Khawaja century gives Australia edge over India on Day 1

March 9, 2023 GMT
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Australia's Usman Khawaja, center, celebrate scoring a century during the first day of the fourth cricket test match between India and Australia in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, March 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
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Australia's Usman Khawaja, center, celebrate scoring a century during the first day of the fourth cricket test match between India and Australia in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, March 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

AHMEDABAD, India (AP) — Usman Khawaja struck Australia’s first century of the series to edge India on a grinding first day Thursday of the fourth test. Australia was in no hurry and fought hard in amassing 255-4 by stumps with Khawaja batting through the entire day to finish unbeaten on 104 runs. He faced 251 balls. Cameron Green was also unbeaten on 49.

India took two wickets before lunch and two after tea.

Khawaja and Steve Smith led Australia through lunch at 75-2, in front of the countries’ Prime Ministers — Narendra Modi and Anthony Albanese — and through tea at 149-2.

Through the afternoon, the first wicket-less session in the four-match series, Khawaja crossed 50 for the third time this series, off 146 balls.

His partnership with Smith ended after a shared 79 runs when Smith played on against spinner Ravindra Jadeja. Smith scored 38 off 135 balls.

Pacer Mohammed Shami bowled Peter Handscomb on 17 at 191-4, but Green regained the momentum for Australia by attacking the Indians.

Green hit eight boundaries in racing to 49 in a stand of 85 with the patient Khawaja.

Khawaja plodded safely to his 14th test hundred off 246 balls, bringing up the milestone in the day’s last over when he flicked Shami to deep square for his 15th boundary.

He’s the first batter to bat through a day in a test in India since Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Chandimal in 2017. Khawaja toured India twice previously without playing a test, and has been making up for lost chances on this tour.

“There was a lot of emotion in that innings,” Khawaja said. “It was a mental battle more than anything else. It has been a long journey (to score runs in India). As an Australian you always want to score runs here. It’s a special feeling.”

Green’s combative attitude against the second new ball helped Australia reap 54 runs off the last nine overs of the day.

The day made an unusual start when Modi and Albanese arrived to mark 75 years of cricket between the countries. Owing to security concerns, the players couldn’t make use of the ground for their morning warmups, but both prime ministers joined the teams on the field for the anthems.

The lack of a warmup seemed to be reflected in the India pacers’ performance. Shami and Umesh Yadav looked rusty after being made to bowl first. Openers Khawaja and Travis Head (32) took advantage and added 61 runs for the first wicket. Shami bowled Marnus Labuschagne for 3 at 72-2. But Khawaja and Smith laid the foundation for Australia’s good start at Motera. India has an unassailable 2-1 lead in the series. It won the first two tests in Nagpur and Delhi, while Australia won the third in Indore. ___

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