WTC final: Australia maintain dominance on 12-wicket day
SUMMARY: Australia 469 all out from 121.3 overs (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121, Alex Carey 48, David Warner 43; Mohammed Siraj 4-108, Shardul Thakur 2-83, Mohammed Shami 2-122) vs India 151-5 from 38 overs (Ravindra Jadeja 48, Ajinkya Rahane 29*; Nathan Lyon 1-4, Cameron Green 1-22, Scott Boland 1-29, Pat Cummins 1-36, Mitchell Starc 1-52)
Australia’s bowlers put in a thunderous performance to rip through the India top order on day two of the World Test Championship final at The Oval.
In an exhibition of why the Australian pace attack will bring a supreme threat to England’s swashbuckling batters in the Ashes, India were reduced to 71-4.
Captain Pat Cummins removed opposite number Rohit Sharma, before Scott Boland, Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc all produced sensational deliveries.
India clung on through Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane, only for Jadeja to edge the off-spin of Nathan Lyon to slip for 48.
India closed on 151-5, still 318 behind the Australians, who were bowled out for 469 in their first innings.
That represented something of a fightback for India, who took the last seven Australia wickets for 108 runs.
Travis Head was out for 163 and Steve Smith 121 as Mohammed Siraj led the revival with 4-108.
Then came the awesome display from the Australian bowlers that has put them well on course to be crowned world champions.
Australia fire Ashes warning
Australia’s twin goals are to win this final and claim an Ashes victory on English soil for the first time in 22 years.
In dominating India, they have shown why they pose such a formidable threat to England’s Bazballers, who have won 11 of their past 13 Tests.
The heart of the Ashes intrigue is whether or not England’s batters will be able to carry the fight to the Australian bowling attack. On this evidence, that will be an almighty challenge and an outstanding achievement if England can pull it off.
Yes, there is movement and some uneven bounce in the Oval pitch, but it still has to exploited. Whereas India were too often unable, Australia have been relentless, ruthless and venomous.
In one sense, a showpiece event like a world final should not be framed in the context of a Test series that is still more than a week away.
However, Australia have already done the bulk of the work to get their hands on the title and, in doing so, have further whetted the appetite for the Ashes.
Pacers tear into India top order
While the scale of the damage caused by Australia was impressive, the manner in which it was inflicted was doubly so.
Cummins trapped Rohit on the crease to be lbw before each of Boland, Green and Starc conjured moments of magic.
Boland, who destroyed England in the last Ashes, had not bowled before with a red ball in a match in this country. In just his second over, he got one to jag sharply and hit middle and off stumps with Shubman Gill offering no shot.
Incredibly, all-rounder Green then created a carbon copy to Cheteshwar Pujara, another to be bowled shouldering arms.
Of greatest devastation to the swathes of India fans in the crowd was the snorter produced by Starc to Virat Kohli, who was helpless against one that spat from a length, flicked Kohli’s thumb and looped to second slip.
Rahane and Jadeja were brave in their defiance, each taking plenty of blows. Rahane was given lbw off Cummins on 17, only for replays to reveal the bowler had over-stepped.
Just as it looked like India might make the close without further losses, Lyon was called into the attack and induced the edge from Jadeja in his second over, leaving Rahane unbeaten on 29 in the company of wicketkeeper KS Bharat, who has five not out.
Siraj leads India bowling resurgence
At 327-3 overnight, Australia had the opportunity to bat out of sight and looked likely to do just that when Smith clipped two fours in the opening over of the day to move to his 31st Test century.
Though Head made a silky 146 on day one, he was discomforted by the short ball, and when a fired-up Siraj went short again on Thursday morning, Head gloved down the leg side.
Crucially, Smith contrived to deflect the first ball of Shardul Thakur’s spell on to his own stumps and, when Starc attempted a single that was never on to be run out by substitute Axar Patel’s direct hit from mid-off, Australia had lost 4-41.
Alex Carey steadied with 48, adding 51 with captain Cummins. The wicketkeeper was lbw on review attempting a reverse-sweep at Jadeja’s spin, leaving Siraj to take the final two wickets – the last three fell for 16.
From their strong position at the end of the first day, Australia should have got more than 469.
Still, on only three occasions in the history of Test cricket in England has a team batting first made more then lost, and their bowlers have made it highly unlikely Australia will become the fourth. (BBC Sport)