London, Jun 8 (IANS): Mohammed Siraj picked a four-wicket haul to lead a solid fightback from India on day two of the World Test Championship final and bowl out Australia for 469 in 121.3 overs of their first innings at The Oval, here on Thursday.
Australia began day two from their overnight score of 327/3 with Steve Smith making 121, his 31st Test century while Travis Head crossed 150 for the fourth time in his career to top-score with 163 as the duo shared a massive 285-run stand for the fourth wicket after being reduced to 76/3.
But India, who took only three wickets on a lacklustre day one, made a spirited fightback to pick the rest of seven wickets to bowl out Australia for 469 on a pitch, where there is some movement and variable bounce on offer.
A persistent Siraj was the pick of bowlers for India with 4/108, also becoming the 42nd bowler from the country to scalp 50 wickets in Tests. Pacers Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur took two wickets each while Ravindra Jadeja had a scalp to his name.
The day began with Siraj bowling two successive half-volleys to Smith, who flicked dazzlingly on both deliveries to reach his 31st Test hundred, also his seventh century in England. On the other hand, Head reached 150 with his trademark cut on the backfoot going for four off Mohammed Shami.
When Siraj and Shami angled short balls towards him, Head was quick to pull easily for two boundaries. India's tactic to bowl short to Head gave them success finally when he tried to shuffle across to use Siraj's pace, but gloved the pull to KS Bharat, as the massive 285-run partnership for the fourth wicket came to an end with the left-hander making 163.
One brought two for India as Cameron Green fell after nicking to second slip taking a sharp catch in front of his face off Shami. Four overs later, they fetched more success as Smith chopped on his stumps off an outswinger from Shardul Thakur, falling for 121.
Amidst all this, Alex Carey found boundaries thrice, one of which came off a streaky inside edge. After Australia crossed 400-mark, Mitchell Starc was beaten by Siraj twice. He was then run-out while going for a quick single, thanks to substitute fielder Axar Patel's sharp one-handed direct hit from mid-off.
The second session of the day began with some traces of variable bounce being seen. Carey clipped off Shami for four, before taking three boundaries off him – twice through leg-side and one past mid-off -- in the 113th over. He went on to launch Ravindra Jadeja over long-on for six, taking Australia above 450.
But Jadeja bounced back immediately as Carey missed a straighter delivery on reverse-sweep and was trapped lbw, ending his knock at 48 and his 51-run stand with captain Pat Cummins for the eighth wicket. Mohammed Siraj rattled Nathan Lyon's off-stump to pick his 50th Test wicket and had Cummins caught at extra cover to end Australia's innings.
Brief Scores: Australia 469 in 121.3 overs (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121; Mohammed Siraj 4/108, Shardul Thakur 2/83) against India