Australia Blow India Away on Final Day of WTC Final

Photo by Debasis Sen (Oval, 11th June 2023)

After a rather ordinary final session on day four, Australia bowled with discipline, skill and some snarl as India crashed to a 209-run defeat in the World Test Championship (WTC) final at The Oval. As soon as Mohammed Siraj reverse-swept Nathan Lyon to Scott Boland at backward point, it sparked jubilation in the Australian camp. All the players got together in a huddle to celebrate the moment.

As the day commenced, India perhaps had a semblance of hope of mounting a challenge. However, Boland showcased his trademark seam-bowling skills to break the back of the Indian batting unit. He tested Virat Kohli (49 runs) with a few away-going deliveries, and finally, Kohli succumbed to the pressure created as he edged one to second slip, where Steven Smith took an outstanding catch. Boland once again gave a glimpse of his skills: He doesn’t just have the nip-backer, but also tilts his wrist just enough to move the ball away, while also employing the three-quarter-seam ball to good effect. 

In the same over, Boland also dislodged Ravindra Jadeja, with one that angled in and then nipped away to take the edge. Alex Carey completed the formalities by pouching a simple catch behind the stumps. For a while, Ajinkya Rahane (46 runs) looked in sublime touch, essaying some fine drives off Mitchell Starc. But the plan was obvious from Starc and Australia: Wait for Rahane to play a drive on the up, and hope the ball that straightened from round the wicket would result in an edge. 

In the 57th over, Rahane duly obliged by edging one from Starc to the ‘keeper. While trudging back to the pavilion, Rahane lifted his bat in disappointment as he acknowledged his mistake. Lyon then ran through the lower order by removing Shardul Thakur and KS Bharat before bagging the final wicket to fall. Starc also chipped in by dismissing Umesh Yadav with a nasty short ball. On his part, Bharat looked in decent touch against pace, but once again spin turned out to be his Achilles’ heel as he was dismissed for 23.

So where did India go wrong? Perhaps the think-tank could have picked Ravi Ashwin? Or India didn’t bowl full enough in the opening session on day one, when there was definite seam movement on offer? What about delaying the short-ball tactics against Travis Head? It also has to be said that India have won a couple of series in Australia – one with basically a third-string side – but the last time they won a Test series in England was in 2007. Also, the last time India won a Test series in New Zealand was in 2009, while they have yet to win a Test rubber in South Africa. So, for the current group of Indian players, playing in those three nations seems to be a bigger challenge. 

In the final analysis, Australia outplayed the Indian side. In the first innings, Travis Head (163 runs) and Steve Smith (121) took Australia to safe waters with a game-changing stand of 285. Head was rightly adjudged the Player of the Match for his effort. The taller Australian seamers also got more out of the surface than their Indian counterparts. In the final innings, Lyon played his part too. The Australian cricket team’s trophy cabinet had every piece of silverware, except the World Test Championship trophy. Now, the collection is complete.

Brief scores: Australia 469 (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121; Mohammed Siraj 4-108) and 270/8 decl. (Alex Carey 66*; Ravindra Jadeja 3-58) beat India 296 (Ajinkya Rahane 89; Pat Cummins 3-83) and 234 (Virat Kohli 49; Nathan Lyon 4-41)  by 209 runs

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