Australia batter Travis Head has recorded a special slice of cricket history with a stunning century (146 not out) against India on day one of the World Test Championship final at The Oval. Head lay down an emphatic marker ahead of the Ashes series, combining with the brilliant Steve Smith (95 not out) to put the Aussies in control at 3-327 at stumps after the opening day.
The Aussies lost the toss and were sent in to bat by India, who controversially left out the No.1 ranked bowler in Test cricket, Ravi Ashwin, after assessing the green pitch and overcast conditions and deciding to go with an extra seamer. The bold move looked to pay off after India removed opener Usman Khawaja for a duck, but the Aussies rebounded brilliantly.
'THAT'S A JOKE': Aussie legend's brutal call amid Warner bombshell
'YOU CANNOT HIDE': Nathan Lyon's blunt Test cricket warning
David Warner did enough to ensure he will play in next week's first Ashes Test at Edgbaston with a fighting 43, before he was caught down leg side when a big score beckoned. Marnus Labuschagne ground out 26 runs before being clean bowled by Mohammed Shami, leaving Smith and Head to take up the charge for the Australians.
Head's display in particular will no doubt strike fear in the England side ahead of the Ashes as he became the first player in history to score a century in a WTC final. More than that slice of history, it was the manner in which Head scored his runs that really took the eye.
Australia's own version of England's 'Bazball' phenomenon, Head again scored at a rapid rate with another counter-attacking hundred after arriving at 3-76. He brought up his ton in just 106 balls, highlighting once again his ability to score at an incredible rate for Test cricket.
Dropped for the last Test of the 2019 Ashes when he averaged 27.28, Head's first overseas Test century showed he is a different batsman now. He flamboyantly flicked the ball off his pads, and upper-cut Mohammed Shami to and then over the third-man boundary off back-to-back balls.
When India adopted a barrage of short balls after tea it briefly slowed him, but while he took a glancing blow to the helmet he brought up his century hooking Shami. The 29-year-old then took to Shardul Thakur late in the day with a swashbuckling cover drive and another uppercut among his 22 boundaries.
Travis Head innings leaves cricket world in awe
In an incredible omen for Head and his teammates, the Aussies are yet to lose a match in which the 29-year-old has scored a century. Head's latest swashbuckling ton left the cricket world gobsmacked on social media.
— ICC (@ICC) June 7, 2023
CENTURY IN THE WTC FINAL FOR TRAVIS HEAD...!!
What a crazy innings by Head. A hundred in just 106 balls. He absolutely took on the Indian attack and put on a show at the Oval. pic.twitter.com/aji96TEhuq
— Mufaddal Vohra (@mufaddal_vohra) June 7, 2023
— Sportskeeda (@Sportskeeda) June 7, 2023
Travis Head has completed 2500 runs with an average 48+ and strike rate of 63+ in Test Cricket.
What a player. pic.twitter.com/euWAYuZXxc
— CricketMAN2 (@ImTanujSingh) June 7, 2023
Travis Head becomes the first batter to score a hundred in the WTC final.
He is standing tall on the big stage. pic.twitter.com/TVnnxlYiHa
— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) June 7, 2023
— Farid Khan (@_FaridKhan) June 7, 2023
Crazy 100 from Travis Head. Fearless batting.
— Nadim. (@nadimspeaks) June 7, 2023
"Technically I've made those changes, not just for England, but all around," said Head, who was the player of the series in the last Ashes campaign back home. "There are certain parts of your game you adapt to each conditions you go to. That's the same going anywhere.
"But the foundations I have set with my technique have definitely changed a lot since 2019. I felt like coming here I was in a better place." Head hit two centuries in the 2021-22 home Ashes, but the only thing that could offer England more nightmares than him firing would be a merciless Smith.
In his first Test in England since his Bradman-esque 2019 Ashes, Smith looked just as determined in his 227-ball masterclass. Australia's vice-captain left outside his off stump patiently, and worked balls off his toes to the square-leg and mid-on boundaries as regularly as he did against England four years ago.
Between them, the pair put on an unbeaten 251-run stand, giving Australia the clear advantage after they were asked to bat. “Losing the toss this morning, we’ve done exceptionally well,” Head said at stumps.
“A lot of hard work to go tomorrow morning, but nice to make a really good start. “I was trying to make sure I was in really good positions today. I got tested through parts of that. I just tried to work through those periods and be adjustable. It’s nice when you’ve got a bloke at the other end playing as well as he is.”
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.