Bowlers shine as Gill learns valuable lesson: The big talking points from day two
Steve Smith and Travis Head reached milestones with the bat, Axar Patel delivered a phenomenal piece of substitute fielding, and both bowling attacks turned up the heat as the WTC Final delivered quality in spades.
We take a look at some of the big talking points from another fascinating day of World Test Championship cricket.
Awesome Australia hit their stride
This English summer has been billed in some quarters as a defining tour for this group of Australian players, and they could barely have asked for a better start.
Following on from the work of Head and Smith on day one, Australia’s bowlers combined beautifully to put India in trouble in their reply.
This Australian pace attack complement each other beautifully, posing differing questions to batters while all bringing height and bounce to the table. The nagging control of Pat Cummins and Scott Boland pin batting units down, with Mitchell Starc bringing the fire with his x-factor left-arm rockets and all-rounder Cameron Green adding an extra quality weapon to the armoury.
And they delivered their skills to perfection at The Oval, producing a number of dismissals that will linger long in the memory, with Nathan Lyon adding the cherry on top to share the wickets equally between all five bowlers.
Note to self: Don’t leave the ball in England
It took some classy bowling to take the wickets, but both Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara will be wondering why they opted to leave deliveries that were firmly in the apocryphal corridor of uncertainty.
Young Gill came into this World Test Championship Final in outrageously good form, but was undone by Boland’s in-ducker - a ball that pitched just marginally wider than his previous deliveries before angling in to take middle and off. Gill’s expression said it all.
And even more surprising was that Pujara fell in exactly the same manner to Green, in what must be one of the very few times the veteran has ever been dismissed leaving like that.
In both instances it was the beautiful execution from Boland and Green that deserves celebrating. But that won’t stop the Indian pair from replaying their dismissals over and over in their heads.
Smith dominates once again
Smith was already assured of his reputation as one of the game's great batters, but another century further strengthens his dominatingly-good records in matches against India and in Tests in English conditions.
Smith lifted his career average back above 60 with his latest ton, and the biggest surprise of the day was that he didn’t go on to make it a daddy hundred on a sunny south London day.
India’s attack bounces back
The opening day was one to forget for India’s bowlers, who failed to make the most of the morning cloud cover and then lacked intensity throughout the dominant partnership between Steve Smith and Travis Head.
Media questions focused on dissecting the wisdom of India’s tactics, strategy and fitness, with the knives being sharpened in preparation for even more scything assessments should Thursday’s play have gone in a similar direction.
But full credit goes to India’s bowling unit, who turned up the heat on Australia when they returned on day two, bowling with quality and aggression to remove the two centurions and pick up all seven remaining wickets by midway through the second session.
Mohammed Siraj was the pick of the bowlers, but all four quicks were excellent, as was Ravindra Jadeja.
Anything Gary Pratt can do…
The watching Ricky Ponting had a wry smile on his face as he watched a substitute fielder produce a stunning run-out at an English Test ground.
Axar Patel’s brilliant direct hit was so good that Mitchell Starc just kept on running back to the pavilion as the stumps at the non-striker’s end lay scattered on the ground.
And it didn’t take long for Gary Pratt’s similar stunning run-out against Ponting in the 2005 Ashes series to be raised, and the former Australian skipper grinned his way through the reminder of a moment he would rather forget.
"Every time I have been in the UK since 2005 I have been constantly reminded about being run out by a substitute fielder," Ponting told the ICC.
"As soon as it happened today I looked around and I thought no one is going to pick up on this.
"It took them about two minutes and sure enough - I think it was Nasser (Hussain) in the commentary box - who is always quite happy to remind about Gary Pratt in 2005.
"I would like to say I am over it, but I am still not 18 years later."