Rahane Thakur
India's Shardul Thakur (left) and Ajinkya Rahane walk off the pitch for lunch on Day 3 of the ICC World Test Championship cricket final against Australia at The Oval, in London, on June 9, 2023. Their 109-run stand for the seventh wicket was the cornerstone of India’s total of 296. Image Credit: AFP

India scored 296, which puts them 173 behind Australia in the World Test Championship cricket final. As play resumed at The Oval on Friday, that didn’t look like a possibility, particularly after losing Srikar Bharat to the day’s second ball.

India were to find their heroes soon. Ajinkya Rahane was calm and composed. Shardul Thakur was full of courage, unwavering despite the barrage of blows to his body. The two batters showed plenty of character and determination to lend a modicum of respectability to the Indian total.

Thakur gets a reprieve

Rahane (89) and Thakur (51) staged a gutsy fightback with a seventh partnership of 109, bringing India to the verge of saving the follow-on. The bounce was steep and the swing wicked, yet the two batters negotiated the twin threats with abundant caution.

Thakur, who had an early let-off when Cameron Green put down a straightforward chance at gully, made the Australians pay for the lapse. After the reprieve at 8, the Indian batter lent support to Rahane, who unfurled some sumptuous cover drives after crossing fifty.

They also benefitted from bizarre field placing from skipper Pat Cummins, as the Australians gave away far too many singles enabling the batters to rotate the strike. That kept the Indian scoreboard moving.

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Just when India looked to be on course to a good total, disaster struck after lunch. With 11 runs from his 13th century, Rahane wafted at a delivery, and Green brought off a blinding catch at gully.

Umesh Yadav too followed. But Thakur added 23 in the company of Mohammad Shami for the ninth, bringing India closer to 300. A lead of 173 is massive, but it still gives India some hope of a fightback.

Australia are still in control, but India have hit back with Mohammad Siraj dismissing David Warner cheaply. They were 23/1 at tea.

Brief scores:

Australia: 469 all out (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 122, David Warner 43, Alex Carey 48, Mohammed Siraj 4-108, Mohammad Shami 2-122, Shardul Thakur 2-83) & 23/1 vs India: 296 all out (Ajinkya Rahane 89, Shardul Thakur 51, Ravindra Jadeja 48, Pat Cummins 3-83, Mitchell Starc 2-71, Scott Boland 2-59, Cameron Green 2-44)