Head and Smith give Australia the edge on first day of the WTC Final

"VAN" (Sports Desk - 08.06.2023) :: A compelling 251-run unbroken partnership between Travis Head (146 not out) and Steve Smith (95 not out) was the highlight of the first day of the World Test Championship Final 2023, as Australia finished at a strong 327 for three at the end of the day's play.

The day began with India skipper Rohit Sharma winning the toss in overcast conditions and electing to take the field. India went in with four pacers on a wicket with a hint of grass, overlooking off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the process. Likewise, Australia have four pace options in skipper Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Scott Boland and all-rounder Cameron Green.

The first hour of play saw India’s new ball pair of Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj get the maximum bite out of the Dukes cherry. Australia opener Usman Khawaja departed for a duck in the fourth over after nicking a Siraj delivery behind the wicket. With this, the southpaw’s poor run in England continues, where he has scored at an average of 18.15.

His partner David Warner, however, helped see off the new ball by adopting a more proactive approach. His 43 off 60 included eight boundaries, four of which came in pacer Umesh Yadav’s second over. Warner added 63 runs in a second-wicket stand with Marnus Labuschagne before mistiming a pull shot off Shardul Thakur right before the lunch break.

Beginning the second session at 73 for two, Australia were rocked early on after Labuschagne (26) was castled off a full Shami delivery that seamed back through the gate. However, any hopes of further breakthroughs for the bowling side in the session were dented by Smith and Head.

Head was the fire to Smith’s ice as the duo combined to get Australia to 170 for three at the end of the second session. Driven by a net positive approach, Australia scored at a run rate of 3.46 in the middle session.

Post-Tea, the duo put their foot on the pedal and made the most of a tiring pace attack. The scoring rate improved even further, remaining above four throughout the session, as Smith opened up to complement Head in his aggressive approach.

In the final session, Smith reached his 38th Test fifty, while Head smashed his sixth Test hundred and his first in overseas conditions. With this, Head became the first-ever player to score a century in a WTC final. This was also the first time a side has reached a score in excess of 300 in a WTC final.

The unbeaten 251-run partnership between Smith and Head is Australia's fourth-best stand against India.

By the end of day's play, India had tried their five bowling options in different combinations but failed to make it past the resilient duo. Come the second day, Smith will look to reach his 31st Test hundred, with play set to start at 10:30 local time on Thursday morning.


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