Bowlers learnt from their mistakes to put in a better effort on Thursday, but the batters bungled. And for that, India are in trouble in the World Test Championship (WTC) final.
Restricting Australia to 469 from their overnight 327/3 was certainly a commendable performance on the part of the bowlers. But their batting colleagues just couldn’t come up with an apt response and erred in judgment as India were wobbling at 151/5 at stumps on Day 2 of this Test Championship decider at The Oval.
As for Australia, they surely would have wished to post a 500-plus total in the first innings, especially after how Steve Smith — bringing up his 31st Test century with two thumping on-drives in the very first over on Thursday — and Travis Head continued from where they had finished on Day 1.
Steve Smith on completing his 31st Test century, his ninth against India, on Day II of the World Test Championship final on Thursday. Getty Images
After a few wayward deliveries that helped openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill to feel as if they were still batting in the IPL Powerplay, the Australian quicks found the right lines and lengths to put their side back in control.
Ajinkya Rahane (29 batting), following a reprieve after he was adjudged leg-before on 17 off Pat Cummins, and the vigour of Ravindra Jadeja (48) led to a bit of a fightback from India with their 71-run fifth-wicket stand. But just when Australia needed a breakthrough, Nathan Lyon delivered in his brief two-over spell to dismiss Jadeja with a classical off-spinner’s delivery towards the close of play.
His four no-balls aside, skipper Cummins took the vital scalp of his counterpart Rohit, moving the ball a shade in to trap the latter lbw. Three balls later, Gill, India’s current “batting sensation” and man for the future, according to several experts, had no idea of the ball jagging back in and offered no shot to see his stumps rattled.
The bowler, Scott Boland, had set Gill up well by focusing on that line.
A lot depended on the Cheteshwar Pujara-Virat Kohli partnership at that stage. Pujara looked good for a while, but like Gill, he too erred in judgment to get cleaned up by Cameron Green. It was over to Kohli then.
But Mitchell Starc produced a snorter and the former India captain’s over-reliance on the front foot had him perishing at the slip cordon.
■ Steve Smith registered his 31st Test hundred and 7th in England on Thursday. Only Ricky Ponting (42) and Steve Waugh (32) have more Test hundreds for Australia.
■ It was also his 9th Test ton (in 36 innings) against India — the most by any batter. Joe Root also has the same number of centuries against India, but those have come in 45 innings.
■ Overall, Smith now has 14 international centuries against India — joint most with compatriot Ponting.
■ Smith is the second quickest to 31 Test hundreds, reaching the milestone in 170 innings. Sachin Tendulkar needed 164 innings to be there.
■ Smith became the eighth batter to aggregate 2000 Test runs against India. Ricky Ponting (2555) and Michael Clarke (2049) are the only Aussies to do so.
■ Ajinkya Rahane became the 7th Indian and 41st overall to complete 100 catches in Test cricket. Among Indians, only Rahul Dravid has done it quicker, in 79 Tests.
■ Travis Head’s 163 is now the highest individual score in any grand final of an ICC event.