AHMEDABAD: Opener Usman Khawaja struck the first century of the series by an Australian batsman as the tourists reached 255-4 on Thursday’s opening day of the fourth Test against India.
The left-handed Khawaja, batting on 104, put on key stands including a 79-run third-wicket partnership with skipper Steve Smith, who made 38, to hand Australia a strong start.
After a long grind, Khawaja was batting alongside Cameron Green, on 49, at close of play after Australia elected to bat at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.
The Pakistan-born Khawaja jumped up in joy after he raised the second hundred of a low-scoring series with a boundary in the final over of the day.
India skipper Rohit Sharma hit 120 in the opener, but is now second to the Australian opener, who leads the series batting chart with 257 runs.
Green remained the attacking partner in an unbeaten 85-run partnership with Khawaja that once again stamped Australia’s dominance despite two wickets in the final session.
Travis Head started aggressively and made 32 in a 61-run opening partnership with Khawaja before India hit back with two wickets in the first session.
Khawaja and stand-in-skipper Smith got down to hard work after lunch to wear down the Indian bowlers on a pitch that looks good for batting.
Ravindra Jadeja bowled Smith after the left-arm spinner’s delivery skidded off the turf to get the batsman’s inside and onto the stumps.
Mohammed Shami got his second wicket after bowling Peter Handscomb, but Khawaja kept up the hard work.
Pace spearhead Shami started the match with a wide and Khawaja soon got a boundary.
Modi, Albanese present
The pitches in the first three Tests were rank turners, with the highest total being India’s 400 in the opening match.
The left-handed Head took charge to hit a flurry of boundaries including three in one over from pace bowler Umesh Yadav.
Head survived a reprieve on seven when wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat dropped a simple catch off Yadav and the opener added 25 more before being dismissed by Ravichandran Ashwin.
Khawaja attempted to build another partnership, but Shami got Marnus Labuschagne for three, with a delivery that came in and rattled the stumps.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese were in attendance for the first hour of play at the 132,000-capacity stadium, named after the Indian premier.
A bumper crowd greeted the two leaders before focus turned to cricket as Smith won the toss and named an unchanged XI from their previous win in Indore that kept the series alive at 2-1.
India need a win to clinch the series and secure their berth in the World Test Championship final, scheduled for June at The Oval in London.