Australia's centurion Head happy to 'sneak under the radar'

Australia's Travis Head bats the ball during day 1 of the ICC World Test Championship cricket final match between Australia and India at The Oval, in London, on 7 June, 2023

Travis Head said batting alongside Australia star Steve Smith enabled him to "sneak under the radar" after compiling an unbeaten hundred on the opening day of the World Test Championship final against India on Wednesday.

Smith, one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation, has long been a prize wicket during a Test career that had yielded 8,792 runs, including 30 centuries.

The former Australia captain proved his worth again with an unbeaten 95 at The Oval, but it was Head who led the way with a scintillating 146 not out.

Australia reached stumps on 327-3, a superb recovery given they were 76-3 when Head walked out to bat.

Head, speaking following an unbroken stand of 251 with Smith, said: "Whenever I bat with him I always feel like I'm in the shadows, that you can sneak under the radar and go about your business because he draws so much attention.

"We're completely different but the partnership works really nicely."

Head's runs came from just 156 balls, including 22 fours and a six.

His sixth Test century was also his first outside Australia, an encouraging sign ahead of a five-match Ashes series in England that starts at Edgbaston next week.

"It's a nice feather in the cap, I'll look back in the future on a nice little moment," Head added.

India, appearing in their second WTC final after losing the inaugural 2021 showpiece match to New Zealand, had made a solid start after skipper Rohit Sharma won the toss.

Australia's Travis Head with teammates at the end of the days play

They reduced Australia to 2-1 when Mohammed Siraj dismissed Usman Khawaja for a duck but, as the day wore on, their grip loosened amid a rash of wayward deliveries.

"The first 12, 15 overs, I think we really bowled in the right areas," said India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey.

"But maybe after a little bit, I thought we kind of weren't disciplined about our bowling."

India left out star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, the world's top-ranked Test bowler, having also done without him two years ago when they beat England by 157 runs in their last Test at The Oval.

Australia's Travis Head in action

"It's always a very difficult decision to drop a champion bowler like that," said Mhambrey.

"But I thought looking at the conditions in the morning, having the additional seamer would definitely be beneficial."