A scintillating unbeaten century from Usman Khawaja helped Australia finish day one of fourth Test on a commanding 255/4 against India at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday.
After Australia elected to bat first on a nice batting pitch, Khawaja kept his calm, played late and with soft hands to hit 15 fours in his 251-ball stay for 104 not out at the crease to notch up Australia's first century of the ongoing tour, which came on the last over before stumps.
He had useful partnerships of 61, 79 and 85 with Travis Head, Steve Smith and Cameron Green, who remained unbeaten on 49 off 64 balls at stumps, and helped Australia get a slight upper hand in the match through his feasting on the second new ball.
The pitch at Ahmedabad was in complete contrast to surfaces in the first three Tests:- offering little assistance for India's bowlers, though they did pick four wickets. They had to then resort to control and even short-ball barrage to keep Australia in check, which didn't happen thanks to Khawaja's critical hundred and Green's late onslaught against second new ball.
The day began with a returning Mohammed Shami being wayward and conceding eight byes, as pitch showed signs of up and down bounce. India were almost given a breakthrough when Umesh Yadav drew the outside edge from Travis Head, but wicketkeeper KS Bharat dropped a sitter, adding more to his nightmarish start with gloves.
Head began to attack from the 11th over, driving off Umesh straight down the ground before smashing a wide delivery through backward point for collecting a brace of fours. He continued to feast on poor deliveries from Umesh by hitting three boundaries with ridiculous ease.
The flow of boundaries continued as Khawaja clipped Ashwin down leg, before going on backfoot to pull Ravindra through square leg. Post drinks break, India finally had a breakthrough as Head miscued a loft to mid-on off Ashwin.
Though Khawaja put loose deliveries from Ashwin through the on-side, India were successful in getting another wicket as Marnus Labuschagne chopped one on to his stumps off Shami, departing for a single digit score. From there the bowlers kept things tight for India, as in the last ten overs they gave away only eight runs till the morning session came to a close.
For Khawaja, anything fuller or on pads was met with a neat glance. There were no premeditated strokes or sweeps on offer. He rarely attacked outside the off stump, but made full use of anything coming overpitched in the afternoon session, which was also the first wicketless session of the series.
Like Jadeja bowled down leg and Khawaja was quick to paddle through fine leg for four. When the left-arm spinner pitched it short, Khawaja was quick to rock back and pull for four more. On the other hand, Smith played very cautiously and played late to get his boundaries through slash, clip and pull shots.
A patient Khawaja brought up his fifty when he slammed Shami past second slip for four. He and Smith frustrated India, who even got Shreyas Iyer to bowl some part-time leg-spin and play the waiting game for long in the hope of a breakthrough. India's persistence paid off in the final session as Smith tried to push defensively off Jadeja sans footwork. But he got an inside edge onto the pad, and was hard enough to dislodge the stumps.
Peter Handscomb tried to be the enforcer with delightful back-to-back boundaries off Umesh's short balls. But Handscomb's promising stay at the crease came to an end when Shami beat his outside edge to send the off stump on a cartwheel ride.
Khawaja and Green capitalised on fuller deliveries from Ashwin and Jadeja to hit five boundaries collectively, before India took the new ball from 81st over. In the first over with a new ball from Umesh, Green was comfortable in cutting and driving off him.
Shami's delivery on pads was tucked by Khawaja through square leg, while Green pulled and drive through mid-off to take two boundaries in the 85th over. Khawaja got his 14th Test century by clipping Shami through square leg, with a wide smile and leap of joy showing his happiness on reaching three-figure mark at the stroke of stumps.
Brief Scores: Australia 255/4 in 90 overs (Usman Khawaja 104 not out, Cameron Green 49 not out; Mohammed Shami 2/65, Ravindra Jadeja 1/49) against India