IND vs AUS, WTC Final: Australia Press Forward with a Lead of 296 Despite India’s Spirited Show

Marnus Labuschagne and Cameron Green were unbeaten at Stumps on Day 3 (AP Image)

India put up a far better performance than the previous two, but Australia still are in commanding position, leading by 296 runs.

Day 3 of any Test match is generally the moving day. And India, finally, made the move after two days of hammering at the hands of Australia. It was a spirited performance first with the bat and then with the ball, but the damage done in the first two days means Australia still are ahead in this WTC final at the Kennington Oval, London with a hefty lead of 296 runs over India.

After recovering from 152/6 to 294 earlier in the day, India had Australia under the pump for most of the final session with Ravindra Jadeja turning the ball square late in the day. What India could have done with a second spinner (Read R Ashwin) will remain unanswered. But, be that as it may, the pacers course-corrected from their first-inning fallacies and stuck to a probing line and length and executed their plans, not allowing Australia to get away and they were rewarded for the constant pressure with regular wickets.

India vs Australia WTC Final 2023 – HIGHLIGHTS

Jadeja had a larger say in proceedings as he exploited the rough outside left-hander’s off stump and got the big wicket of Travis Head – caught and bowled – for 18. But the biggest battle that India won today was against Steve Smith who was bogged down and eventually, trying to go for a jailbreak shot perished to Jadeja skipping down the track and only skying one to cover fielder Shardul Thakur.

Marnus Labuschagne was kept quiet and there was a spell of 40 balls in which he scored only five runs. Along with Shami, Thakur plugged the run flow and Umesh was multiple times better at finding his length and radar than the first innings. It did help that he got Usman Khawaja in his second over of itself. Umesh had bowled a brilliant maiden to Khawaja with most of the deliveries coming in with the angle. And then off the first delivery of his second over, he bowled it wide – not the greatest of deliveries mind you – but Khawaja’s eyes lit up and he went for an expansive drive, only to manage an edge to wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat.

Labuschagne coped a few on his digits early on but managed to hang in there and survived a stern test of spin at the hands of Jadeja, eventually taking Australia to stumps at 123/4, leading India by 296 runs.

For the record, the highest successful chase at the Oval was 263 runs way back in 1902.

The spirited show by the bowlers was a welcome change and to a certain extent an extension of how India fought back in the day led by Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur.

The duo put on 109 runs that too in 145 runs with Rahane easily negotiating Scott Boland’s probing line and while Aus skipper Pat Cummins was laser focused with his back-of-the-length angling in deliveries. Rahane coped a few blows to his digits but managed to get the runs on a consistent basis.

Thakur that the other end showed courage more than anything else during his stay. Quite a few body blows had made Thakur nervy, but he did not miss out on the occasional loose deliveries to score runs off. A superb drive off a Mitchell Starc 142 kmph delivery came as a big confidence booster for him after his early struggles and with each passing over Thakur’s confidence grew. He eventually perished for 51 while Rahane was on 89 –courtesy of a screamer of a catch from Green.

But that partnership reignited the chances for India – mind out, chances of putting up a fight for the next two days. And the crowd was up and running. Siraj and Shami rode on the support from the partisan crowd to keep Australia quiet in turn allowing themselves a crack at the game.

Australia were not allowed to take the game away and that meant the pressure built and wickets went India’s way. Even though Green (7*) and Labuschagne (41*) managed to stave off India for the remainder of the day, they know they cannot breathe easily. Despite the lead seemingly sizable, Australia would know, they cannot leave anything for chance with this Indian team.

Also Read | Watch: Hilarious Scene as Marnus Labuschagne Falls Asleep Before a Rude Wake up Call from Mohammed Siraj

For India realistically, they have clawed back into the game but only marginally. They are at the first base trying to climb Mt Everest. Day 4 and Day 5 have forecast for rains and while the spectators will pray for the rains to stay away, Indians fans will pray for a miracle.

Brief Scores: Australia 123/4 (Marnus Labuschagne 41; Ravindra Jadeja 2/25) & Australia 469 (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121; Mohammad Siraj 4/108) lead India 294 all out (Ajinkya Rahane 89, Shardul Thakur 51*; Pat Cummins 3/83) lead by 296 runs.