India lose openers cheaply as Australia build on Steve Smith ton in WTC final
India lost both openers cheaply following Steve Smith’s 31st career century as Australia turned the screw on the second afternoon of the World Test Championship final.
Smith followed day one centurion Travis Head to three figures, for his third ton at the Oval and his seventh overall on English soil.
Australia were eventually bowled out for 469, Head falling for 163 and Smith for 121, as India’s bowlers rallied to pick up the last seven wickets for 108 runs.
But Australia still had plenty of scoreboard pressure and kept themselves in the driving seat by striking twice with the new ball as India reached tea on 37 for two.
Captain Pat Cummins made the initial opening, thumping his opposite number Rohit Sharma halfway up the front pad with one that shaped in towards middle and off.
Scott Boland then joined the fray, seaming one in sharply and rearranging Shubman Gill’s stumps as he paid the price for a poorly judged leave.
India survived a potential gut punch when star batter Virat Kohli came close to departing for a duck, withdrawing the bat only to see an inside edge spray off the toe and zip past his stumps.
Smith had ended day one on 95 not out and showed no sign of any overnight nerves, pinging his first two balls of the morning for four as Mohammed Siraj coughed up a couple of gentle looseners.
Smith raised his bat in celebration after 229 balls at the crease, his latest triumph in a country where he has batted long and often. In doing so he took his average in England back above 60 and up beyond 100 at this ground.
Head progressed from 146 to 163 at a reliably rapid pace, but eventually came undone against India’s short-ball tactics.
After peppering the left-hander with a variety of bumpers, Siraj finally got his man with one that climbed towards his hip and flicked a glove as Head tried to step inside the line and whip towards square-leg.
Cameron Green fluffed his lines slightly at number six, guiding his first ball for four but making just two more before driving airily at Mohammed Shami and spearing a sharp catch to second slip.
India continued to drag themselves back into the fight, Smith’s concentration finally wavering when he nicked Shardul Thakur back into his stumps with an uncharacteristically lazy prod.
The lower order were wrapped up with moderate resistance, Alex Carey chancing his arm in an unconvincing 48, with Siraj finishing with four for 108.
That left India with 10 overs to see off before the break and Australia ensured the opportunity did not go to waste as Cummins and Boland both opened their accounts for the summer.
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