After being sent in to bat first, Australia faced an out-of-sorts Indian attack that seemed to lack the necessary penetration. India’s decision to leave out the experienced Ravichandran Ashwin backfired, as the pitch offered little assistance to their bowlers once the sun came out.
As it happened: WTC Final, Day 1
Head, with his aggressive stroke play, turned the tide in Australia’s favour. Partnering with the ever-dependable Steve Smith, Head amassed an unbeaten 251-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Their alliance lifted Australia from a shaky 73 for 3 to a position of dominance, leaving the Indian bowlers frustrated and searching for answers.
The day began positively for India, with Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami delivering a fiery opening spell. Both pacers showcased excellent control and kept Australia in check during the first hour of play. Siraj, in particular, bowled with a scrambled seam and extracted more from the surface than his counterparts.
The big breakthrough for India came when Shardul Thakur dismissed the well-set David Warner for 43 off 60 balls, breaking his partnership with Marnus Labuschagne. Warner’s dismissal came from a well-directed short ball, which he failed to keep down, and wicketkeeper KS Bharat took a sharp diving catch.
However, it was Head’s aggressive approach that stole the limelight. Untroubled by fuller deliveries, the left-hander used his quick wrists to flick the ball away when the Indian pacers targeted his pads. He punished anything short and wide on the off side with disdain, finding the boundaries with ease.
Head notched up his fifty with a crisp back-foot punch off Shardul Thakur and grew even more audacious as his innings progressed. He reached the 90s with a spectacular six over third man off Mohammad Shami, displaying his fearless intent.
Meanwhile, Steve Smith played a supporting role to perfection, allowing Head to dominate proceedings. Smith’s elegant stroke play and ability to manoeuvre the ball around the field showcased his class. He capitalised on the left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja and played some exquisite straight drives against the pacers.
India’s decision to pick an extra fast bowler at the expense of Ashwin raised eyebrows, and the absence of the seasoned spinner was deeply felt as Jadeja failed to make an impact, going wicketless in his 14 overs.
As the day wore on, the Indian bowlers attempted to unsettle Head with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries. However, once Head settled into his groove, the short-ball tactic lost its effectiveness, and he continued to plunder runs with confidence.
At stumps on day one, Head remained unbeaten on 146, while Smith was poised on 95. Their unbroken partnership not only steered Australia out of trouble but also solidified their dominance over a faltering Indian bowling attack.
With India left pondering the decision to exclude Ashwin and Rohit Sharma’s captaincy coming under scrutiny, the second day of the World Test Championship final promises to be a critical one for the Indian team. They will need to regroup, rediscover their rhythm, and find ways to dismantle Australia’s resilient batting duo to turn the tide in their favour.
(With inputs from PTI)