Travis Head once dropped from his team due to poor performances in the subcontinent, had a day that he will cherish for a lifetime. In the highly anticipated World Test Championship final, Head proved his critics wrong by scoring a remarkable 146 runs off just 156 balls on a challenging green pitch. Rohit called heads and what followed thereafter was a complete ‘Head’ Show by the Australian team. Australia, at the end of the day, are at 327 for 3 aiming for over 500 runs in the first innings.
India’s opening bowlers, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj, started strongly, allowing only 29 runs in the first 12 overs. The Indian bowlers, who were accustomed to the shorter format of the IPL, seemed to tire out in the final session as the scoring rate skyrocketed to 4.62. Umesh Yadav was looking rusty, and Shardul was highly inconsistent. Siraj was the pick of the bowlers who looked likely to take a wicket.
The talk of non-inclusion of Ravichandran Ashwin masked the fact that how poorly the Indian fast bowlers bowled. Indian bowlers looked hapless after the first hour as they failed to gain control of the match. They failed to bowl consistent line and lengths as they erred on the fuller side giving away too many easy boundaries. Smith, the modern day Bradman stood like a monk while Head continued his assault sparring no bowlers. Head was severe anything wide off of stump as he scored many boundaries through the off side. Smith accumulated runs by rotating the strike and leaving the bowlers. Impatient Indian bowlers made the same error of bowling at Smith’s pads and let him score fluent boundaries through the off side. At the end of the day, Smith is on 95 off 227 deliveries, 5 short of his 31st Test Hundred.
Bowling first at the Oval
Winning the toss, India elected to field, putting Australia in to bat. It was a tough decision to make as the ‘deceptive’ clouds and 6 mm grass talks fooled the Indian skipper into bowling first. Unless its pitch dark and completely gloomy, bowling first has backfired the teams in most cases. Usually, the first session is the toughest as the batting gets easy thereafter. Prior to this game, out of the 104 matches played at the venue, 88 times the teams have opted to bowl first. This ground has been a high scoring and batting friendly grounds compared to other grounds in country.
In the past decade, The Oval has consistently provided a favorable playing surface for scoring runs. Amongst the seven grounds including Lord’s, Old Trafford, Headingley, Trent Bridge, Edgbaston, and Rose Bowl, The Oval boasts the third-highest runs per over rate, averaging at 3.39.
The match seems already a long way away from India. They need to have a real dominating first session tomorrow to crawl back into the match. India need to bat extremely well to outscore Australia in the second innings.