New Delhi: Travis Head and Steve Smith produced an unbroken 251-run fourth-wicket stand to leave Australia on 327/3 and well on top after the opening day of the ICC World Test Championship Final against India at The Oval.
Head was the star of the day, registering the first-ever century in a WTC Final and hitting the first of his six Test tons to come outside of Australia, finishing on 146* not out.
And his illustrious teammate Smith continued his extraordinary record at The Oval, where he now averages triple figures after his unbeaten 95*.
Head’s thrilling stroke-play helped punish India’s pace-heavy bowling attack in the second half of a south London day that had started with heavy cloud cover and ended with blazing sunshine.
India’s quicks had taken three wickets while the ball was moving around in the first couple of hours of play, but perhaps could have made slightly more of the swing and seam on offer.
And they were made to pay for not snaffling a few more wickets, as a brilliant partnership between Head and Smith punished India as the day went on.
Head’s 146*, the fourth highest score of his Test career, came at a strike-rate just shy of a run-a-ball, and left India with some headaches as they look to get their hands on the WTC mace at the second time of asking.
A tactical switch to pepper Head’s body with a barrage of short-pitched bowling caused the Australian No.5 some difficulties. But ICC pundits Nasser Hussain and Ricky Ponting were among those who suggested the change of approach came too late, with Head already well settled at the crease by the time those questions were asked of his technique.
It may have been Head who stood out, but Smith’s superb knock was a continuation of his brilliant record both in England and at this ground in particular.
The pair will return to the crease on Thursday morning looking to build an even bigger platform for Australia in this game.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj
Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland