When Mohammed Shami asked for a DRS review on an lbw decision with India nine men down and 212 runs short of their victory target in the World Test Championship final against Australia, even die-hard fans could be forgiven for wondering why he bothered.
In the end, the DRS intervention only delayed Australia’s celebrations by around five minutes.
The truth of the matter is that India lost their second successive WTC final on day two of this encounter when they collapsed to 71-4 in response to Australia’s first-innings total of 469. From that point on they always looked second best, even though the world rankings state they are top dogs.
Only three Indian batsmen managed to stick around long enough to score more than 15 runs in their first innings: Ajinkya Rahane (89), Ravindra Jadeja (48) and Shardul Thakur (51). And once Australia had set up a 444-run fourth-innings target, Pat Cummins’ side looked locked-in for the victory.
For Australia, losing the toss on the opening morning could not have worked out better.
First Travis Head (163) and Steve Smith (121) enjoyed a 285-run partnership to set Australia on their way. Then pace quartet Scott Boland, Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green kept delivering killer blows to scoop nine wickets between them in India’s first innings.
“I thought we started well with winning the toss and we bowled pretty well in the first session. Then we let ourselves down,” a dejected Indian captain Rohit Sharma said after India suffered the second successive WTC final defeat.
“You have to give credit to the Australian batters, especially Travis Head came in and played really well along with Steven Smith. That took us off guard and we knew it was hard to come back.”
Considering the highest-ever successful fourth-innings run chase at The Oval is 263, which England achieved against Australia more than a century ago in 1902, the task facing India looked pretty hopeless.
Rohit and Co nevertheless tried to talk up their chances by saying at the end of day four that they “hundred percent” believed they could overhaul Australia’s monumental target on Sunday.
“In the second innings, we didn’t apply ourselves with the bat. It was a good pitch to bat on all five days, the pitch behaved pretty well, but we didn’t capitalise,” Rohit added after India folded for 234 to hand Australia a 209-run victory.
“Playing two finals is a good achievement for us, but we would like to go a mile ahead of that as well.”
For Cummins it was a job well done by a team who face a long summer in England with the first Ashes starting in Edgbaston in just five days.
“The way Travis and Smith put on that partnership put us at ease,” said the Australian skipper.
“At times we weren’t our slickest but for the most part we were in control.
“We came into this with different preparation but everyone was switched on. We’ll savour this and then turn our attention to the Ashes.”