Two years after Australia missed out on reaching the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship (WTC) Final, due to being penalised two points for a slow over-rate, the Pat Cummins-led side won the marquee event with a comprehensive 209-run win over India in the 2023 finale at The Oval on Sunday.
With the resounding victory giving them their ninth ICC title, also their first-ever WTC crown, Australia has become the first team in men’s international cricket to win all major trophies. Their victory was set up on Day One of the five-day match by a 285-run partnership between ‘Player of the Match’ Travis Head (163) and Steve Smith (121) after Australia were sent in to bat first by India.
India commenced the fifth day’s play from 164/3 in 40 overs, with hopes brimming of conjuring the highest-ever successful chase in fourth innings of a Test match. That hope increased when Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane looked purposeful in their fourth-wicket partnership of 86 during an improbable chase of 444.
But once Scott Boland took out Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja in the space of three balls of the 47th over, it was effectively the knockout punch that Australia was waiting for. Despite some resistance from Rahane and K.S. Bharat, India were all out for 234 in 63.3 overs in the extended first session, losing their last seven wickets for 70 runs.
Veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon was the pick of the Aussie bowlers with 4-41, followed by Boland (3/46), Mitchell Starc (2-77) and captain Pat Cummins (1-55) and was instrumental in Australia lifting the coveted Mace, which was the only silverware missing from their vast cupboard of trophies, coming ahead of the Ashes.
The defeat means India’s agonising wait to win an ICC title, which has been going on for almost ten years, continues. It is also their second straight loss in the WTC Finals after New Zealand defeated them by eight wickets in the inaugural edition of the one-off title clash at Southampton in 2021.
Australia began Day Five with discipline in line and length from Boland and Cummins, who seemed to hit the deck hard. Kohli and Rahane were content in rotating the strike, apart from the latter getting a four off a lucky edge. In a desperate bid to get Kohli out, Australia burnt a review for a caught-behind dismissal off Boland.
But a ball later, Boland enticed Kohli to go after a full and wide delivery, which he couldn’t resist chasing. The thick edge on the big drive from Kohli was caught by Steve Smith at second slip with both hands after diving to his right, as scores of Indian fans fell silent.
After Jadeja left his first ball off Boland, the pacer immediately bowled tighter and got some late away movement to draw the batter into defending and take the thick edge behind to wicketkeeper Alex Carey, sending him back for a two-ball duck.
Boland could have got Bharat out if the extra bounce didn’t take the shoulder edge of the bat and go over slip cordon for four. Bharat was then pinned on the helmet by a bouncer from Cummins and after he passed a concussion test, Rahane survived an lbw appeal off Boland as Australia burnt another review.
Bharat found himself being troubled by Green before driving him through point for four. Rahane produced exquisite timing in his two straight drives past mid-off against Starc and followed it up with a punch past the backward point off Lyon.
But Starc took him out with a good length delivery on sixth stump which took a thick edge off an expansive drive on the up to Carey. India continued to sink further when Lyon trapped Shardul Thakur plumb lbw for a five-ball duck, followed by Umesh Yadav gloving a brute of a bouncer to Carey, who timed his jump well to take a stunning one-handed catch off Starc.
Bharat survived a stumping chance off Lyon, and three balls later, while trying to hit the off-spinner over deep mid-wicket, skied a catch back to the bowler. Mohammed Shami tried to delay the inevitable with back-to-back boundaries off Starc, but Lyon finished off the match as Mohammed Siraj was caught at backward point on reverse-sweep, giving Australia their first-ever WTC title.
Australia 469 and 270/8d beat India 296 and 234 all out in 63.3 overs (Virat Kohli 49, Ajinkya Rahane 46; Nathan Lyon 4-41, Scott Boland 3-41) by 209 runs
Press Release, Source: IANS