"I don't think Australia will opt for the follow-on" - Harbhajan Singh believes India will have to bat last in the WTC final
Former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh feels that Australia will pass on the opportunity to enforce the follow-on in the World Test Championship (WTC) if they go on to amass a first-innings lead of over 200 runs.
Team India are currently placed at 151-5 in pursuit of Australia's mammoth score of 469. With five wickets in hand, India still need 118 runs to avoid the dreaded follow-on.
The Indian batters could not make a strong case over the bowling unit after losing their top order in no time. The likes of Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara had to pay for their misjudged leaves while Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were undone by quality bowling from the experienced Australian bowling unit.
Additionally, the pitch at The Oval also showed some life in the form of some inconsistent bounce and considerable movement after pitching as well.
Considering the nature of the surface, Harbhajan Singh believes that Australia will look to bat once again even if they amass a lead of over 200.
"I don't think Australia will opt for the follow-on if they have the opportunity to do so. They will come in and score runs again and leave India to bat last on this pitch. It will be tough to bat on this wicket in the fourth innings," he said on his YouTube channel.
Harbhajan summed up the first half of Day 2, saying:
"The plan to bowl short to Travis Head worked as well. But, Australia scored way too many runs in the first innings. Steve Smith is a big-match player, and is the best players who stand out when the stakes are high. Siraj took four wickets, but it came late in a way."
Indian bowlers responded well after claiming only three wickets on the opening day of the WTC final. Alex Carey made a crucial contribution, but the tail order could not offer much resistance.
"This contest has largely drifted away from India's grasp" - Harbhajan Singh
Team India have an uphill battle head after being on the back foot with the ball as well as the bat against the rampant Australian side so far. The Rohit Sharma-led side are hanging by a thread at the moment and should they be second best on Day 3 as well, the contest will be all but over.
Noting that Australia are far ahead in the match, Harbhajan said:
"I don't feel like talking about the WTC Final at all because this contest has largely drifted away from India's grasp. There was a lot of difference in bowling by the Indians on Day 1 and Day 2. India were able to get wickets quickly and bowl out Australia quickly by pitching the ball up."
Building towards Australia's imperious first innings score, the duo of Ajinkya Rahane and KS Bharat currently occupy the crease unbeaten on 29 and 5, respectively, at Stumps on Day 2.
Will Team India come up with a fightback on Day 3 of the WTC Final? Let us know what you think.