Travis Head hits quickfire 60 to give Australia momentum in WTC against India

Travis Head hits quickfire 60 to give Australia momentum in WTC against India

Travis Head cracked a rapid-fire half-century as Australia built a solid foundation on the opening day of the World Test Championship final against India.

Head arrived at the crease with his side at 76 for three and bossed an unbroken stand of 94 with Steve Smith, as Australia reached tea on 170 without further loss.

Head was at his counter-punching best, reeling off 10 boundaries in 75 balls to push the pressure back on to the Indian attack.

His lively knock altered the momentum of the afternoon session, which could have turned in India’s favour after Mohammed Shami uprooted Marnus Labuschagne’s off stump shortly after the lunch break.

Australia v India – ICC World Test Championship Final – Day One – The Oval
India’s Mohammed Siraj (centre) celebrates with his team-mates after dismissing Usman Khawaja (Steven Paston/PA)

It was a second well-timed breakthrough, after David Warner’s battling 43 came to end in timid fashion late in the morning’s play, Shardul Thakur brushing his glove with a short ball speared down the leg side.

India had chosen to field after winning the toss and it looked a sound decision during an awkward first hour for the Australian batters.

Mohammed Shami kept Warner honest during a fine opening burst with the new ball, working over the left-hander from round the wicket in a way that will not have escaped the attention of his old nemesis Stuart Broad.

He survived the examination, with a couple of fortuitous moments along the way, but Usman Khawaja banked a 10-ball duck when he nicked the quicker Mohammed Siraj to Srikar Bharat.

There was an early scare for Labuschagne, who dramatically dropped the bat in pain when Umesh Yadav rapped him on the left thumb with a sharp, lifting delivery.

Australia v India – ICC World Test Championship Final – Day One – The Oval
Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne checks his hand after being hit by the ball (Steven Paston/PA)

England fans would be forgiven for having the Ashes on their minds as Labuschagne received treatment and popped a couple of painkillers, but he resumed his innings and even wore another blow to the hand to reach lunch on 26 not out.

Warner, having survived his initial trial, began to open up and took a particular liking to Yadav, at one stage lashing the seamer for four boundaries in a single over.

The 36-year-old, who recently announced his plans to retire in the new year, was growing in confidence and will have been annoyed at the manner of his dismissal, well caught by the diving Bharat after getting into a poor position against a modest ball from Thakur.

Labuschagne, who had survived a couple of close lbw appeals, did not kick on in the afternoon – emphatically missing one that was tossed up full and thumped halfway up his off stump.

Steve Smith settled in for a low-key stay, grinding out 33 off 102 balls, leaving the stage for Head (60no) to throw the bat confidently and swing the pendulum in Australia’s favour.