The World Test Championship Final 2023 saw an enthralling day of cricket on Day 2, as Australia’s bowlers demonstrated their prowess on a helpful Oval pitch, and India struggled to keep up in response to Australia’s commanding first-innings total of 469. By the end of the day, India found themselves at 151 for 5, trailing by 318 runs. This report provides an in-depth analysis of the day’s play, highlighting key performances and turning points that shaped the course of the match.
Australia’s First Innings
Steven Smith and Travis Head’s Milestones
Day 2 began with Australia resuming their innings at 327 for 3, with Steven Smith and Travis Head looking to build on their overnight scores. Both batsmen quickly reached their respective milestones, with Smith scoring his 31st Test century and Head falling just short of a deserving 150. The partnership set the tone for the day and laid a solid foundation for Australia’s innings.
India’s Bowling Comeback
India’s bowlers, led by Mohammed Siraj, made a commendable comeback in the first half of Day 2. They managed to take 7 Australian wickets for 142 runs, restricting the Aussies from posting an even higher total. Siraj finished as India’s most successful bowler, with figures of 4 for 108, while Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur bagged two wickets each.
Alex Carey’s Counterattack
Despite India’s bowling resurgence, wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey played a valuable knock of 48, helping Australia cross the 450-run mark. His aggressive approach kept the scoreboard ticking, and he rode his luck against Umesh Yadav, who beat his bat repeatedly in a short spell after lunch. Carey eventually fell lbw to Ravindra Jadeja while attempting a reverse-sweep.
India’s First Innings
Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill’s Promising Start
In reply to Australia’s 469, openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill got off to a breezy start, taking advantage of some overpitched deliveries from Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. However, their partnership was short-lived, as both batsmen fell to the disciplined bowling of Cummins and Scott Boland.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli’s Brief Resistance
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, India’s No. 3 and 4, offered some resistance with a 20-run partnership either side of the tea break. Both batsmen looked in good touch, but the challenging pitch conditions and persistent Australian bowling eventually got the better of them. Cameron Green produced a delivery similar to Boland’s earlier ball, dismissing Pujara, while Kohli fell to a vicious Starc delivery that took off from a length and was gloved to second slip.
Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja’s Valiant Stand
With India reeling at 71 for 4, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja combined for a crucial 71-run partnership, steadying the innings and offering some hope for the Indian fans. Jadeja played an aggressive knock, scoring at nearly a run-a-ball, while Rahane looked fluent in his return to Test cricket after more than a year. Their partnership, however, was eventually broken by Nathan Lyon, who dismissed Jadeja with a dipping, turning off-break that found its way to first slip.
Key Turning Points
Australia’s Bowlers Finding the Right Length
One of the most significant factors that contributed to Australia’s dominance on Day 2 was their bowlers’ ability to quickly adjust to the ideal length on the Oval pitch. While Starc and Cummins initially overpitched, they soon found the perfect full length that troubled the Indian batsmen. In contrast, India’s bowling attack struggled to consistently hit the right length on Day 1, allowing Australia’s batters to score freely.
India’s Selection Dilemma and R Ashwin’s Exclusion
The ongoing debate surrounding India’s team selection and the exclusion of off-spinner R Ashwin against a left-handed-heavy Australian batting lineup was further fueled by Nathan Lyon’s success on Day 2. The off-spinner’s wicket of Jadeja, India’s top-scorer, highlighted the potential impact Ashwin could have had in the match, and raised questions about India’s decision to opt for four fast bowlers.
India’s Top Order Struggles
India’s top-order collapse was another crucial turning point in the match, with all of their top three batsmen being dismissed either lbw or bowled. The challenging pitch conditions, combined with Australia’s relentless bowling, exposed the vulnerabilities in India’s batting lineup. The onus now falls on the middle and lower order to salvage the innings and reduce the deficit.
As the match heads into Day 3, Australia will look to capitalize on their strong position and push for a substantial first-innings lead. India, on the other hand, will need to dig deep and fight back, with Rahane and the lower order aiming to get as close to Australia’s total as possible.
The weather forecast for Day 3 looks promising, with clear skies and pleasant temperatures expected throughout the day. This should allow for uninterrupted play and potentially more assistance for the bowlers with the pitch likely to continue deteriorating.
The contest between Australia’s bowlers and India’s remaining batsmen will be crucial in determining the outcome of the match. The likes of Rahane, Rishabh Pant, and Shardul Thakur will need to step up and contribute valuable runs, while Australia’s bowlers will aim to maintain their disciplined approach and wrap up the innings quickly.
Day 2 of the World Test Championship Final 2023 was undoubtedly dominated by Australia, who showcased their bowling prowess and exposed the fragilities in India’s batting lineup. With three days of play remaining and the pitch likely to offer more assistance to the bowlers, both teams will need to be at their best to claim the coveted Test Championship trophy.