Australia in total control against India at the Oval

By Sports Desk June 10, 2023

Australia continued their push towards victory in the World Test Championship final against India, taking their lead to 374 on the fourth morning at the Oval.

Despite Shardul Thakur declaring that his side would back themselves to chase 450, the Test record fourth innings chase at Surrey’s home ground stands at 263, leaving Australia as huge favourites.

At lunch Australia had moved to 201 for six, having scored 78 in the session for the loss of overnight pair Marnus Labuschagne and Cameron Green.

Labuschagne, the world’s number one ranked batter, failed to add to his existing score of 41 and was sent on his way in the third over of the morning as he drove at Umesh Yadav outside off stump. The edge flew hard at Cheteshwar Pujara in the slips, but he held on well.

That was the quick breakthrough India needed to lift their spirits, but the scale of the task ahead was pressed home immediately as new man Alex Carey steered his first ball for four to take the lead past 300.

Green and Carey set about firming up the Australian position, playing carefully on a pitch that has continued to misbehave throughout the match.

Green was struck on the shoulder by Mohammed Siraj, no mean feat with the all-rounder’s 6ft 6in stature, and later gloved a bouncer down to the fine-leg boundary as it climbed towards his rib cage.

He eventually fell for 25 in 95 balls, a becalmed knock by any measure, losing a battle of wills with spinner Ravindra Jadeja. Having used his pad to block Jadeja’s negative leg-side line, he got defence slightly wrong and allowed the ball to canon into his stumps after ricocheting off the glove.

Carey remained in place, with five fours in a resourceful 41no, with Mitchell Starc in support as India’s chances dried up.

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    “The guys are ready to go.”

    That is the declaration from West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite, as his team targets a significantly improved batting performance in the second Test against England at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

    After being hammered by an innings and 114 runs in the opening contest at Lord’s last week, West Indies require a win to not only level the three-match series but, more importantly, to lift their spirits and hopes of pulling off a series win in England for the first time since 1988. Whether they will produce an efficient enough performance to achieve the feat is left to be seen.

    The Caribbean side only managed scores of 121 and 136 across both innings, while England only required one innings for their match-winning 371.

    Despite that, Brathwaite backed his inexperienced batting line-up to bounce back, as the past few days have harboured much talk about their famous comeback against Australia in Gabba earlier this year.

    "Obviously, it is a young team, and playing any Test match would always be a challenge for anyone that’s young. We’ve been here for a number of weeks now, and what is gone is gone. The first defeat is gone, the preparation period is gone, and I think the guys are in very good spirits, and mentally, it’s very important to believe in yourself,” Brathwaite said during a pre-game conference. 

    “The guys are ready to go. It’s pretty simple what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to bat a lot better. Obviously, we’ve got to find a way, which we’ve had some discussions around different things we can do better as a team. We’ve just got to put runs on the board. It’s simple,” he added.

    Brathwaite takes a break after a training session. (Getty Images)

    With only debutant Mikyle Louis (27), Kavem Hodge (24) and Alick Athanaze (23), Jason Holder, and Gudakesh Motie (31) offering very little resistance in the first Test, Brathwaite believes the disappointment should serve as motivation for his team heading into the second encounter.

    “We have a motivation – we’ve got to be better than the first Test. The batsmen have to obviously put runs on the board and that’s our focus. I think once we remain disciplined, session by session, build partnerships that will put us in a good position in the overall result of the game. A few guys did get in but didn’t go on,” Brathwaite reasoned.

    He continued: “It’s just important that you go on for longer because the longer you bat, the easier it becomes, and it’s important to stay in that plan for as long as possible.  Obviously, you want to put away bad balls – that’s what every batsman wants to do – but it’s that hard work you do for 40 minutes, being able to take that to an hour and two hours.

    “It’s a mixture of putting away the bad balls because when you put away the bad balls, it gives you confidence, so we just have to keep learning. I think a lot of learning would’ve taken place in the first Test, and we just have to believe in our ability and do it for longer periods.”

    While he has been scrutinised for failing to lead from the front at the top of the order, Brathwaite argued that his lean spell has little to do with his captaincy.

    The Barbadian, who is the most experienced player in the team with 90 Tests under his belt, has only tallied a paltry 44 runs in his last six innings.

    “I enjoy captaining, I enjoy leading. I’ve been opening my whole life, so when I go out there to bat, it’s always to see off that new ball and be there as long as I can—that’s always my focus. I don’t see it as any added pressure. Yes, at times you don’t get runs, and it can be a little bit tough, but it is important to stay mentally tough and keep believing,” Brathwaite ended.

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    Ben Stokes says it is an "exciting time" to be a fast bowler for England as they prepare for their second Test against the West Indies this week.

    England won the first Test by an innings and 114 runs at Lord's last week, with James Anderson, their all-time leading wicket-taker, playing for the final time.

    Chris Woakes, now the senior seamer in the squad, will lead the attack at Trent Bridge in his 50th Test, along with Gus Atkinson, who impressed on his debut by taking 12 wickets.

    With Anderson joining England's coaching staff, Mark Wood, who was unavailable for the first Test after playing in the T20 World Cup, has been called up to replace him.

    Matthew Potts and uncapped Dillon Pennington make up the rest of the fast bowlers, with Stokes excited by the upcoming talent in the squad.

    "It's a really exciting time to be a fast bowler in England," Stokes told BBC Sport.

    "It is very exciting, the prospect of seeing Gus Atkinson bowl at one end and Mark Wood at the other.

    "There will be opportunities for Dillon, no doubt, in the summer, but at this moment in time, Woody makes it into our strongest XI."

    After their comprehensive win last week, England can take an unassailable 2-0 lead with another victory in Nottingham and would seal their first series win since the tour of Pakistan in 2022.

    However, Thursday's Test will be the first time since 2012 that England will play at home without either Anderson or Stuart Broad, who retired last year.

    "Without sounding too over the top, there was always going to be a time where that was going to hit English cricket," said Stokes.

    "There are going to be opportunities for guys throughout the rest of the summer and over the next 18 months to two years."

  • Crawley hails Anderson's seamless coaching transition ahead of second West Indies Test Crawley hails Anderson's seamless coaching transition ahead of second West Indies Test

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    Anderson bowed out of international cricket last week, featuring for the final time as England thrashed West Indies at Lord's. 

    The 41-year-old took four wickets, taking his overall career tally to 704, while Gus Atkinson starred on his Test debut.

    Anderson is now acting as a bowling mentor, and Crawley believes his former team-mate has transitioned seamlessly into his new role.

    Crawley told BBC Sport: "He's going into his new role pretty seamlessly.

    "It's normal and he's the same bloke.

    "I always found he was really helpful to my game anyway, talking to him about how he bowled at me and certain things like that."

    Mark Wood has replaced Anderson in England's bowling attack, which starts on Thursday at Trent Bridge.

    Though England won the first Test by an innings and 114 runs, Crawley says they are taking nothing for granted.

    "We know they're a good side," he said.

    "They've got some really, really good players in that team, so we're going to have to perform well to beat them.

    "We don't take anyone for granted. We have to be sharp and perform like we did at Lord's.

    "It was a really good performance and we want to back that up again."

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