WTC final: What we have learned so far and what we can expect now

Now Rohit Sharma's men have to bat last on a pitch that is likely to deteriorate in the last two days

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India's Virat Kohli (centre) leads players off the pitch at the end of play on day three. — AFP
India's Virat Kohli (centre) leads players off the pitch at the end of play on day three. — AFP

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 10 Jun 2023, 12:57 PM

After three days of intense battle between the bat and the ball on the bouncy Oval wicket in the World Test Championship final, Australia finds itself in a better position than India.

If you compare this to a classic gun battle, the Australians are on the move with the Indians in a desperate attempt to protect their position and stop the Aussies from running over them.

But this was pretty much expected — even the most ardent Indian fan knew that Australia had the bigger weapons in these English conditions.


Also, their players were physically and mentally fresher than Indians who were playing in the two-month-long Indian Premier League until the last week of May in what was a completely different format of the game.

Only two of the 11 Australian players were part of the IPL.

The Indians, on the other hand, had 10 of their 11 players battling for different franchises in the gruelling IPL race until recently.

So it should not surprise anyone that the Australians are now 296 runs ahead with six wickets in hand at stumps on day Three in the battle for WTC glory.

For the T20 generation, a lead of 296 with two days to play and six wickets in hand may not look like a big challenge.

But Test cricket is a different ball game, and this contest is being played on a pitch where even the good length balls can bounce awkwardly.

Not that the Australians have been perfect either.

Their first innings total of 469 was primarily put up on the back of two magnificent hundreds from Travis Head (163) and Steve Smith (121).

And their dropped catches and a few uncharacteristic mistakes from bowlers like Pat Cummins played a part in India posting a first innings total of 296 to escape the ignominy of the follow-on.

Ajinkya Rahane (89) was brilliant with the bat and his partnership with Shardul Thakur (51) kept the Indians alive in the contest, but both of them had their share of luck, thanks to dropped catches and wickets off no balls.

Now India will hope to make an inroad into the Australian lower order by dismissing the two overnight batsmen, Marnus Labuschagne (41 not out) and Cameron Green (7 not out) early today.

These are the two last recognised batsmen as Australia would begin the fourth day (at 1:30 pm UAE Time) on 124 for four in the second innings, with an overall lead of 296.

The Indian bowlers have succeeded in keeping the Aussies on a tight leash.

And Ravindra Jadeja dismissing the first innings centurions, Smith and Head, were two significant moments in the match as these dismissals also raised questions again over the decision to drop Ravichandran Ashwin.

The veteran off-spinner would have been handy on this pitch in the second innings.

But now India has to do it without its best spinner.

The Australians, though, would feel very confident if it manages to take the lead over 350 runs.

This Indian team has won some memorable Test matches abroad in the past four years.

But the vast majority of those wins came on the back of its pace attack featuring Jasprit Bumrah when the Indians had bowled last.

Now Rohit Sharma's men have to bat last on a pitch that is likely to deteriorate in the last two days.

The star-studded Indian batting line-up has not really covered itself in glory during such situations abroad in the recent past.

Of course, India pulled off an incredible chase at the Gabba against the same Australian team in 2021.

But India had the inimitable Rishabh Pant leading the charge on that unforgettable day.

Pant is still walking with crutches following a horrific car crash, so the odds are heavily stacked against this Indian team.

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