June 11 (BBC) – Australia won the World Test Championship by ruthlessly dismantling India on the fifth day of the final at The Oval.
India’s slim hopes of reaching a world-record target of 444 rested on Virat Kohli, 44 not out as they began on 164-3, but the fans’ hero was out for 49 in the seventh over of the day.
Kohli aimed a loose drive at Scott Boland, with Steve Smith taking a stunning catch at second slip. In the same over, Ravindra Jadeja edged Boland behind.
The game in their grasp, Australia efficiently worked through the lower order before lunch to dismiss India for 234 and take victory by 209 runs. Boland ended with 3-46, off-spinner Nathan Lyon 4-41.
They become the second winners of the World Test Championship, following New Zealand’s success two years ago.
It means Australia carry the crown of being the best Test team in the world into the most eagerly-anticipated Ashes series in a generation.
The first match in the five-Test contest against England begins at Edgbaston on Friday.
Australia head to Ashes as world champions
Bar some brief moments of Indian defiance, Australia have been on top in this final since early on the first day and are deserved winners.
Despite the mountainous task facing Kohli and India on Sunday, their noisy fans had high levels of expectation, cheering every defensive stroke. When Kohli produced his fatal edge, the hope immediately drained from The Oval.
Indeed, by wrapping up victory in such swift fashion, Australia avoided a sapping day in the field with the Ashes only five days away.
This has been a supreme demonstration of why Australia will pose such a threat to Ben Stokes’ England. Their middle order is formidable, pace bowling potent and spinner Lyon a constant challenge. Their slip cordon misses little, too.
Still, England will have seen weaknesses. Openers David Warner and Usman Khawaja have poor records in this country, there are questions over Australia’s back-up fast bowling and also their collective temperament when under pressure.
Though ultimately won by a large margin, this was an excellent final, full of high-intensity Test cricket. The expectation is the intensity will only grow come Friday in Birmingham.
Boland breaks India resistance
Boland made a stunning start to his career as a 32-year-old in the last Ashes 18 months ago and his accuracy, relentlessness and seam movement have him primed to make a big impact this time around.
Kohli had made a calm, assured start when Boland dragged him into driving at a wide one. The thick edge flew to the right of second slip Smith, who took a spectacular catch in both hands with his body parallel to the ground.
Two balls later, Jadeja’s nick was audible around the ground. KS Bharat could have fallen to his first delivery, only for a spitting deflection off the glove to balloon over first slip.
Ajinkya Rahane remained, until one drive too many at Mitchell Starc ended his resistance on 46. Shardul Thakur played all around Lyon to be leg before and Umesh Yadav was bounced out by Starc.
Bharat’s swipe to be caught and bowled by Lyon delayed the lunch break, allowing time for last man Mohammed Siraj to reverse-sweep Lyon to point.
Australia embraced on the field, the Test mace and $1.6m (£1.27m) in their possession. They are the first team to win world titles in all three formats of the game and now set their sights on defending cricket’s oldest and most storied prize.
India’s wait goes on
India have been beaten in both World Test Championship finals. The powerhouse of global cricket, it is extraordinary they have not won a world title in any format since 2011.
They can rightly point to the absence of key players through injury – KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant were all absent at The Oval.
There will be questions over their decision to omit off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, ranked as the world’s number one bowler.
In reality, the game was decided by Australia racking up 327-3 after being asked to bat on day one then blowing away the India top order on day two. India did well to fight back and extend the contest as far as they did.
India’s formidable record at home, where they have not lost a series since 2012, means they are always likely to perform well in the Test Championship – they will be favourites to reach the final at Lord’s in 2025.
Before then, attention will firmly be on the 50-over World Cup in India in October and November this year, a golden opportunity to end their long trophy drought.