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Cricket-Head leads Australia charge in WTC final

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LONDON (Reuters) -Travis Head shared a 94-run unbroken fourth-wicket stand with Steve Smith to power Australia to 170 for three at tea on the opening day of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India on Wednesday.

Put into bat, Australia were 76-3 when Head counter-attacked to help his side regain control having lost two important wickets either side of the lunch break.

Head was batting on 60, which included 10 fours, at tea and Smith was on 33 after two absorbing sessions at The Oval.

Earlier, India did not have to wait long for a breakthrough after captain Rohit Sharma won the toss and inserted Australia on a grassy wicket.

Mohammed Siraj also began with a maiden before returning to dismiss Usman Khawaja for a duck.

It was a wobble-seam delivery from Siraj which kissed the outside edge of Khawaja’s bat before nestling into wicketkeeper KS Bharat’s gloves.

David Warner, who made 43, added 69 runs with Marnus Labuschagne to steady the innings.

After a quiet opening hour, Warner cut loose and hit Umesh Yadav for four fours, including three in a row, in an over.

Siraj, meanwhile, knocked the bat out of Labuschagne’s hand with a rising delivery that hit the Australian on the thumb.

Shardul Thakur had two lbw appeals against Labuschagne turned down and India reviewed both decisions but could not get them reversed.

The seamer struck before the lunch break when Warner gloved the ball trying to pull it and Bharat dived to his right to take his second catch.

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

Head decided attack was the best form of defence and Australia racked up 97 runs in the afternoon to be in a strong position heading into the final session of the day.

There was no place for off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in India’s seam-heavy attack with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja their lone spin option.

Scott Boland replaced injured fast bowler Josh Hazlewood for Australia.

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

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