LIVE UPDATES: DAY 2
The 36-year-old Pakistan-born Khawaja batted right through the day for his 104 (255 balls, 15×4) at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday. He was accompanied by allrounder Cameron Green who had settled in nicely with a brisk 49 (64 b, 8×4) not out against a tiring set of India’s bowlers.
It was a classic old-fashioned knock by Khawaja. He wore down the opposition and looked keen to play out the sessions without bothering about the scoring rate. He cut out all the cute shots which he had employed on rank turners at Nagpur, Delhi and Indore and instead, used the flick to good effect.
Khawaja’s was the first Australian three-figure score of the series, and it came on the back of three handy partnerships. The left-hander put on 61 runs with Travis Head to begin with and then constructed a workman-like 79-run stand for the third wicket with stand-in skipper Steve Smith between lunch and tea which took 248 balls to come.
Khawaja then added 84 runs with for the fifth wicket of just 115 deliveries.
Indian spinners, who have dominated the series this far, struggled on the flat track. It was only late in the day that R Ashwin got a couple of deliveries to turn sharply. If Australia do manage to get a sizeable first innings score, the signs could be ominous for the Indian batters going ahead as the demons in the pitch are likely to wake up late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.
India did look in control for the first two sessions where they conceded 75 and 74 runs, but it was in the final period of play that they allowed the visiting team to gallop away with the game by conceding 106 runs.
Green, making good use of his reach, pulled Mohammed Shami violently for a couple of fours on either side of square le g and then thumped Ashwin and Jadeja through the covers.
Australia’s score was 201 for 4 after 82 overs when Rohit Sharma opted for the second new ball. The scoring rate increased drastically after that as Green and Khawaja smashed 44 runs off the last eight overs of the day.
Shami, after a rusty start to the day, was by far the best Indian bowler on view as he picked up a couple of wickets. The pacer forced Marnus Labuschagne to chop one on to the stumps and then he splayed Peter Handscomb’s stumps with a straighter one after peppering him with some fiery shortpitched deliveries.
Ashwin had provided India the breakthrough in the first session when Head, while trying to clear midon, offered a catch to Jadeja. The left-hander was given a let-off when wicketkeeper KS Bharat spilled a sitter off Umesh Yadav’s bowling.
Smith, batting doggedly for 38, was bowled by Jadeja off an inside edge.
Earlier, both teams were asked to go through their pre-match rituals in the adjoining nets area outside the ground due to the presence of Indian prime minister Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese at the venue to mark the occasion of 75 years of friendship between India and Australia.
Both leaders went on a lap of honour on a cricket-theme golf cart and then they joined the teams in singing the national anthem before the start of play.
According to some estimates there were round 50,000-60,000 people at the start of the day. A good chunk of them left the ground after the ceremony was over.