Khawaja cracks 14th Test ton as Aus gain upper hand

Ahmedabad: Usman Khawaja’s patient hundred-plus and quickfire unbeaten 49 by Cameron Green propelled Australia to reach 255/4 at stumps on Day 1 of the fourth Test of Border-Gavaskar Trophy at Narendra Modi Stadium here on Thursday.

Khawaja put on crucial partnerships with Steve Smith and Cameron Green to help Australia get hold on to the match.

When the stumps were drawn, Khawaja was batting on 104 runs which came off 251 balls with 15 hits to the fence, and Green’s knock came in just 64 balls after smashing eight beautifully-timed boundaries.

Khawaja was an epitome of endurance and hard work on a batting pitch as he grinded India’s bowling, and in the process became the only batsman after Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Chandimal (25* to 147*) since 2013 to bat out an entire day’s play.

Khawaja clipped past square leg for a boundary off Mohammad Shami to reach his 14th Test century and also to become the first Aussie on this tour to cross the three digit mark.

Green, on the other hand, was quite the opposite of Khawaja. He batted in a positive frame of mind, and the duo stitched a crucial unbroken 85 runs partnership for the fifth wicket.

Australia could be a happier team going into stumps, while India might be disappointed with their performance with the second new ball. They conceded 56 runs in 10 overs in the last hour of the day’s play.

Travis Head started off on an aggressive note and got a chance as well but fell to Ravichandran Ashwin in the first session.

Marnus Labuschagne continued to falter and was bowled for 3. Steve Smith and Khawaja stitched a fine partnership of 79 runs for third wicket before Ravindra Jadeja managed to get rid of the former.

Peter Handscomb in his brief stay didn’t ruffle too many feathers. He was bowled by Shami for 17.

Australia dominated the first hour as openers Head and Khawaja stitched the highest opening partnership of the series for them. In the second hour, India just leaked 19 runs, thanks to Ashwin and Shami’s bowling.

Head was lucky to have survived as he nearly was caught by Srikar Bharat behind the stumps off pacer Umesh Yadav, but he was scalped by Ashwin soon after the drinks break as the Aussie missed a shot towards mid-on where Jadeja took a safe catch moving across to his left. He scored a useful 32 runs to give Australia a fabulous start.

Labuschagne did not last long either as Shami got his wicket as the No.3 batsman chopped one on to his stumps while trying to punch through the off-side.

A dogged 65 not out by Khawaja and an unbeaten 38 by Smith, helped Australia reach 149/2 at tea.

The duo applied themselves superbly on a pitch where the scoring has not been easy, but they kept themselves busy. They waited for the bad balls to put away to boundaries, but defended those aimed at wickets.

Khawaja cracked his third fifty of the series as he whipped the ball over the rope consistently. On the contrary, Smith was disciplined in his methods, preferring to grind India on a sultry day.

On the other hand, Indian bowlers, especially the spinners were not getting any help from the track as they extracted in the first three Tests. To get wickets, captain Rohit Sharma rotated his bowlers and also chucked one to Shreyas Iyer just before tea.

Brief Scores: Australia 255/4 (Usman Khawaja 104*, Cameron Green 49*; Mohammed Shami 2-65) vs India


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