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WTC Final 2023: Is India doing fine at the top? Ashwin a choice out of the blue?


When they play India at the Oval on June 7, Australia will be hoping to add another world title to their impressive list. India, on the other hand, will be desperate to end their 10-year winless streak in ICC tournaments. In recent years, India has dominated Australia, winning each of their four series by a score of 2-1. However, Australia can take comfort in the fact that their record in the first Test of these four series is a more even 2-2. Here is a look at some of the most important things that could make a difference in the final battle.

A different kind of Kennington Oval Test

The month of June will be the first time that the second-oldest Test ground in the world, which has been used for 104 Tests, will be used. Since 2016, in the last six Tests at the Oval, the average team score has grown in a strange way as the game goes on. The average score for the first inning is 269. The average score for the second inning is 280, and the average score for the third inning is 326. In terms of numbers for each day, batters hit an average of 28.26 on the first day, 31.70 on the second, and 32.18 on the third. It says “more than respectable” (30.21) on the fourth day, which shows that it gets easier to bat as the game goes on.

When you look at the numbers, you need to keep in mind that the game was in early June, which is earlier than most games here in the late summer. The last four Tests played at the Oval have all been in September, at the end of the English summer. In the last 30 years, only two Tests have been played there before August (in 2012 and 2017). The home team, Surrey, won all three Championship matches played here in 2023 when they batted second. In these three games, pacers have taken 90 wickets at a rate of 27.60, while spinners have only got one.

Australia is the best at hitting.

In the second round of the WTC, Australia’s top six batters averaged 46.07, which was more than two runs better than the next-best team, Pakistan. Usman Khawaja has scored the most runs for WTC. He has 1608 runs at a rate of 69.91, with six knocks of 100 or more in different circumstances. Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, and Travis Head are all in the top seven. They have all scored more than 1,000 runs with an average of 50 or more, and Head has scored 80 runs for every 100 balls.

Australia gets a low score in WTC 2

Player Mat Inngs Runs HS Avg SR 100s 50s
U Khawaja 16 28 1608 195* 69.91 50.4 6 7 M Labuschagne was 33rd out of 1509 with a score of 53.89. Smith was fifth with a score of 50.08. Head was sixth with a score of 52.52. Warner had a score of 17-28-847-200-31.37-59.43; C. Green had 16-21-705-114-39.16-51.27; A. Carey had 19-25-689-111-31.31-59.86; M. Harris had 4-7-179-76-29.83-37.29-0;
India, on the other hand, is in sixth place, with an average of 33.74, and none of their bowlers have reached 1000 runs. India’s top three batsmen, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ajinkya Rahane, had all been failing to get runs with the red ball in the previous year. This made it hard for them to start WTC 2. India’s middle-order players have changed a lot over the course of the cycle, but a lot of things have stayed the same as the cycle nears its end. After losing the series in South Africa in 2021/22, both Pujara and Rahane were let go. However, as luck would have it, India’s top seven players in the WTC 2 final will look exactly the same as they did two years ago in Southampton. The only difference is that Rishabh Pant will not be playing because he is injured.

When Australia bowled India out for 36 in Adelaide, one of the reasons given for why India fell apart was that they kept putting in right-handers one after the other. With the return of Pant and Ravindra Jadeja to the batting lineup, India had two left-handed batsmen to break up all the right-handed batsmen. However, Pant’s absence will be a big blow because it means India won’t have their best batsman in WTC 2 and won’t have a left-handed batsman to break up the middle order trio of Pujara, Kohli, and Rahane. Ishan Kishan is a pick out of left field, but it remains to be seen if India will give him his debut in the summit match.

Pat Cummins was a nightmare for right-handed English hitters in the 2019 Ashes. He took 21 wickets at just 14 runs each, and he got a wicket every six overs. Cummins has a great record against Pujara and Kohli. He has gotten rid of each of them seven times and their averages are 24.57 and 16.40. He has also beaten Gill three times, with an average score of 19.67. Taming Cummins will be the most important thing for India to do if they want to put up a big score in the first game. Josh Hazlewood was with Cummins when they bowled out India for 36. He has been ruled out, so Scott Boland is most likely to take his place. In seven Tests, 24 of Boland’s 28 victims have been right-handers, against whom he has an average of 11.29.

On the other hand, Australia’s top four batsmen are left-handed, and in recent years, no team has bowled better against left-handed batsmen than India. During their last two trips to England, Mohammed Siraj and R. Ashwin did a great job against left-handed batters, averaging 18.86 and 14.85, respectively. The biggest problem for the Indian team management will be deciding who to leave out of Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, and Shardul Thakur. Even though the conditions might suggest that India should pick four seamers plus Jadeja and strengthen their batting, which is what they did on their last trip to England, Ashwin’s recent success against Smith (five dismissals at 17.20 since the 2020/21 series) tips the scales in his favor. Given his track record against India in Tests in England, especially at the Oval, Smith will be India’s biggest problem. Smith has beaten the Indian fast bowlers, scoring an average of 137 runs against Shami, 66.75 runs against Umesh, and 44 runs against Siraj.

India’s big problem is that they don’t have as many fast bowlers as they used to, so the big question is whether their change bowlers can bowl dry for long periods of time. This is something they haven’t been able to do very often in this cycle, especially in away Tests in England and South Africa. This is a big change from when Kohli and Ravi Shastri were in charge and their fast bowlers would often go on long dry spells to keep hitters honest and keep the game from getting away from them.

For example, the final of WTC 1 was held in Southampton a few years ago. In their first game, New Zealand only had to defend 217 runs. They got off to a great start by getting to 100 without losing a wicket, but India’s bowlers made sure it took them 45 overs to get there. In the next 35 overs, India gave up about 50 runs with the old ball and took four wickets.

This was the skill they didn’t seem to have in the last 18 months when they lost in South Africa and England. They failed to protect fourth innings targets in three straight Tests, giving up runs at rates of 3.59, 3.34, and 4.93. The change bowlers went at a rate of 4.07 per over in these three Test losses. India will miss Ishant Sharma’s knowledge and Jasprit Bumrah’s defensive skills a lot at the Oval later this week. They need one of their seamers to step up and do a great job in their place. In WTC 2, Australia’s lower middle order (batting positions 5-7) scores nearly 39 and strikes at 62. In Head, Green, and Carey, Australia has an aggressive lineup of lower middle order batters who can win the game in half a session.

The fight between two giants should be exciting, and the team that makes the other one blink first could end up being the winner.

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