WTC final: India on sticky wicket as Australia take 296-run lead
Australia were leading by 296 runs at stumps in the second innings on the third day of the World Test Championship Final against India at The Oval on Friday. Australia ended the day at 123/4, with Marnus Labuschagne (13) and Cameron Green (9) at the crease.
Mohammed Siraj was the standout Indian pacer once again as he got rid of David Warner (1) with a ball that seamed away from off stump and took the edge on way to the wicketkeeper. Usman Khawaja’s second failure of the game came after a loose drive off Umesh Yadav.
A rare positive from India’s point of view was that Australia’s first innings centurions Steve Smith (34) and Travis Head (18) departed in quick succession. Ravindra Jadeja got both prized wickets. Umesh made a mess of a regulation catch offered by Head at deep midwicket but Jadeja had him caught and bowled in the same over.
Smith had a rare lapse in concentration and his attempted slog led to him being caught by Thakur.
It will take a special effort from India to bounce back in the game but as Ajinkya Rahane showed, runs could be scored against a formidable pace attack.
Earlier, Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur kept India in the game with a rearguard 109-run stand but Australia still took a massive 173-run lead on day three.
Having reached 260 for six at lunch, India could only manage 36 runs in the afternoon session to end with 296 all out in 69.4 overs.
Australia, who made 469 in their first innings, were 23 for one in 11 overs at tea.
Mohammed Siraj continued to be India’s standout bowler in the game and removed David Warner in the fourth over. He bowled his heart out with his sharp short balls roughing up Marnus Labuschagne on two occasions.
Rahane (89 off 129 balls) could not add to his tally after the break, and having once again delivered in challenging overseas conditions, fell to a stunning one-handed catch by Cameron Green at gully.
Rahane went through with the shot away from his body off Pat Cummins and a diving Green plucked the flying ball out of thin air for a memorable catch.
Thakur (51 off 109) got to his third half-century at The Oval with a couple of straight drives off Cummins. India’s tail hardly put up a resistance and the team was bowled out midway into the second session.
In the morning, Rahane stood tall amid the ruins in his comeback game as he showed remarkable skill and courage against a hostile Australian pace attack.
India remained behind in the game despite the resilience of Rahane and Thakur’s much- needed support. Thakur also survived two nasty blows on his forearm and was dropped twice.
Also read: WTC final | India vs Australia: Day 1 report
India, who resumed the day at 151 for five in response to Australia’s 469, managed to score 109 runs in the 22 overs bowled in the first session.
The way Scott Boland and Cummins got the ball to kick off length in the first hour, one could sense a wicket off every ball.
Boland ripped through the defence of KS Bharat on the second ball of the day as the Indian wicketkeeper had no answer to a ball that jagged back in sharply from length.
Cummins looked equally threatening from the other end and hit Thakur’s forearm on back-to-back balls with extra bounce, forcing the batter to seek the physio’s intervention.
Like Thakur, Rahane too had luck going his way as he was dropped by David Warner at first slip when he was on 72.
After getting a few streaky boundaries, Rahane got to his fifty with a spectacular six off Cummins over fine-leg. The Australian skipper angled one into his body and Rahane made room to pull it for a maximum.
His best shot of the morning was a cover drive off Green, and it came after a thick edge that flew over the slip cordon, showing that one had to take his chances on this wicket.
The final moments of the session were full of action. Rahane got consecutive fours off Nathon Lyon via a back-foot punch and a crisp drive through the cover.
The last over before lunch saw Thakur being adjudged lbw but it ended up being a no ball from Cummins. The Aussie skipper had also overstepped after trapping Rahane in front of the stumps on day two.
#TeamIndia post 296 in the first innings.
8⃣9⃣ for Ajinkya Rahane
5⃣1⃣ for Shardul Thakur
4⃣8⃣ for Ravindra Jadeja
Australia's second innings now underway.
— BCCI (@BCCI) June 9, 2023
(With agency inputs)