Determined Usman Khawaja anchors to build Australia’s platform

Prime Ministers Anthony Albanese and Narendra Modi at the Ahmedabad compound before the fourth Test.

Prime Ministers Anthony Albanese and Narendra Modi at the Ahmedabad compound before the fourth Test.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The two sides were something of an optional extra for about an hour before the game: warm-ups were forbidden on the ground, the captains were told to collect their Modi and Albanese caps, then they shook hands with their leaders and had to stand beside them for the national anthems .

The spectators also seemed to have been as drawn to politics as they were to Test cricket. Attendance peaked at around 50,000 for the pageant and opening session and then steadily declined on a hot afternoon.


Shami’s opening ball was a wild wide and amid a few more extras, KS Bharat missed a perfectly direct cross from Umesh Yadav’s Travis Head. Thus pardoned, Head started the motor and the 50 was raised in 13 overs.

After the introduction of Ravichandran Ashwin, Head’s insistence on attacking brought his downfall, clumping to the middle. Marnus Labuschagne sculpted to incorporate shami into the tops and draw onto the stumps to emphasize the slowness of pitch.

Smith was hit once when Ashwin played the ball over him, drawing an “oooh” from the crowd, but otherwise offered solid defense and patience against Khawaja’s deep concentration reserves: it took 30 balls for Smith to find the boundary.

For Khawaja, the lovable nature of the pitch allowed a return to the bubble he had struggled in almost constantly during last year’s Test series in Pakistan. Implicitly relying on his defenses, doing everything short or side leg, and entering the crease in an almost meditative state.

It wasn’t until 30 minutes after the tee that Jadeja was the first bowler to hit Khawaja’s bat, and he also avoided any temptation to sweep or reverse, firmly believing he could absorb any pressure imposed in such conditions. It was a task beyond Smith and also Handscomb, who hooked twice confidently before latching on to Shami’s subtle backswing and losing to Stump.

On another level, in the face of Modi’s celebrations, Khawaja went about proving otherwise. Politically, he’s as close as anyone is likely to see a Pakistani cricketer batting and succeeding in this stadium for a long, long time. Determined Usman Khawaja anchors to build Australia’s platform

Ryan Sederquist

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