This World Test Championship final is Australia's 20th Test match in the two-year cycle. Four of their players have appeared in all the games. Travis Head has been part of 18 of them. One of his absences was due to Covid in Sydney during the 2021-22 Ashes, but the other was when he was dropped.
Head, unbeaten on 146 off 156 balls after the first day against India, has now scored 1354 runs in this WTC at an average of 58.86 and strike rate of 81.91, and he can eye a double-century on Thursday. However, earlier this year, he was not deemed worthy of a place in the first Test against India in Nagpur.
Whichever way the argument is spun with statistics, it will go down as one of the stranger selection calls in recent times, even when Head's previous struggles in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2022 are factored in, but he insisted there is no lingering resentment.
"It honestly doesn't faze me," he said at The Oval. "Very privileged to be where I am and do what I do. We've got a very strong squad of guys, selection isn't always going to go your way, it hasn't in the past, that's out of my control. All I can do is be as consistent as I can be on the field, [and] off the field enjoy myself.
"Yes, I'd love to play every Test but that won't always be the case. That gives good perspective to moments like this. Hopefully I don't get dropped too much in the future but it will definitely happen … it doesn't give me extra fuel.
"I know certain decisions haven't gone my way in the past but I feel like I [have] got a fair bit to contribute to this team and [am] valued within the team. I've got the backing of the staff and the captain and the players so it's nice."
Like Nagpur, The Oval is also a ground where Head has been on the rough end of a selection call when he was omitted from the final Test of the 2019 Ashes. This time his sixth Test century, and the fourth in this edition of the World Test Championship, three of which have come at decisive stages of an innings, powered Australia to 327 for 3 at the close.
The unbroken stand with Steven Smith was worth 251 to suggest few gremlins in the surface. However, batting was far from easy for considerable portions of the day, with some deliveries jumping from a length and others scuttling low. Australia, too, would have bowled first had they won the toss, but it appears to have worked out perfectly for them if the unevenness develops further over the game.
"If you get it in the right area there's plenty there," Head said. "As the game goes on, hopefully it gets a little quicker for us and we can find the right lengths, and I feel if you do that for long periods of time it can be a challenging wicket.
"That good length at the top of the stumps was hard work. And as we [saw] when they went to that short-pitched plan it wasn't the most consistent wicket, and the Dukes swings a little so it made for some awkward moments."