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Cricket-Australia get Head start in WTC final v India


LONDON (Reuters) -Travis Head’s counter-attacking hundred and his unbroken 251-run stand with Steve Smith put Australia in charge on 327-3 after an absorbing opening day of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India on Wednesday.

Having reduced Australia to 76-3 soon after lunch, India’s seam-heavy attack appeared to have put the 2021 runners-up in a position of strength at The Oval.

Head went on the attack, however, and Smith played second fiddle to perfection as Australia fought back hard.

Head smashed 22 fours and a six in his unbeaten 146 off 156 balls, the left-hander’s sixth test hundred and first outside Australia. Smith was unbeaten on 95 at the close after hitting 14 fours.

“Losing the toss this morning, we’ve done exceptionally well,” Head said. “A lot of hard work to go tomorrow morning but nice to make a really good start.”

India made an early breakthrough after captain Rohit Sharma asked Australia to bat on a grassy wicket when Mohammed Siraj had Usman Khawaja caught behind for a duck in his second over.

David Warner shared a 69-run partnership with Marnus Labuschagne to steady the innings, the 36-year-old opener cutting loose to hit Umesh Yadav for four fours in one over.

Siraj knocked the bat out of Labuschagne’s hand with a rising delivery that hit the Australian on the thumb while Shardul Thakur had two lbw appeals against the batter turned down.

The seamer struck before the lunch break, however, when Warner, who made 43, gloved the ball trying to pull it and wicketkeeper KS Bharat dived to his right to take his second catch.

Warner was furious with himself having failed to convert the start into a big knock that could have been a timely boost ahead of his final Ashes campaign against England beginning on June 16 at Edgbaston.

Mohammed Shami struck soon after the lunch break by dismissing Labuschagne for 26 with a full-length delivery that pegged back the off-stump of the world’s top-ranked test batter.

Head decided attack was the best form of defence and hit Shami for a four and a six to race into the 90s before bringing up his hundred off 106 balls and he and Smith plundered 157 runs from the final session to press home Australia’s advantage.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Christian Radnedge and Ed Osmond)

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