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Khawaja's 'very special' ton stamps Australia's day one dominance


AHMEDABAD, India: Australia opener Usman Khawaja on Thursday said emotions took over after he struck his first Test century in India as the tourists dominated the opening day of the fourth match.

Australia reached 255-4 at stumps after they won the toss and elected to bat in their bid to square the four-match series at the world's biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.

After a long grind, Khawaja was batting on 104 alongside Cameron Green, on 49, at close of play as the pair put together an attacking stand of 85.

The left-handed Khawaja put on key stands including a 79-run third-wicket partnership with skipper Steve Smith, who made 38, to hand Australia a strong start.

The Pakistan-born Khawaja jumped up in joy after he raised the second hundred of a low-scoring series with a boundary in the final over of the day.

"A lot of emotion in that. I have been to India two tours before this and carried the drinks for eight Test matches, so it was a long journey to finally hit a hundred in India," Khawaja told broadcaster Star Sports.

"As an Australian, that's what you want to tick off, so it's very special."

Khawaja later told reporters: "Throughout the middle of my career I got told I couldn't play spin and that's why I never got an opportunity to play in India."

India skipper Rohit Sharma hit 120 in the opener, but is now second to the Australian opener, who leads the series batting chart with 257 runs.

It was Khawaja's 14th Test ton in 60 matches since he made his debut in 2011.

Green remained the attacking partner in an unbeaten partnership with Khawaja and helped Australia plunder 54 runs in nine overs after India took the second new ball in the 82nd over.

Travis Head started aggressively and made 32 in a 61-run opening partnership with Khawaja before India hit back with two wickets in the first session.

Khawaja and stand-in-skipper Smith got down to hard work after lunch to wear down the Indian bowlers on a pitch that looks good for batting.

Ravindra Jadeja bowled Smith after the left-arm spinner's delivery skidded off the turf to get the batsman's inside and onto the stumps.

- Modi, Albanese present -

The pitches in the first three Tests were rank turners, with the highest total being India's 400 in the opening match.

India's bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said the pitch in Ahmedabad would assist spinners later in the match.

"I think as the game progresses, you may see little turn, and third day there will be little help for spinners," he said.

The left-handed Head took charge to hit a flurry of boundaries including three in one over from pace bowler Umesh Yadav.

Head survived a reprieve on seven when wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat dropped a simple catch off Yadav and the opener added 25 more before being dismissed by Ravichandran Ashwin.

Khawaja attempted to build another partnership, but Mohammed Shami got Marnus Labuschagne for three, with a delivery that came in and rattled the stumps.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese were in attendance for the first hour of play at the 132,000-capacity stadium, named after the Indian premier.

A bumper crowd greeted the two leaders before focus turned to cricket as Smith won the toss and named an unchanged XI from their previous win in Indore that kept the series alive at 2-1.

India need a win to clinch the series and secure their berth in the World Test Championship final, scheduled for June at The Oval in London. -- AFP

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