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Cricket-Australia remove both India openers to take charge of WTC final

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LONDON (Reuters) -Australia racked up 469 in their first innings and reduced India to 37-2 at second day’s tea to take charge of the World Test Championship (WTC) final at The Oval on Thursday.

Virat Kohli was batting on four at the break with India still 432 runs behind.

Cheteshwar Pujara was on three at the other end with a massive rebuilding task ahead of India’s two most experienced batters.

Having bled 327 runs on the opening day, India staged a comeback of sorts after their seam-heavy attack bowled out Australia in the second session.

Steve Smith has been a perennial thorn in India’s flesh and the top-order batsman, resuming day two on 95, duly brought up his 31st test hundred with back-to-back fours off Mohammed Siraj.

He also equalled Englishman Joe Root’s record of nine test hundreds against India in the process.

Travis Head also crossed the 150-mark before Mohammed Siraj (4-108) broke his 285-run stand with Smith, the highest fourth wicket partnership at the venue, bringing some relief for India.

Head, whose 163 off 174 balls included 25 fours and a six, gloved a short ball down the leg side giving wicketkeeper KS Bharat his third catch of the match.

Mohammed Shami had Cameron Green, who made six, caught in the slip for six and Smith departed after dragging a delivery from Shardul Thakur on to his stumps.

Smith’s patient 121, which contained 19 fours, was his third hundred at The Oval.

Alex Carey made 48 down the order before falling to Ravindra Jadeja who is India’s lone spin option in the match.

Mitchell Starc welcomed Rohit Sharma with a bouncer when India began their reply and the opener pulled the next ball for a four to respond in style.

India scored nearly at a run-a-ball rate in the first four overs before Scott Boland replaced Starc.

Australia captain Pat Cummins drew first blood when he trapped his counterpart Rohit lbw for 15. Rohit consulted fellow opener Shubman Gill but decided against reviewing that decision.

Boland dismissed Gill, who made 13, in the next over when the batter did not offer to an incoming ball that crashed into his off-stump.

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

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