India bowl out Australia for 469 after Smith century in WTC final
Mohammed Siraj led an India fight back as they finally saw the back of Australia centurions Travis Head and Steve Smith on Thursday’s second day of the World Test Championship final at the Oval.
India were facing a potentially huge Australian first-innings total with Smith (121) and Head (163) at the crease.
But their pacemen struck as Australia lost four wickets for 41 runs, including Head and Smith, to slip from 361-3 to 402-7.
India eventually dismissed Australia for 469 after lunch, fast bowler Siraj leading the way with 4-108 from 28.3 overs.
Smith had batted in relatively sedate fashion to reach 95 not out off 227 balls overnight while Head blazed his way to an unbeaten 146 off just 156 balls.
But Smith, who relishes English conditions, wasted little time in reaching his hundred, taking just two more balls in Thursday’s opening over to reach the landmark by clipping successive Siraj deliveries for legside fours.
The 34-year-old Smith joined compatriot Steve Waugh in having scored seven Test hundreds in England.
Among non-England batsman, only Australia great Don Bradman, with 11 centuries, has scored more.
It was also Smith’s third Test century at The Oval and 31st in total, leaving him 12th on the all-time list.
Head extended his first overseas Test century to 150 with a superbly cut four off a Mohammed Shami ball that was only fractionally short.
But the left-hander continued to look uncomfortable against short-pitched bowling and a short ball proved his undoing when he tried to whip Siraj legside and gloved a simple catch to wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat.
Head’s dismissal ended an impressive stand of 285 runs with Smith after they had come together with Australia in trouble at 76-3 having lost the toss.
Soon afterwards there was another wicket for an India-dominated crowd to celebrate at a sun-drenched Oval when Cameron Green (six) edged a drive off Shami, bowling from wide of the crease, and Shubman Gill held a sharp chance at second slip.
Shardul Thakur then captured the prized wicket of Smith, who inside-edged an outswinger into his stumps, with India suddenly into Australia’s tail.
Mitchell Starc did not last long, run out by substitute fielder Axar Patel for five.
But wicketkeeper Alex Carey kept India at bay with 48 before he fell to Ravindra Jadeja, the lone spinner in the attack after India omitted Ravichandran Ashwin, the world’s top-ranked Test bowler, to play an extra seamer.
Carey hoisted Jadeja’s third ball Thursday for six but the next delivery he missed a reverse-sweep against the left-armer and was given out lbw after an India review.
Siraj wrapped up the innings by dismissing tailenders Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins, the Australia captain.
The WTC is the only major men’s cricket trophy Australia have yet to win.
India are appearing in their second WTC final, having lost to New Zealand in the inaugural 2021 showpiece match in Southampton.