WTC Final Indian batting takes on Australian pace with eye on ending title drought

London, June 6

A duel between India’s formidable top-order and Australia’s fiery pace attack could determine who comes out on top when the World Test Championship final gets underway at The Oval tomorrow.

India have dominated, both home and away, the recent duels between the Test heavyweights, who claimed the top two spots after a two-year cycle to book their place for the final.

India also reached the final of the inaugural WTC in 2021 when New Zealand bested Virat Kohli’s side in a rain-marred contest in Southampton.

  • Virat Kohli is 21 short of becoming the fifth India batter to score 2000 Test runs against Australia. Sachin Tendulkar (3630), VVS Laxman (2434), Rahul Dravid (2143) and Cheteshwar Pujara (2033) are the others to have reached the mark
  • India have won their last four Test series against Australia — two at home and two away — all by 2-1 margins
  • In three Tests at The Oval, Steven Smith has scored 391 runs at an average of 97.75, with two hundreds and an 80 in five innings
  • Australia (0.411) and India (0.400) have near-identical win-loss ratios at The Oval. India have won two and lost five of their 14, while Australia have won seven and lost 17 of their 38 Tests

Rohit Sharma has since replaced Kohli in the saddle, but injuries to key personnel and the English conditions will ensure the antagonists are on even terms heading into the one-off contest.

India have recalled Ajinkya Rahane to reinforce their batting line-up, which will have to be at its best to negate the Australian attack.

Eyes will be on Shubman Gill, considered the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket since Kohli, following the opener’s sublime cross-format display this year.

India will also be relying on Cheteshwar Pujara’s obduracy, Kohli’s class and Rahane’s resilience to counter the likes of Australia captain Pat Cummins and his pace colleague Mitchell Starc.

They will be without stumper-batter Rishabh Pant, who is recovering from a horrific car crash in December, as well as pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, who remains sidelined following back surgery.

Mohammed Shami will lead India’s pace attack instead, but they are yet to make up their mind on whether to harness a second spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin, with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.

For Cummins and Co, the WTC final is the first of three major campaigns this year, along with the Ashes series against England that immediately follows and the 50-overs World Cup in India in October-November.

Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood lost his race to be fit for the WTC final, but Australia have a potent replacement in Scott Boland.

All-rounder Cameron Green will be expected to play a key role, but individually no one will have more at stake than opener David Warner.

The 36-year-old is battling to stretch his Test career to fulfil his wish of quitting the format after the Sydney Test against Pakistan next January. Opening partner Usman Khawaja has been in rich form, but Australia will be looking to Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, currently the top-ranked Test batter, to provide the bedrock of their innings. — Reuters

Want to win championships, says Rohit

Emphasising that sport is all about winning championships, India skipper Rohit Sharma today said he wants to win one or two major titles before he steps down as captain. A day before the big final, Rohit was asked about the legacy he would like to leave as captain. “Whether it’s me or someone else, even the guys before, their role was to take Indian cricket forward and win as many games, as many championships as possible. For me also, it will be the same. I want to win games, I want to win championships. That is what you play for,” Rohit said. “But we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves by overthinking about this kind of stuff. We know what we have won and what we have lost. No point thinking about it repeatedly,” he added.

Rohit cops blow

India captain Rohit Sharma was hit on the left thumb while batting in the nets a day before the final. On another overcast morning, Rohit was among the four squad members who turned up for optional practice. Rohit, who was taking throw-downs, was seen holding his left thumb following a hit in the nets. As a precautionary measure, he did not bat after that. BCCI sources said “there is no issue” with him.

‘Bouncy pitch’

The head groundsman of The Oval, Lee Fortis, has promised a bouncy pitch for the final. The pitch traditionally offers true bounce and is good for batting but there is some uncertainty over its behaviour considering the final will be the first-ever Test here in June. On the eve of the game, the pitch wore a green look but the grass could be trimmed going into Day 1. The overcast conditions are likely to suit Australia more while India would prefer bright sunshine on all five days. “We’ve been hearing that not much of cricket is played here in June,” India captain Rohit Sharma. “County season has been played here. We saw there was a game played a couple of weeks back here. We are quite aware of what the conditions are,” he added.

Forecast clear

The mornings have been cold and overcast the last two days but the forecast is clear for the first three days of the final. Rain is expected over the weekend and there is a reserve day kept for potential loss of play during the five days.

Flower joins Oz

Former England coach Andy Flower has joined the Australian camp in a consultancy role. As England coach (2009-2014), he guided them to three consecutive Ashes wins. Agencies

Australia relying on winning habit: Cummins

Australian captain Pat Cummins said that one of the benefits of having an experienced side is that many of his players know what it means to be in a final. India are yet to win an ICC trophy since 2013 but Australia did it by lifting the T20 World Cup in 2021. “You know, one thing about playing lots of cricket is you experience the pressure moments, and there’s no higher pressure situation than the finals. That’s one of the benefits of having an experienced side,” he said. “We’ve seen it all before. We have taken the confidence to know that no matter what happens, you’re going to be okay on the other side.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *