Steve Smith and Travis Head knocked off milestones and India took out both batters on the second morning of the World Test Championship final at the Oval on Thursday.
Australia was 422-7 at lunch after losing four wickets in the session including Head for 163 and Smith for 121.
With the second new ball, seamers Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur were finding some variable bounce and all took a wicket each to force Australia to prune back its hopes of a 500 total.
Wicketkeeper Alex Carey was on 22 with captain Pat Cummins on 2. Australia added 95 runs in 24 overs of pace, at a crawl again by India.
Overnight batters Smith and Head didn’t waste time.
Head, resuming on 146, hit the morning’s first ball for a single to give Smith, on 95, the strike. Smith flicked the next two half-volleys to the boundary to raise his 31st hundred in his 97th test. This was Smith’s seventh test hundred in England. Of non-Englishmen to score hundreds in England in test history, only Don Bradman has more, with 11.
Smith raised his bat with a defiant look, hugged Head, and returned to the crease, which he stepped away from while Siraj was running in. Smith was bothered by the shadow of the spider cam. Siraj was annoyed by Smith and they bantered.
Head’s cut to the boundary for a 23rd time took him past 150 for the fourth time among his six test hundreds.
India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey criticized his bowlers after the first day for not targeting Head’s short-ball weakness earlier. The seamers stuck at it on Thursday and got Head after half an hour, guiding Siraj down the leg side straight to Srikar Bharat.
Head’s brilliant counterattacking century finished on 163 off 174 balls, with 25 boundaries and the only six so far.
It was the end of a magnificent stand of 285 between him and Smith that last nearly 4 1/2 hours.
Cameron Green steered his first delivery in a test in England around the slips to the fence but was out for 6 after edging Shami to Shubman Gill at second slip.
Smith then surprised. India couldn’t touch him and Smith did it for them when he chopped on against Thakur. Smith had 121 runs from 268 balls with 19 boundaries. He didn’t walk off satisfied.
Mitchell Starc then ran himself out for 5 after a skillful pick up and throw by substitute fielder Axar Patel.