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Australia’s Head and Smith Dominate India in WTC Final

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Australia’s Head and Smith Dominate India in WTC Final

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Australia outshined India’s plans to exploit favorable bowling conditions in the highly anticipated World Test Championship final at the Oval. With an outstanding display of batting prowess, Travis Head and Steve Smith led Australia to a commanding position, finishing the day at 327-3 after being asked to bat first by India.

Head’s heroic knock of 146 runs and Smith’s patient 95 runs defied the expectations set by the pre-match discussions revolving around David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne. Head’s exceptional performance, which marked his sixth Test century and his first outside of Australia, will undoubtedly become a topic of conversation throughout the remainder of the lengthy tour.

In a surprising turn of events, Head even outshone the renowned Smith, who played according to his established reputation as one of the world’s finest batsmen. Smith’s average at the Oval now stands at an impressive 121.5. Together, Head and Smith built substantial partnerships, crossing the milestones of 100, 200, and 300 runs, while also expertly navigating through 4.3 overs of the second new ball.

Steve Smith praised Head for shifting the momentum in Australia’s favor. He acknowledged that India might have fallen short during the middle session, but it was Head’s relentless pressure on the Indian bowlers that made the difference. Warner and Labuschagne weathered a tense first hour, where India missed several opportunities to claim wickets, with only Usman Khawaja falling victim to their attack.

After the Warner-Labuschagne partnership was broken just before lunch, Head and Smith continued to dominate the game, accumulating 94 runs during the afternoon session and an additional 157 runs after tea. Their unbeaten 251-run partnership positioned Australia firmly in control as they aspired to secure the only men’s global trophy that has eluded them thus far.

India’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss seemed logical given the overcast sky and green-tinged pitch. The conditions prompted India to opt for four fast bowlers, sacrificing the inclusion of spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, the top-ranked Test bowler in the world. Ashwin’s absence raised questions throughout the day, especially as the pitch’s variable bounce settled under the sun, allowing Head and Smith to assert their dominance against the Indian bowlers.


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Rohit Sharma, the Indian captain, defended the team’s decision, emphasizing the importance of adapting to the given conditions. The opening hour witnessed an intense battle between Australia’s batsmen and India’s prime quicks, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami. Siraj claimed Khawaja’s wicket without allowing him to score, while Warner faced several close calls that kept the pro-India crowd on the edge of their seats.

Labuschagne endured a painful blow to his left thumb from a lifter delivered by Siraj. Despite the discomfort, Labuschagne remained on the field, aided by a painkiller. Relief finally arrived for Australia when Siraj and Shami completed their opening six-over spells, and the sun emerged from behind the clouds.

Warner capitalized on the improved conditions, launching a counter-attack against Umesh Yadav. Labuschagne survived two lbw reviews before his dismissal, bowled by Shami’s first ball after lunch. At 76-3, India seemed to have regained control of the match. However, Head and Smith shattered that notion with their contrasting but equally effective styles of play, silencing the home crowd.

Head emerged with confidence, taking the fight to the Indian bowlers with aggressive strokes all around the Oval. Although Ravindra Jadeja managed to contain him to some extent, Head relentlessly counterattacked against the pacers. He reached his half-century off just 60 deliveries, displaying a total of nine boundaries. Head’s top-edged single over square leg secured the first century of the WTC final, achieving the milestone in just 106 balls.

Head’s dominance continued as he unleashed a ramp shot against Shami, hitting the only six of the day. Despite enduring a blow to the helmet from Siraj, Head maintained his imperious form. He amassed an impressive total of 146 runs from 156 balls, including 22 boundaries, and appeared well on his way to achieving his career-best score of 175.

In contrast to Head’s aggressive approach, Smith played with patience and determination. It took him 38 more balls than Head to reach his century, registering his 68th half-century in Test cricket. After a period of 20 overs without boundaries, Smith regained his fluency and even resorted to charging at Jadeja to secure a couple of boundaries. With the final ball of the day, Smith guided the ball through the covers, adding four crucial runs to his tally after facing a staggering 227 deliveries.

As the players retreated to the dressing room, Australia held a commanding position in the match, thanks to the exceptional performances of Travis Head and Steve Smith. The second day of the World Test Championship final promises more thrilling action as Australia aims to consolidate their advantage, while India seeks a breakthrough to regain control.


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