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WTC Final 2023, Day 1, Aus vs Ind: Smith-Head 251* stand blunts India's attack; Aus 327-3

WTC Final 2023, Day 1, Australia vs India: Steven Smith-Travis Head 251* stand blunts India's attack; Australia 327-3 at the stumps on Day 1. Travis Head scores sixth Test hundred.

WTC Final 2023, Day 1, Aus vs Ind:  Travis Head-Steve Smith put 251-run stand for 4th wicket in WTC Final 2023 | Walking Wicket (Images: ©ICC/Twitter)
Head-Smith put 251-run stand for 4th wicket in WTC Final (Images: ©ICC/Twitter)

Brief Scores: Australia 327/3 (Head 146*, Smith 95*, Siraj 1/67) vs India at Stumps on Day 1

After two years of hard work in the second cycle of the World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23, table-toppers Australia locked horns with India in the final at the Kennington Oval in London on Wednesday. Since 2018, in 12 Tests between these two sides, India have won six games while Australia have pocketed three.

India opts to bowl; Ravichandran Ashwin misses out

India captain Rohit Sharma on winning the toss opted to bowl first on a pitch that had a lovely green covering of grass under windy and overcast conditions.

Australia included Scott Boland in the playing eleven in place of injured Josh Hazlewood, while India left out Ravichandran Ashwin to add Shardul Thakur as their fourth pacer.

Head took the game away from India who missed proper buzz of Test cricket

Coming from a two-month entertainment package of T20 cricket, India’s bowlers missed the buzz and enthusiasm of Test cricket and the way Travis Head treated them in a wild fashion just like Jonny Bairstow has been doing it for England since last summer, it took the game away from India.

There wasn’t that much energy and planning in the middle sessions and that 97-run period post Lunch was the main thaw in the flesh for India.

Let’s take a look at how the three sessions panned out during the final of WTC 2021-23 at the Kennington Oval in London.

India sent both openers back in the hut; Australia 73/2 at Lunch

Both new ball bowlers for India, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj asked tricky questions to both Australia openers, David Warner and Usman Khawaja, and finally the latter fell on a 10-ball duck, in trying to feel for the new ball nicked one as wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat grabbed an easy catch to draw the first blood for India.

Marnus Labuschagne, after some early trouble, settled the ship with few boundaries down the ground before Warner took the aggressive route by thumping rusty Umesh Yadav for four boundaries in one over. But just when runs were coming easily, the golden arm of Shardul Thakur came to the rescue of India to break the 69-run second wicket stand as Warner on 60-ball 26 feathered a short and wide delivery down the legside as Bharat flew to his left for a fine catch. The last-minute wicket pulled India’s energy as they went to lunch with Australia at 73/2.

Travis Head’s half-century puts Australia in strong position at 170/3 at Tea

India began the middle session on a high dismissing Marnus Labuschagne on 26 who missed a ripper from Shami that went through the gap of his bat and pad to break the furniture. But Travis Head came out with a solid and wild mindset as he threw his bat at everything to race away to 28* in 19 balls. India tried to play with the patience of Steven Smith but he showed great temperament in between his boundaries, most of which were flicked through the square leg region.

Ravindra Jadeja got some purchase off the track and raised a few hard questions in the mind of Head who with a classy backfoot punch through covers recorded his 14th Test half-century in just 60 balls as India began to feel the heat. He remained unbeaten on 60 as the 94* partnership for the fourth wicket shouldered Australia to 170/3 at Tea.

WTC Final 2023, Day 1, Aus vs Ind_ Travis Head scored his 6th and WTC Final's first Century   _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©WasimJaffer14_Twitter)
Head scored his 6th and WTC Final's first Century (Images: ©WasimJaffer14/Twitter)
Unbeaten 251-run stand carries Australia to 327/3 at Stumps

Travis Head began in the same fashion as he went with hard hands in most of the shots which flew over the head of the fielders. When India came up with the short ball planning, Head stood and played the upper cut shot over the third man as he did against Shami for a six. With a single, Travis Head celebrated his sixth Test century in just 106 balls while Smith, meditating in his own world, brought up his 38th Test half-century with a single.

With the reintroduction of Jadeja when the bowlers get tired, Smith used his feet to put more and more pressure with some flurry of boundaries as the unbeaten 251-run partnership for the fourth wicket ended the day for Australia at 327/3.

Statistical Highlights
  • Travis Head becomes the first cricketer to score a century in a World Test Championship final. It’s also his first Test century outside Australia.

What’s to Come

Australia will look to bat long and post something around 450-500, while India’s main aim will be to break that partnership and look to keep Australia to as low a score as possible.

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