Australian batter Travis Head plays a shot during the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval on Wednesday.—Reuters
Australian batter Travis Head plays a shot during the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval on Wednesday.—Reuters

LONDON: Travis Head’s dashing century was the centrepiece of an Australia fightback against India on the opening day of the World Test Championship (WTC) final here at The Oval on Wednesday.

Australia were in a commanding position on 327-3 at stumps after losing the toss, with Head 146 not out and Steve Smith 95 not out.

Smith brought up the pair’s 250 stand off the last ball of the day when he guided Mohammed Shami through the covers for a sweetly timed four.

The fourth-wicket duo had come together with Australia in trouble at 76-3 after being sent into bat in bowler-friendly conditions.

But as the sun burst through the clouds in south London, the runs started to flow.

Head had his moments of good fortune but by counter-attacking from the start of his innings -- 24 of his first 27 runs came in boundaries — the left-hander put the pressure back on the bowlers.

With Smith, who before this match averaged nearly 98 in Tests at The Oval, batting in more conventional fashion it gave the 29-year-old Head freedom to keep playing his shots.

“Losing the toss this morning, we’ve done exceptionally well,” Head said. “A lot of hard work to go tomorrow morning but nice to make a really good start.”

By the time India tested Head with the short ball, he was well set and a pulled single off Shami took him to a sixth Test hundred in just 106 balls, including 13 fours and a six.

By contrast, Smith took 144 balls for his fifty.

But a superb driven four off Mohammed Siraj saw Smith into the 90s as he eyed a 31st Test hundred.

India took the new ball as soon as they could, with Australia 301-3 off 80 overs, but it made little difference.

Indian captain Rohit Sharma would have been looking for many more wickets after opting to bowl first.

And as Smith and Head repelled India, he might also have wondered about the wisdom of leaving out off-spinner Ravic­handran Ashwin, the world’s top-ranked Test bowler, who could have been a threat against an Australia top five featuring three left-handers.

India had started strongly in what was their second WTC final after losing to New Zealand in the inaugural 2021 showpiece in Southampton.

Siraj removed Usman Khawaja for a duck with an excellent wobble-seam delivery and Australia, to the raucous delight of an overwhelmingly pro-India crowd, were 2-1.

But David Warner, who had managed just one century in his previous 32 Test innings, dug in before the increasingly assured opener struck Umesh Yadav for three fours in successive deliveries.

The 36-year-old left-hander’s promising innings ended on 43 when a gloved pull off medium-pacer Shardul Thakur was well caught down the leg-side by diving wicket-keeper Srikar Bharat.

Marnus Labuschagne, the world’s top-ranked Test batsman, fell early in the second session for his lunch score of 26 when he was bowled between bat and pad by a Shami inswinger.

Head was troubled by Ravindra Jadeja but then drove the left-arm spinner for four — one of nine boundaries in a 60-ball fifty.

The WTC is the only major men’s cricket trophy Australia have yet to win.

The fixture also marks the start of a packed schedule of six Tests in eight weeks for Australia, including a five-match Ashes series against England.


AUSTRALIA (1st Innings):

D. Warner c Bharat b Thakur 43

U. Khawaja c Bharat b Siraj 0

M. Labuschagne b Shami 26

S. Smith not out 95

T. Head not out 146

EXTRAS (B-1, LB-5, NB-5, W-6) 17

TOTAL (for three wickets, 85 overs) 327

STILL TO BAT: C Green, A Carey, M Starc, P Cummins, N Lyon, S Boland

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-2 (Khawaja), 2-71 (Warner), 3-76 (Labuschagne)

BOWLING: Shami 20-3-77-1 (1w); Siraj 19-4-67-1 (1nb, 1w); Yadav 14-4-54-0; Thakur 18-2-75-1 (4nb); Jadeja 14-0-48-0

INDIA: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Srikar Bharat (wkt), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj

UMPIRES: Chris Gaffaney (NZL), Richard Illingworth (ENG)

TV UMPIRE: Richard Kettleborough (ENG)

MATCH REFEREE: Richie Richardson (WI)

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023



Massacre again
Updated 01 Oct, 2023

Massacre again

If this monster is not vanquished at this stage, it will create a security nightmare of significant proportions.
A refuge no longer
01 Oct, 2023

A refuge no longer

SEPTEMBER has seen an alarming rise in the rounding up and detention of Afghan refugees. Pakistani authorities cite...
Whither justice?
01 Oct, 2023

Whither justice?

THE challenge is to ensure bestial tragedies are remembered. Two cases of femicide, involving men from Pakistan’s...
Moving forward
Updated 29 Sep, 2023

Moving forward

It is hoped that the ECP followed the set rules diligently while demarcating constituency boundaries.
Pipeline in stasis
Updated 30 Sep, 2023

Pipeline in stasis

If finding dollars to fund the scheme is difficult, alternative currencies can be used.
Playing in India
Updated 29 Sep, 2023

Playing in India

WITH visa issues resolved, and after slight alterations in travel plans, Pakistan’s cricket team finally touched...