WTC final: Kohli stands between Australia and title
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) and 270-8 declared from 84.3 overs (Alex Carey 66*, Marnus Labuschagne 41, Mitchell Starc 41; Ravindra Jadeja 3-58, Mohammed Shami 2-39, Umesh Yadav 2-54) vs India 296 all out from 69.4 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 89, Shardul Thakur 51, Ravindra Jadeja 48; Pat Cummins 3-83, Cameron Green 2-44, Scott Boland 2-59, Mitchell Starc 2-71) and 164-3 from 40 overs (Virat Kohli 44*, Rohit Sharma 43, Cheteshwar Pujara 27, Ajinkya Rahane 20*; Nathan Lyon 1-32, Scott Boland 1-38, Pat Cummins 1-42)
Australia are on course to be crowned world Test champions, but must find a way past India’s Virat Kohli if they are to win the final at The Oval.
Set a world record 444 to win, India reached 164-3 at the close on day four, with Kohli in imperious touch for his 44 not out and Ajinkya Rahane unbeaten on 20.
India earlier slipped to 91-3 after Cameron Green was controversially adjudged to have caught Shubman Gill and a stand of 51 between Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara ended with both falling for the addition of one run.
On a glorious evening, with India’s passionate fans delighting at every addition to the scoreboard, Australia ended needing seven more wickets, India another 280 runs.
Australia earlier declared their second innings on 270-8 an hour after lunch, with wicketkeeper Alex Carey 66 not out.
There is a reserve day scheduled for Monday if time is lost to bad weather, but the forecast for Sunday suggests there will be ample time to determine the second world Test champions, after New Zealand two years ago.
If there is no time lost and the game is drawn on the fifth day, Australia and India will share the title.
Can King Kohli deny Australia?
Australia have form for being on the wrong end of epic run chases, both in this country and against India.
Four years ago they were stunned by Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley and in 2021 Rishabh Pant inspired India to a famous chase in Brisbane that sealed a series win.
Realistically, India remain huge underdogs, but it is to their credit that they have kept the contest alive going into the final day, especially after Australia controlled most of the first two.
The India support that dominates much of The Oval grew in excitement during the Rohit-Pujara stand, only for belief to be punctured by the strikes of Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins.
While there is Kohli, there is hope, and the former captain has the opportunity to add another chapter to his storied career by leading India to their first world title in any format since 2011.
But surely this task is beyond even the king of Indian cricket, and it will be Australia who begin the Ashes series on Friday as the world Test champions.
Lyon and Cummins strike crucial blows
One of the most concerning parts of the evening from an Australian point of view was how a previously devilish pitch appeared to have gone to sleep. With little happening, they successfully lobbied to have the ball replaced after just six overs.
Rohit and Gill had added 41 in only seven overs when Gill poked at Scott Boland and Green swooped to take the hotly-debated catch.
Undeterred, Rohit continued to pull with authority, while Pujara played with high-elbowed class.
But in off-spinner Lyon’s first over, Rohit missed a sweep and a review could not reverse the on-field lbw decision. In the next over, Pujara tried to uppercut Cummins and feathered to Carey.
Kohli had faced only one ball on the arrival of Rahane, who did not field after being repeatedly struck on the hand while making 89 in the first innings.
With Rahane playing the supporting role, Kohli eased into his trademark mid-wicket clips and, by the end, their partnership was worth 71.
Debate over Green grab
Green has a reputation for superb gully catches – he took a blinder on Friday – but the controversy over this latest grab caused the biggest talking point over the day.
With lightning reactions, Green extended his left hand down to scoop the ball away from the turf. Gill stood his ground and TV umpire Richard Kettleborough was asked to examine replays.
When Kettleborough adjudged that Green had got fingers under the ball, the boos of India’s fans turned to a chant of “cheat, cheat, cheat”. Rohit slapped his pad with his bat as Gill dragged himself off.
Speaking to Test Match Special afterwards, Green said: “I know it looks a bit weird but I knew straight away I caught it.” Gill, meanwhile, posted a close-up of the catch with a face-palm emoji on Twitter.
It was not the first memorable moment Green had been involved in on Saturday. He was earlier bowled in bizarre fashion by left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, trying to kick the ball away, only for it to deflect off his gloves on to the stumps.
That was part of some slow Australia progress in the morning session. From 123-4 overnight, they added 78 before lunch, with Marnus Labuschagne edging to first slip for 41.
Carey was positive after lunch, adding 93 in 20 overs with Starc, who made 41. When India took the second new ball, Starc edged to first slip and Cummins sliced to point, both off Mohammed Shami, and Australia declared. (BBC Sport)