WTC final: Travis Head, Steve Smith place Australia in strong position on Day 1

Thursday, 8 June 2023 (11:09 IST)
London: Travis Head's unbeaten century, and his 251 unconquered partnership for the fourth wicket with Steven Smith placed Australia in a very strong position on Day 1 of the WTC final at The Oval here on Wednesday.
Australia are 327/3 at stumps, with Head and Smith batting on 146 and 95, respectively.
Head, it was who was running away by scoring heavily square of the wicket, mercilessly putting to sword all the four Indian pacers. A testimony to this was getting those runs under his belt in just 156 deliveries in a Test match.
India didn't bowl well to Head either, Rather, he received the offerings from Indian bowlers to his strength square of the wicket, where he cut and drove with finesse.
Smith, on the other hand, was not in his elements early on as he was lucky to have gotten away with a few edges that did not go into the hands of the slip fielders.
After spending time, Smith found his touch and played a perfect Test innings, assimilating runs. The duo made the Indian bowlers sweat under sultry conditions.
The pitch didn't give much help to the bowlers, and already India is staring at the hogshead and they are up for a catching-up to do Thursday morning.
The post-lunch was another gripping session as Australia added 97 runs in 28 overs after losing a wicket.
India got off to an excellent start after the first break as Mohammad Shami castled Marnus Labuschagne, who made a useful 26 off 62 bals with three boundaries.
In walked Head at five and he did what he usually does, and scored freely square of the wicket and reached his fifty in 60 balls. Smith, in contrast, adopted a cautious approach and refused to throw away his wicket after seeing Labuschagne's back sooner.
Shardul Thakur bowled some blooming deliveries, but was unlucky to add on to his wicket tally after picking David Warner in the first session.
Umesh Yadav almost got Smith at the end of this session, but the edge fell short of Shubman Gill at second slip.
Ravindra Jadeja hardly gave width to the Aussie batsmen, and twined a tight leash around Head and Smith.
Earlier, Australia reached 73/2 at lunch after being sent into bat under overcast conditions. Labuschagne (26) and Smith (2) were in the middle at the break.
Opener Usman Khawaja (0) lost his wicket early after edging one angling into him off Siraj to Srikar Bharat behind the stumps.
The impressive Siraj was very well supported by Shami at the other end as India fished for more wickets, with the swinging ball troubling the Aussie batsmen.
Labuschagne survived a couple of confident LBW reviews and took a couple of stings on his fingers of some deliveries that snorted up hitting on his gloves.
Warner and Labuschagne played a waiting game, and once they saw the new ball off, the opener launched an attack on first-change bowler pacer Umesh and staved off the pressure building on them.
The dangerous Warner (40) fell minutes before the lunch break, and India seemed back on track. His partnership of 69 runs with Labuschagne for the second wicket was threatening to put Australia in control early in the game.
Warner was caught by Bharat behind the stumps off fourth seamer Shardul. (UNI)

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