Test Cricket: Khawaja’s half-century, Australia’s 149 for two at tea

Ahmedabad. Opener Usman Khawaja’s half-century and his unbeaten partnership with captain Steve Smith powered Australia to 149 for two at tea on the first day of the fourth and final cricket Test on Thursday. At tea, Khawaja was playing on 65 off 180 balls. He shared an unbroken 88-run partnership for the third wicket with Smith (38 not out). Australia did not lose a single wicket in the second session, the first session in the entire series in which no wickets fell. The Indian bowlers found it difficult to dismiss the Australian batsmen on a slow and flat pitch.

The visiting batsmen did not have much trouble playing the trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Akshar Patel on the backfoot. The Aussies have scored at a run rate of 2.40 in the two seasons so far, which shows that the pitch is not easy to score runs on. Travis Head (32 off 44 balls), however, batted freely in the first hour and played some attractive shots. Khawaja specifically targeted balls outside the leg side. He has hit most of his 10 fours so far between square leg and deep mid-wicket. Smith, on the other hand, batted more cautiously and preferred to take a run or two.

Earlier in the morning session, Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohammed Shami picked up a wicket each as Australia reached 75 for two at lunch. Khawaja and Head got the visitors off to a good start by adding 61 runs for the first wicket. Ashwin and Shami, however, tried to get India back by dismissing Head and Marnus Labuschagne (03) in quick succession. Head looked in good touch in the first hour but then returned to the pavilion after playing bad shots. He played a shot in the air without getting close to Ashwin’s ball but gave a simple catch to Ravindra Jadeja at mid-on.

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Earlier, Head was given a life on a personal score of seven when wicketkeeper Shrikar Bharat dropped a simple catch off Umesh Yadav. Umesh, however, bowled a very loose delivery, which Head took advantage of to hit six of his seven fours. Labushen also tried to play with extra caution and played Shami’s low ball on the wickets. Bharat would like to forget the first session where he was troubled by uneven bounce at both ends of the wicket. He found it difficult to catch the low ball at one end and dropped a simple catch in addition to conceding eight runs by the bye.

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