having made the brave decision to leave Ravichandran Ashwin out of their final XI and instead opting for a quartet of pace options alongside star all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.
Australia went in as expected with Scott Boland included to replace injured pacer Josh Hazlewood.
Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj