Australia’s bowlers dominated on day one of the World Test Championship final against India, exploiting the helpful Oval pitch and showcasing their expertise in bowling at the right length. By the end of day two of World Test Championship , India was struggling at 151 for 5 in response to Australia’s first-innings total of 469.
While the fast bowlers were responsible for most of the damage, Nathan Lyon also contributed with a wicket, dismissing Ravindra Jadeja with a dipping, turning off break that resulted in a catch at first slip. This breakthrough ended a 71-run partnership between Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane. The manner in which the wicket fell fueled further debate about India’s team selection, particularly the exclusion of R Ashwin against an Australian lineup with several left-handers.
However, India’s main issues arose not from their choice of four fast bowlers, but from their bowling execution. The pitch at the Oval provided more bounce than the typical Indian surfaces, requiring the Indian bowlers to pitch the ball fuller and challenge the stumps consistently to create various dismissal opportunities. Unfortunately, they failed to do this consistently enough. Although they fought back on the first half of day two, taking 7 wickets for 142 runs, it might have been a little too late, considering Australia had already reached 327 for 3 on day one.
After being bowled out in the middle of the day’s play, Australia’s fast bowlers returned with a clear plan on how to exploit the cracks developing on the pitch’s surface. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins initially overpitched, allowing Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill to make a quick start. However, they soon adjusted their lengths, finding the ideal spot – full but not driveable.
A Perfect Delivery from Cummins
Cummins hit this length perfectly with the last ball of the sixth over, trapping Rohit in front with a ball that nipped in. Then, Scott Boland, who seemed perfectly suited for these conditions, delivered a wicked in-dipper to Gill, who fatally shouldered arms to it. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli tried to stabilize the innings, putting on 20 runs each, but the seam movement and inconsistent bounce on the pitch made them cautious. Cameron Green replicated Boland’s delivery to dismiss Pujara, and India found themselves at 50 for 3, with all of their top three batsmen either bowled or lbw. The returning Starc joined the party, dismissing Kohli with a vicious delivery that took off from a length, resulting in a glove to second slip.
Rahane had a close call soon after when Cummins bowled a brilliant delivery that straightened from the perfect fullish length, beating his outside edge and hitting his back pad in front of the off stump. Rahane reviewed the decision after being given out, and replays confirmed it was a no-ball. The ball-tracking showed that the impact was in line with the stumps, with two reds and an umpire’s call verdict.
The day started with Steven Smith just five runs shy of his 31st Test century and Travis Head four runs short of 150. They quickly reached their milestones, capitalizing on some loose deliveries from Mohammed Siraj in the morning. However, India fought back, employing a sustained short-ball attack on Head, eventually resulting in his dismissal for 163 as he gloved Siraj down the leg side. Mohammed Shami then produced a brilliant delivery to remove Cameron Green, enticing a loose drive away from the body. Smith fell next, playing on to Shardul Thakur for 121 while pushing away from his body.
India managed to take three wickets before Australia reached 400, and they hoped to wrap up the innings soon after. However, Alex Carey launched