WTC final: India need spirit of 2001

Can Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane do a VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid as the WTC final stands at a crossroads where any result is a possibility

| Updated: 10 June, 2023 11:18 pm IST
Virat Kohli will be key for India to get the runs (Photo Courtesy Twitter @BCCI)

NEW DELHI: Those who witnessed it, live from the majestic Eden Gardens or from the comfort of their TVs, or those who have read about it, as the emotion lingers on till this date, March 14, 2001, is the day when the cricket world witnessed a miracle.

The dramatis personae have changed since then. The stage is different too. But given the circumstances, and the fact that India’s first innings in their World Test Championship final at The Oval against Australia – yes, it is Australia – failed to provide any confidence.

The unbroken 71 runs between Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane notwithstanding, India needs another 280 runs to record another win – which can become memorable too. But for that to happen, Indian coach Rahul Dravid might remind his wards of what he and Laxman conjured against the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz in the second innings while following on.

On a sunny day at The Oval, India’s batters displayed resilience and determination, setting the stage for a potentially thrilling final day of the Test match.

WTC final: India’s resilience falls short as Australia dominate

At 164 for 3, scoring at a rate of more than four runs per over, India continued their pursuit of a world-record fourth-innings target of 444. Although Australia remains the favourite, they will have their work cut out for them as they need to take seven more wickets, with the second new ball still 40 overs away.

But despite their strong position, India would have been slightly disappointed with their performance at the end of the day. They lost one more wicket than they would have preferred, with two of their batters falling to aggressive shots – the side effect of their ‘positive’ cricket. Rohit Sharma was given out lbw to Nathan Lyon after missing a sweep shot, while Cheteshwar Pujara, as much was expected from him, attempted a ramp shot over the slips but ended up toe-ending it to a bouncer from Pat Cummins.

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Both batsmen may argue that these are shots they usually execute well, and they can also point to the fact that their positive approach helped them build a solid partnership of 51 runs in just 77 balls. Unfortunately, their dismissals occurred in quick succession, turning India’s score from 92 for 1 to 93 for 3.

Australia had the perfect opportunity to capitalise on this setback, but Kohli, who showed hunger and will hope to satiate it with another innings to remember, and Rahane, who missed a well-deserved ton in the first innings, had other plans. They ended the day with an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 71 runs, continuing the positive momentum set by their predecessors.

Both of them looked comfortable and in excellent form and the pitch conditions also seemed to be favouring the Indians, showing less inconsistency in bounce compared to earlier innings in the match.

Ajinkya Rahane is the man in form and key to ensuring keeping things calm in the middle (Photo Courtesy Twitter @BCCI)

 

Kohli and Rahane partnership seems to have reinvigorated the Indian fans as they express their support by chanting an iconic song from an equally iconic Sholay, the 1975 blockbuster hit: ‘yeh dosti, hum nahin todenge’.

ALSO READ: WTC final: India struggle as Australia dominates opening day

However, the mood was different a couple of hours ago when India lost their first wicket just before the tea break. Opening batsman Shubman Gill, the man in form during the recent Indian Premier League (IPL), fell to an excellent catch by Cameron Green at gully off a delivery from Scott Boland.

The decision to give Gill out was referred to the third umpire, and despite inconclusive replays, the decision favoured Australia. This incident sparked chants of “Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!” from the crowd, adding a touch of controversy and rivalry between two teams whose rivalry now matched the intensity of The Ashes.

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Earlier, Australia had started the day at 123 for 4 and added 44 runs before losing two wickets – Marnus Labuschagne was caught behind off Umesh Yadav, and Green fell to Jadeja’s bowling. India bowled with discipline, extracting enough from the pitch to keep the Australian batsmen on their toes. With Australia’s lead at just 340, India had hoped to wrap up the innings before the lead swelled to 400.

However, Alex Carey had other plans, scoring a valuable 66 runs and forming a crucial partnership of 93 runs with Mitchell Starc for the seventh wicket. Both batters grew in confidence as India’s bowlers tired, and Carey’s contributions pushed Australia’s lead well beyond 400. The declaration came after Pat Cummins was dismissed, leaving India with a record-breaking target of 444 runs to win.

BRIEF SCORE (At stumps on Day 4): Australia 469 and 270/8 (Alex Carey 66*, Marnus Labuschagne 41, Starc 41; Ravindra Jadeja 3/58, Md Shami 2/39, Umesh Yadav 2/54) lead India 296 & 164/3 (Virat Kohli 44*, Rohit Sharma 43, Ajinkya Rahane 20*; Nathan Lyon 1/32) by 279 runs

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