WTC Final 2023: India dig in before final launch

Chasing a mammoth target, Kohli and Rahane keep team alive despite losing wickets against run of play on Day 4
India's Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane on day 4 of the World Test Championship final against Australia at the Oval in London on Saturday. (Photo | AFP)
India's Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane on day 4 of the World Test Championship final against Australia at the Oval in London on Saturday. (Photo | AFP)
LONDON: Shortly before tea on Saturday, the mood turned. As if a batch of rain-bearing clouds had replaced blue-bird skies without any warning. In pursuit of history, India were motoring along.
The crowd, a majority of them wearing blue, had settled in with their post-lunch beer mugs and accompaniments. On the field, the Australians were already forced into one ball change; the effect of leaking five boundaries inside the first four overs. They did have 444 runs to play with but Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill had very quickly set the tempo. So, Pat Cummins removed himself and gave the replacement ball to Mitchell Starc.

Off Starc’s second delivery, Sharma helped the short ball behind square for a six. That was the mood the two openers were in. Forget about playing for tea. With one over remaining for the break, Scott Boland was entrusted with the task of trying to break the partnership. He did just that, inducing a false shot from Gill whose ill-advised waft away from the body found the outside edge.

What lit the blue torch paper, though, was what happened afterwards. The thick edge flew wide off Cameron Green whose acrobatic one-handed grab was played over and over again on the big screens. While Gill stood his ground — as he was entitled to — the third umpire took his time, pouring over the finer details of the catch from all angles available to him (with no soft signal to guide him, he was free to make his own decision, his own interpretation). While replays were inconclusive, to say the least, the umpire was of the opinion that Green’s fingers were underneath the ball.

As soon as ‘Out’ flashed on the screen, the capacity crowd made their displeasure known. “Cheat, cheat, cheat,’ rained down the terraces as the teams made their off for tea. Both batters reacted to the decision with an element of disbelief; while Gill was shocked, Sharma screamed. After tea, the crowd had fully brought into the theory that Gill was robbed. When Green was brought into the attack, they welcomed him with chants of ‘cheat’. The wicket couldn’t have come at a worse time for the team.

They also lost the wickets of a well-set Sharma and an aggressive Cheteshwar Pujara before the close of play but Sunday morning will dawn with the promise of hope and history for a team aiming to win their first ICC title in a decade. It’s simple, really. They either have to bat the whole day to share the title or successfully chase down a target of 444. The record chase, as it stands, is 418 (West Indies against Australia). At stumps, India were 164/3.

All four results are still possible as the pitch seems to have lost that bit of bite it had. There is still some sort of uneven bounce but it isn’t as extreme as it was on the first few days. There is a lot of rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump but India have only one southpaw and Australia do not have a frontline leg-spinner.

If Sharma, Gill and, to a lesser extent, Pujara (he got out while trying to ramp Cummins), set the tone with a positive mindset, Virat Kohli kept up the run-scoring. While Ajinkya Rahane, who sustained a finger injury during his first essay, was a touch more cautious, India’s No. 4 looked at ease during his unbeaten xx. Some of the shots he played were worth the admission fee alone. One shot, an off-drive off Mitchell Starc just as the shadows were beginning to lengthen across the ground, will be a part of the highlights reel.

The one unmistakable aspect of India’s chase on Saturday was the way they had paced their innings. They scored a high percentage of their runs in boundaries (102 out of 163) and played out only two maidens across 40 overs.

Of course, it won’t be easy on Sunday. Chasing history — climbing Everest — is hard work. Late in the day, Lyon found Rahane’s outside edge but Alex Carey couldn’t hold on. Can India hold on? They have flirted with the idea of winning several global titles in the recent past. Yet they have found themselves short when it really mattered. A final here against Pakistan. A semifinal there against England. Knockout bouts against New Zealand. Now, this batch of players are in the unique position of composing a victory song that will stand the test of history.

As the fans dispersed, their moods had turned again. A reminder that there’s a golden sky at the end of a storm. As far as India is concerned, will the sky be golden on Sunday? The ride could be exhilarating.
Shubman Gill catch — what the WTC Final playing conditions say

33.2.1 A catch will be fair only if, in every case either the ball, at any time or any fielder in contact with the ball, is not grounded beyond the boundary before the catch is completed. 33.2.2 Furthermore, a catch will be fair if any of the following conditions applies: The ball is held in the hand or hands of a fielder, even if the hand holding the ball is touching the ground or is hugged to the body, or lodges in the external protective equipment worn by a fielder, or lodges accidentally in a fielder’s clothing. A fielder catches the ball after it has been lawfully struck more than once by the striker, but only if it has not been grounded since it was first struck. See clause 34 (Hit the ball twice). A fielder catches the ball after it has touched the wicket, an umpire, another fielder, or the other batter. A fielder catches the ball after it has crossed the boundary in the air, provided that the conditions in clause 33.2.1 are met. the ball is caught off an obstruction within the boundary that is not designated a boundary by the umpires.

Who said what
I think I caught it. In the heat of the moment, I thought it was clean. And the third umpire agreed with me — Cameroon Green

He (third umpire) could have taken some more time. This is the WTC Final, not a normal match. He could have zoomed in... but it’s all part of the game  — Mohammed Shami.

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The New Indian Express