London, Jun 10 (IANS): Marnus Labuschagne overcame a fiery examination and uncharacteristic start to be 41 not out as Australia increased their lead to 296, finishing day three's play at 123/4 in 44 overs in the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval, here on Friday.
It was an interesting day where India made a spirited fight back, thanks to a splendid 109-run partnership between Ajinkya Rahane (89) and Shardul Thakur (51) helping the side avoid follow-on. But Australia are still in a strong position as they bowled out India for 296 in the first innings, gaining a vital 173-run lead.
India put up a much-improved show with the ball, using short balls to good effect and were bang on in their tactics too, resulting in David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Travis Head being out before the day came to an end.
Keeping Labuschagne company at stumps on day three is Cameron Green at seven not out and through the duo, Australia will be aiming to increase their lead to 400 and beyond to set up a stiff chase for India.
India continued from where they left off in the second session -- getting extra bounce while pitching consistently in good and short lengths to trouble Khawaja and Labuschagne. Umesh Yadav entered the wicket-takers list by enticing Khawaja to drive a wide length ball, and nicked behind to KS Bharat.
Labuschagne finally found his release from a scratchy start by flicking off Umesh and Shami twice for fours while Steve Smith got up and running by pulling off Shami and punching against Umesh to pick a brace of boundaries.
The duo then resorted to strike-rotation to keep the scoreboard ticking as the ball stopped being lively, with Labuschagne taking driving and pulling off pacers for boundaries while Smith fired an edge past slip off Ravindra Jadeja for four.
The 62-run partnership came to an end when Smith danced down the pitch against a short and wide ball from Jadeja and skied high to cover-point. Travis Head was kept in check by spinning in balls from Jadeja while being troubled by bouncers from Siraj, though he did get a pulled six off a no-ball.
Head was dropped on 12 when Umesh couldn't catch his slog-sweep off Jadeja at deep mid-wicket to concede a six. But a ball later, Head's attempt to cover drive against the turn backfired as Jadeja took a catch off his own bowling. Labuschagne and Cameron Green stayed at the crease, resisting every challenge from Indian bowlers till stumps arrived.
Brief Scores: Australia 469 in 121.3 overs and 123/4 in 44 overs (Marnus Labuschagne 41 not out, Steve Smith 34; Ravindra Jadeja 2/25, Umesh Yadav 1/21) lead India 296 in 69.4 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 89, Shardul Thakur 51; Pat Cummins 3/83, Cameron Green 2/44) by 296 runs.