Despite a valiant 71-run partnership off 100 balls between Ravindra Jadeja (48 off 51 balls) and Ajinkya Rahane (29* off 71), India found themselves in a precarious position at stumps, reeling at 151 for five in response to Australia’s first innings total of 469, trailing by 318 runs.
As it happened: WTC Final, Day 2
India’s renowned top-order batsmen struggled against the relentless pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Scott Boland, who extracted more from the variable bounce at The Oval than their Indian counterparts.
The day started with Australia adding 142 runs to their overnight total before being bowled out in the afternoon session. Indian bowler Mohammed Siraj was the standout performer, taking four wickets to clean up the tail.
Shubman Gill (13) and Cheteshwar Pujara (14) fell victim to misjudging the line and length, failing to leave the ball effectively – a crucial skill in English conditions. Gill, who had shown promise, shockingly left an incoming delivery from Boland, resulting in his stumps being rattled. Pujara, who had spent more time in England than his teammates, offered no shot to a sharply-cutting delivery from Cameron Green.
The collapse began when skipper Rohit Sharma (15) was trapped lbw by Cummins. Indian batting maestro Virat Kohli (14) fell victim to a brilliant delivery from Starc, the fourth wicket to fall in the Indian innings. Rahane and Jadeja fought hard, but the Australian pacers consistently posed challenges.
Rahane had a stroke of luck when he was adjudged not out off a Cummins no ball, having scored 17 at the time. Jadeja showed intent with seven boundaries and a well-struck six off Boland.
At the tea break, India found themselves at 37 for two in 10 overs, having lost both openers.
After lunch, Alex Carey played a crucial innings of 48 off 69 balls, taking Australia past the 450-run mark. However, an attempted reverse sweep off Jadeja resulted in his dismissal, trapped in front of the wickets.
India managed to claw their way back into the game by claiming four wickets in the morning session. However, Australia maintained the upper hand, reaching 422 for seven at lunch, courtesy of Steve Smith‘s outstanding 31st Test century.
Smith, starting the day on 95, wasted no time in completing his hundred with back-to-back boundaries off Siraj. While India had failed to utilise the short ball tactic effectively on day one, Siraj immediately resorted to it on the second day. Smith was untroubled, but his batting partner Travis Head (163 off 174) seemed uncomfortable. Eventually, a short ball from Siraj resulted in Head edging it to wicketkeeper KS Bharat, breaking their monumental 285-run partnership.
Cameron Green’s ambitious drive off Shami ended with him caught at second slip by a vigilant Gill. The prized wicket of Smith came unexpectedly when he dragged a harmless delivery from Shardul Thakur back onto his stumps, highlighting Thakur’s knack for providing breakthroughs out of the blue.
A moment of brilliance from substitute fielder Axar Patel resulted in India’s fourth wicket of the day, as his one-handed direct hit from mid-off caught Mitchell Starc short of his ground.
(With inputs from PTI)