Australia overcame some sloppy catching and careless footwork to remain in full control on day three of the World Test Championship final against India.
England’s Ashes rivals were not at their ruthless best at the Oval, allowing three chances to go down in the morning session while captain Pat Cummins saw a wicket chalked off for over-stepping for the second time in the match.
But even that was not enough to chip away at their dominant position in the match, Cameron Green making amends for an earlier drop with a stunning take at gully as India were dismissed for 296.
David Warner fell cheaply as the Australians moved to 23 for one at tea in their second innings, leaving Rohit Sharma’s side 196 behind and facing a mountainous task.
Without a fine 89 from Ajinkya Rahane and a battling 51 from a battered and bruised Shardul Thakur, they would be even further adrift.
Australia enjoyed a dream start when Scott Boland scattered Srikar Bharat’s stumps with the second ball of the day, leaving India 317 behind with just four wickets in hand.
Remarkably, and despite a relentless attacking effort from the Baggy Green bowlers, that was the only wicket to fall before lunch.
Boland came close to striking again in the opening over, snaring a thick edge from Thakur which soared high towards Usman Khawaja in the cordon. It was a tough chance and one that squirmed free from the fielder’s fingertips.
Thakur needed plenty of steel to stick around, requiring lengthy treatment after being hit three times by Cummins in a single over – wearing blows on the forearm, wrist and glove.
Having softened him up, the seamer should have got his rewards when Thakur sprayed a chance to gully but this time Green’s handiwork let him down.
With Thakur in a state of almost permanent danger, Rahane gave the vocal Indian crowd something to cheer when he hooked Cummins over fine-leg for six to bring up his half-century.
He passed 5,000 Test runs soon after, the 13th Indian to do so, but he also required a stroke of fortune to reach the break.
On 72 he aimed a flowing drive at Cummins, sending a head-high catch to first slip. Wicketkeeper Alex Carey appeared to offer a minor distraction to Warner, but he will still be kicking himself after seeing the ball pop out and land safe.
A handful of boundaries took the partnership into three figures as India began to have some fun, while Australia’s annoyance only increased when Cummins saw his lbw against Thakur overturned by the no-ball call. It was a case of history repeating for Cummins, who had also lost a wicket to over-stepping on day two when Rahane was on 17.
Australia needed a pick-me-up and Green provided it in style at the start of the afternoon session, showing razor sharp reactions and athleticism to take a jaw-dropping catch that ended Rahane’s stay on 89. Cummins was the beneficiary and he made sure to cash in when he cleaned up Umesh Yadav for five.
Thakur reached 51 before being undone by Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc finished things up by bouncing out Mohammed Shami.
India’s fans, whipped up by Virat Kohli, created a hostile atmosphere at the change of innings and Warner lasted just eight balls before nicking off to Mohammed Siraj.
Marnus Labuschagne was woken from a nap on the balcony to dash out at number three, and became the latest batter to take a nasty-looking blow to the hand when Siraj got one to lift aggressively at him.