India’s hopes in the World Championship cricket final have evaporated. Any chance of saving the Test at The Oval vanished when the Indian batting wilted under the onslaught from the Australian fast bowlers.
When stumps were drawn on the second day, India were tottering at 151/5 in response to Australia’s 469, which was built on the back of centuries from Travis Head (163) and Steve Smith (121). On a pitch of variable bounce, Rohit Sharma (15) Shubman Gill (13), Cheteshwar Pujara (14) and Virat Kohli (14) perished with the score reading 71/4. If it weren’t for a 71-run fifth wicket stand between Ravindra Jadeja (48 off 51 balls) and Ajinkya Rahane (29 not out), India would have been following on.
Why Kohli was unlucky
The follow-on is still possible, as India trail by 318 runs, and it would require 118 runs to make Australia bat again. Srikar Bharat is keeping Rahane company, and only Shardul Thakur is the only batter of note left for India. That leaves India a mountain to climb.
Of the five wickets that fell, Kohli was undone by a brute of ball from Mitchell Starc; the ball reared off a length to slam the thumb against the bat before settling in Smith’s hands at second slip. Captain Sharma played across the line to his Australian counterpart Pat Cummins, while the prolific Gill and the patient Pujara were bowled by Scott Boland and Cameron Green respectively while leaving the deliveries; they completely misread the line.
Jadeja’s rollicking knock was terminated by Nathan Lyon’s off-break that drifted in and spun away, taking the edge en route to Smith at slip. That dismissal told India how much they missed or will miss Ravichandran Ashwin in this Test.
In the morning, when Australia resumed Australia resumed at 327/3 with Smith unbeaten on a sedate 95 not out and Head on a fiery 146 not out, the Indian pacemen responded brilliantly to turn the tide with Mohammed Siraj leading the way with four wickets.
Smith raced to his third hundred at The Oval in the first over of the day, flicking Siraj for successive fours. The century was his 31st, which puts him 12th on the list of Test centurions.
Head, who continued to be troubled by the short ball, was the first to leave, gloving a short delivery from Siraj to wicketkeeper Bharat. He shared a fourth-wicket stand of 285 runs with Smith, which shored up Australia, who were in trouble at 76-3 after being asked to bat first.
The dismissal sparked a collapse as Indian pacemen struck in succession, and Australia, who were 361-3, lost four wickets for 41 runs. Green (6) edged a drive off Shami to Gill at second slip, and Thakur claimed the wicket of Smith, who edged an outswinger into his stumps.
A smart pick-up and throw from substitute Axar Patel caught Starc (5), and India looked to wrap up the Australian innings. But Alex Carey’s beefy 48 caused some delay as Australia took command of the Test.
Siraj (4-108) was the pick of the Indian bowlers, while Shami and Thakur weighed in with two wickets apiece.
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) vs India: 151/5 (Ravindra Jadeja 48)