London/UNI: Australia are on top in the WTC Final 2023 after two days of splendid cricket showcased by them as they reduced India to 151/5 after putting up a massive 469 in their first innings at Day 2 at The Oval here on Thursday.
India are 318 runs behind Australia with five wickets in hand. At stumps, Ajinkya Rahane, who is making a comeback into the India Test team after two years, is batting on 29, and Srikar Bharat on 5.
Steven Smith cracked his 31st Test century in the very first over of the day, and Travis Head got past his 150 mark. Alex Carey made curry out of the Indian bowlers by adding crucial runs along with the tailenders.
The Aussies added 142 runs to their overnight score, before folding their innings. But kudos to the Indian bowlers who did well by picking up four wickets in the morning, and running through the last three in the first hour of the post-lunch session.
In reply, India got off the block aggressively with Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma cracking strokes against Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. But Scott Boland made the difference. After bowling a maiden in his very first over, Cummins struck immediately by trapping Rohit plumb in front.
Boland and Cameron Green then castled in-form Gill (13) and India's sentinel Cheteshwar Pujara (14) who shouldered arm to incoming deliveries.
Starc had Virat Kohli (14) in the slip by Smith off a nasty kicker. At 71/4, India were staring through the barrel, and could have lost fifth wicket, but Rahane opted for a review on 17, but the TV umpire found Cummins overstepping.
Ravindra Jadeja and Rahane stitched a 71-run partnership for the 5th wicket with the southpaw looking ominous. But, the foxy Lyon removed him 15 minutes before the close of play as he hammered 48 off 51 balls, studded with 7 boundaries and a six.
Earlier, India did well to creep back into the game after they scalped 4 wickets for 97 runs in the morning. Australia were 422/7 at lunch, thanks to a 285-run fourth wicket partnership between Head (163) and Smith.
India started off badly as Siraj offered two juicy deliveries to help Smith get to his 31st Test century. But then the Hyderabadi hit a good length and finally forced Head to walk back after he gloved a short ball to Bharat, who took the third catch of the match behind the stumps.
Green did not last long as the tall Aussie flashed hard at Mohammad Shami and was taken by Gill in the second slip, and Shardul Thakur bagged Smith after forcing him to play a false shot, cleaning him for 121.
A splendid diving one-action throw by substitute Axar Patel brought about Mitchell Starc's (5) downfall.