Taking into account the initial overcast conditions at The Oval, Rohit Sharma, the captain of the Indian cricket team, made the decision to bowl first. He opted for a four-member seam attack consisting of Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, and Shardul Thakur, supported by the lone spinner Ravindra Jadeja.
Surprisingly, this lineup excluded Ravichandran Ashwin, the current top-ranked Test bowler, even though Australia had four left-handed batsmen in their top six, against whom Ashwin had a remarkable track record.
The debate surrounding Ashwin’s omission didn’t last long, as Mohammed Siraj dismissed Usman Khawaja for a duck in the fourth over. However, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne held their ground for the next 17 overs, preventing any further damage and taking Australia’s score to 71/1.
Despite challenging batting conditions, the Indian seamers struggled to trouble the Australian batsmen until Warner gave away his wicket to Shardul Thakur. Nevertheless, Australia reached a strong position by lunch, with a total of 73/2 at the end of 23 overs.
India commenced the second session with a remarkable breakthrough, as Mohammed Shami swiftly dismissed Labuschagne within seven balls after the break. At this point, the match hung in the balance. However, Travis Head and Steve Smith had different plans as they forged one of Australia’s greatest partnerships in Test history, claiming dominance for the day.
While Smith displayed his resilience from one end, Head maintained his usual aggressive pace, ensuring the scoreboard kept ticking. The Indian seamers, along with Jadeja, appeared helpless against this formidable duo, as the Australian team crossed the 300-run mark without offering even the slightest opportunity.
Head, who reached his sixth Test century in just 106 balls, remained unbeaten on 146, while Smith fell five runs short of his 31st century in Test cricket at the end of the day’s play.