Khawaja century completes 'long journey' as Australia chase series-levelling win against India

By Sports Desk March 09, 2023

Usman Khawaja ground out a gutsy century to put Australia on top after day one of the fourth Test against India in Ahmedabad.

The opener said he had completed "a long journey" by finally making it to three figures on what is his third tour of India in the long format.

Australia amassed 255-4, with Khawaja 104 not out at stumps, reaching his ton with a boundary from the first ball of the day's final over.

A nine-wicket victory for Australia in the third Test last week has fuelled hope they could complete a fightback from 2-0 behind to draw this series, and this start boded well.

While it was Khawaja's day, others helped the score along, with Travis Head making a brisk 32 at the top of the innings and captain Steve Smith adding a hardy 38 from 135 balls before falling to an inside edge off Ravindra Jadeja.

Mohammed Shami bowled Marnus Labuschagne (3) and Peter Handscomb (17), but Cameron Green cracked a rapid 49no containing eight fours as he kept Khawaja company late in the day.

Khawaja got to 99 with a single from the final ball of the penultimate over, making it a nerve-jangling end to day one as he retained the strike to face Shami.

The 36-year-old left-hander held his nerve, clipping away a leg-side four to make it a day for him and Australia to savour. It took him 246 deliveries to get there, and Khawaja will look to bat on deep into Friday to pile pressure on India.

Comeback on the cards?

After day one, Australia will be fancying their task in this match. They are seeking back-to-back men's Test wins against India for the first time since December 2014, and the last time they had consecutive wins in a series in India was in December 1969. India have not lost more than one game in a men's Test series on home soil since losing 2-1 to England in November-December 2012. The hosts can't lose this series, of course, but a draw might feel like a defeat given they won the opening two Tests.

Classy Khawaja

Six of Khawaja's 14 Test tons have come since the start of 2022, underlining what a sensational late-career revival he is enjoying. This was his first Test century against India at any ground, with his previous highest score having been the 81 he made last month in Delhi. In an end-of-day interview, he recalled being a drinks carrier on his first two tours of India, but this time he is making his presence felt.

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