Border Gavaskar Trophy: Australia singes but Ashwin applies balm

Contrasting centuries from Usman Khawaja and Cameron Green mark Australia’s dominance, but Ashwin’s six-for keeps India alive

NEW DELHI | Updated: 10 March, 2023 8:19 pm IST
Cameron Green and Usman Khawaja scored tons for Australia (Photo Courtesy BCCI)

Usman Khawaja and Cameron Green showcased two different styles of cricket with contrasting centuries, but R Ashwin’s tireless effort kept India’s hope alive on the second day of the final Test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy on Friday.

At the majestic Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad, Usman Khawaja turned the clock back, just like Cheteshwar Pujara often did for India, with an innings that should make the purist proud.

On a wicket that looked conducive for batting, a first in the series, Khawaja focused on his strengths as he opted for the puritanical style of play. The southpaw dug deep and played the patient game as he grinded for more than 10 hours to score his 14th Test hundred – a 422-ball 180 that saw 21 boundaries.

In the process, Khawaja also had two important partnerships that helped Australia post their highest total in the series – 480 – in the first innings.

Khawaja and stand-in skipper Steve Smith first added 79 runs for the third wicket before the left-handed opener, making himself indispensable in his second coming, then added the match-defining 208-run stand with all-rounder Green, who spent the first two Tests of the series recovering from injuries.

Green, on the other hand, raised the toast for the modern-day enthusiasts as he slammed his maiden Test ton – a 170-ball 114 that saw 18 fours – that most importantly made Indian bowlers toil hard.

At 409 for eight, when Khawaja departed, becoming Ashwin’s fourth victim, India still had their opportunity, but a dogged Nathan Lyon (34, 96b, 6×4) and Todd Murphy (41, 61b, 5×4) saw Australia add 70 runs for the ninth wicket, giving them the psychological advantage.

Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy added 70 runs for the ninth wicket (Photo Courtesy BCCI)

 

It could have been bigger had Ashwin not persisted with his perseverance, even in the face of adversity. With the wicket having nothing to offer for the tweakers, Indian spinners found the going tough – though Axar Patel, playing on his home ground, did well to contain runs from one end.

Left-arm spinner Patel was also rewarded for his efforts with the prized Australian wicket – Usman Khawaja.

Ashwin, meanwhile, bowled a relentless 47.2 overs, picking six wickets – including the key wickets of Travis Head and Green along with wickets of Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy.

R Ashwin picked six wickets (Photo Courtesy BCCI)

 

It was Ashwin’s efforts with the ball that ensured Australia only had the advantage – and not ran away with it.

Shubman Gill (18*, 27b, 1×4, 1×6) and skipper Rohit Sharma (17*, 33b, 2×4) reduced the margin to 36 runs while keeping the wickets intact. But India will need to learn the template from their rivals if they fancy upending their rivals at cricket’s biggest stadium.

BRIEF SCORE: Australia 480 (Usman Khawaja 180, Cameron Green 114; R Ashwin 6/91) lead India 36/0 (Shubman Gill 18*, Rohit Sharma 17*) by 444 runs

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