Hope was the only thing that Indian fans had on Day 5 of the WTC Final between India and Australia at the Kennington Oval, London to cling on to. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, the overnight batters were well-set with India needing 280 runs to claim the title in roughly 90 overs.
In this T20 era, that’s an equation you would take, innit? But this is Test cricket, more than the runs, it is about time. And time is what Kohli and Rahane had to play out at least in the first 45 minutes of play in which the ball would do a lot more, the bowlers fresh. It was the 45 minutes, that game, the WTC final would be decided. If Kohli and Rahane would have been in the middle after the first 45 minutes, India would have been in with a chance of an improbable win; and If Australia could get either one, it would have been Australia’s game to lose.
Unfortunately for India, the latter happened. Disappointment for the fans – as has been the case for them since 2013 – the Champions trophy win in England under MS Dhoni. India have now played four finals since 2013, including the current one and have failed to grab the silverware on three previous occasions. 2023 WTC is also slipping away, and fast.
While Kohli and Rahane’s Day 4 batting had reignited hopes of an Indian win, Scott Boland extinguished those hopes in under 30 minutes. 7 overs in the day, Boland had the ‘King’ walking back with a delivery that had a wicket probability of 2 per cent.
More than the wicket delivery, it was the setup. The first ball over the over, good length just outside off, nips away after pitching. Australia took the review, just for the sake of it. Second delivery, a length ball that shot up from pitching, Kohli left it. Third ball, the sucker ball. Boland bowled it fuller, on the sixth stump, Kohli thought the eve immaculate Boland had erred and he went for an expansive drive, but the ball moves a tad away after pitching – edge – and it is none other than Steve Smith at second slip who grabbed the all-important catch.
Former Australian coach Justin Langer would later go on to say on commentary that, great teams not just bat and bowl well, but they field brilliantly. That Smith catch was evidence of what the former Aus opener was saying.
Later in the over, Boland, coming round the wicket to left-hander Ravindra Jadeja (0), induced an edge to keeper Alex Carey – just for good measure that is and India were five down and their chances of a win all but done and dusted.
‘Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies’ – Andy Dufresne tells Red in ‘The Shawshank Redemption (1994)’.
For the Indian fans, they will have to continue to cling on to that hope, but at Oval Boland crushed it and how.
What transpired after that Boland over was all about going through the motions. Rahane stood his ground with smart shots before chasing a wide one from Starc; while Srikar Bharat hopped around a bit, coped a blow to the back of his head before falling to Nathan Lyon, ‘Don of the Oval’ Shardul Thakur was brandished for duck, again by Lyon. Mohammed Siraj and Mohammad Shami hung around a bit to delay the inevitable, but not be, Siraj attempted a reverse sweep of Lyon to get caught at square leg to signal the end of proceedings.
For Australia, Boland returned 3/46 to go with his 2/59 in the first innings, while Cummins added 1/53 to his 3/83 from the first innings. Nathan Lyon picked four in the second dig to go with his solitary wicket in the first. Starc returned 4 wickets.
Brief Scores: Australia 469 (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121; Mohammad Siraj 4/108) & 270/8d (Alex Carey 66; Mitchell Starc 41; Ravindra Jadeja 3/58) beat India 294 all out (Ajinkya Rahane 89, Shardul Thakur 51; Pat Cummins 3/83) & 234 all out (Virat Kohli 49, Ajinkya Rahane 46; Nathan Lyon 4/41) by 209 runs.*
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