4th Test, Day 1: Usman Khawaja hits fifty, unbeaten partnership with Steve Smith frustrates India

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Left-handed opener Usman Khawaja hit his third fifty in the series and stitched an unbeaten 77-run stand with Steve Smith as Australia reached 149/2 in 62 overs against India at tea on the opening day of the fourth Test at Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday.

In what was the first wicketless session of the series, Khawaja read the conditions well, which were batter-friendly, and capitalized on loose deliveries. Like Ravindra Jadeja bowled down the leg and Khawaja was quick to paddle through the 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 22nd Test fifty when he slammed Mohammed Shami past second slip for four. He and Smith remained unbeaten on 65 and 38 respectively to get the session in Australia’s favor and frustrate India, who even got Shreyas Iyer to bowl some part-time leg spin and play the waiting game for a long in the hope of a breakthrough.

Earlier, the day began with a returning Mohammed Shami being wayward and conceding eight byes, with Australia electing to bat first on a pitch that had some up-and-down bounce. India was 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 their leg, before going on backfoot to pull Ravindra through square leg. Post drinks break, India finally had a breakthrough as Head miscued slog to mid-on off Ashwin.

Though Khawaja put loose deliveries from Ashwin through the on-side, India was successful in getting another wicket as Marnus Labuschagne chopped one onto 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.

Brief scores: Australia 149/2 in 62 overs (Usman Khawaja 65 not out, Steve Smith 38 not out; Mohammed Shami 1-31, Ravichandran Ashwin 1-32) against India.

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