Usman Khawaja and Cameron Green stole the show at Narendra Modi Stadium on Friday, combining for a 208-run partnership as Australia posted 480 on day two of the Ahmedabad Test against India.
Green (114) brought up his maiden Test century before Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin wreaked havoc in the afternoon, snaring six wickets to keep the hosts in the contest.
India was 0-36 at stumps, still trailing by 444 runs, with captain Rohit Sharma (17 not out) and Shubman Gill (18 not out) at the crease.
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CAREY SLAMMED AFTER ‘SOFTER THAN BUTTER’ DISMISSAL
Alex Carey won’t enjoy watching replays of his “softer than butter” dismissal on day two of the Ahmedabad Test.
After waiting in the sheds with his pads on for nearly 60 overs, the Australian wicketkeeper waltzed to the crease with the visitors in a comfortable position at 6-378. Carey was Australia’s last recognised batter, and he had been handed an opportunity to grind India into the dirt following a marathon partnership between Green and Khawaja.
Instead, the 31-year-old threw his wicket away later that same over — he miscued a wild slog sweep, reaching outside the off stump and top-edging a regulation catch towards Axar Patel at point.
Carey had potentially been instructed to pick up the tempo, but intent is nothing without execution.
“That is a soft dismissal, softer than butter,” former Australian batter Matthew Hayden said in commentary.
“That’s the hardest sweep shot to play, that one. It’s got the most risk because you’re fetching the ball for a start, playing right across the line. But when it’s outside your eye line, you’ve got less control. The safest shot is always to go much squarer.”
Carey has been underwhelming with the bat since plundering his maiden Test century during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa — his previous scores in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy were 36, 10, 0, 7 and 3.
The gloveman’s aggressive approach to batting in the subcontinent has divided opinion, with his reckless dismissals irritating fans and former players — but speaking to reporters earlier this week, Carey vowed to keep sweeping.
“In India, if you change your method too much, it goes pretty quickly. I’ll continue to be positive over here,” he said.
“We’ve all got different methods and, internally, we live with that. So looking forward to another opportunity in Ahmedabad and get down and maybe get the broom out again.”
‘RELAXED’ KHAWAJA RELISHING TEST RESURGENCE
422 deliveries, 611 minutes, 180 runs.
Usman Khawaja is at the peak of his powers.
The Queenslander broke the Australian record for longest Test knock in India on Friday, bettering Graham Yallop’s 392-ball innings at Eden Gardens in 1979.
He now boasts more Test centuries than Damien Martyn and Bill Lawry, while the only other Australians with multiple 150+ Test scores in Asia are Allan Border and Graham Yallop.
Khawaja eventually fell victim to Indian spinner Axar Patel after the tea break on day two, dismissed LBW following a DRS referral.
“There’s none more important than this innings from Usman Khawaja,” former Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said on Fox Cricket.
“You’ve got to remember the way we started this series. We got bowled out twice in a session. Australia has gone away and found a game plan.
“We’ve seen how emotional he was yesterday … this is a big milestone.”
Khawaja has been a marvel since his return to the Test side last year, averaging 69.91 with the bat across 16 matches — nobody in world record has score more runs since the start of 2022.
While most cricketers start to fade once their age approaches the late thirties, Khawaja is seemingly in the prime of his career. He’s more resilient than the nervous wreck that burst onto the scene 12 years ago, and more importantly, he’s happier.
After being dropped during the 2019 Ashes series, Khawaja genuinely believed his Test career was over. A fortuitous Covid-19 scare for teammate Travis Head opened the door for an unexpected recall, and he made the most of the opportunity.
In his eyes, every match in Australian whites since has been a bonus. He can focus on enjoying his cricket rather than dreading a tap on the shoulder.
“I think he’s relaxed,” Haddin said.
“He’s on top of his game, he’s happy off the field and he’s not worried about when the end is now. I think he’s in a really, really good place.”
Khawaja looms as a crucial figure ahead of the Ashes series in England — Australia’s opening batters struggled during the 2019 tour, averaging 9.85 across the five Tests.
If Khawaja can continue his red-hot form against the Duke ball this winter, Australia’s chances of retaining the urn receives a massive boost.
“We need guys like Usman at the top of the order for the World Test Championship,” Haddin said.
“It’s going to be a huge series over in England, the Ashes. The way England are playing at the moment, you’d expect there’d be no draws over there. He’s the one guy at the moment, he’s controlling the whole batting line-up.
“Khawaja is protecting that middle order with the way he’s playing.”
GREEN PROVES GALLE HEROICS WERE NO ‘FLUKE’
After 813 days in the Test side, Cameron Green finally got the monkey off his back.
Day two of the Ahmedabad Test was headlined by Green’s maiden century at international level, with the West Australian scoring a flamboyant 114 against India’s world-class bowling attack.
The 23-year-old combined with Usman Khawaja for a 208-run stand for the fifth wicket, the highest partnership by an Australian pair in India since 1979.
Green flipped a switch when India took the second new ball on Thursday evening, repeatedly finding the boundary rope against the fresh cherry. He feasted on Indian seamers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav with an array of powerful shots, finding the boundary rope in all corners of the 132,000-seat stadium.
Green and Usman Khawaja plundered 54 runs from the final nine overs of the day to put Australia in the superior position at stumps on day one, and that momentum carried through to Friday morning.
The right-hander reached his maiden ton in just 143 deliveries, saluting the crowd with a heartwarming smile.
“Every time we’ve seen him, he gets better and better,” former Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said on Fox Cricket.
“What’s been more impressive is the tempo he’s played at. He’s come and taken the game on. He hasn’t missed an opportunity to score, so his mindset’s all about looking to score, not just occupying the crease.
“The Indians don’t have an answer for him.”
Green has already proven he can bat in the subcontinent — he averaged 51.66 during last year’s Test tour of Pakistan before earning Player of the Match honours for a gritty 77 against Sri Lanka on a raging turner at Galle.
While celebrating the victory with his teammates at Galle International Stadium, The Test documentary’s cameras captured the moment David Warner congratulated the young all-rounder.
“Well done, champ,” Warner chirped.
“First time’s a fluke, second time’s consistency.”
It’s fair to say, Green’s heroic feat in Galle was no fluke. He’s the real deal.
ASHWIN SILENCES NAYSAYERS YET AGAIN
Believe it or not, despite boasting more than 470 Test wickets to his name, Ravichandran Ashwin still has his critics.
The off-spinner is one of India’s most prolific wicket-taker in Test history, but some sceptics credit this success to the pitches he’s played on. Indian wickets have undeniably favoured spin over the past decade, and Ashwin has expertly exploited the raging turners to his advantage.
But his Test record outside Asia leaves much to be desired — in 28 matches away from the subcontinent, Ashwin has taken 87 wickets at 36.18, compared to 384 scalps at 21.19 in Asia.
Because of this glaring disparity, casual cricket fans have accused Ashwin of being overrated — but the 36-year-old continues to prove them wrong.
Despite the pitch offering little assistance, Ashwin snared six crucial wickets during Australia’s first innings in Ahmedabad, the 32nd five-fa of his Test career.
On Thursday morning, Australian opener Travis Head miscued a lofted cover drive against Ashwin, caught by Ravindra Jadeja at mid-on for 32.
Ashwin returned on Friday afternoon to run through Australia’s middle order, taking 3-2 including the dismissals of centurion Cameron Green and wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
During the frantic 14-ball demolition, Ashwin equalled Test legend Anil Kumble for most wickets by an Indian in Border-Gavaskar Trophy history.
After the drinks break, Ashwin secured his five-wicket haul by trapping Todd Murphy on the pads, breaking an irritating 70-run partnership for the ninth wicket. The following over he found the outside edge of Nathan Lyon’s bat, caught at first slip for 34.
Ashwin finished with 6-91 from 47.2 overs, wrapping up a herculean effort from the veteran tweaker.
Most Test wickets for India against Australia
113 — Ravichandran Ashwin
111 — Anil Kumble
95 — Harbhajan Singh
85 — Ravindra Jadeja
79 — Kapil Dev
LYON’S HARD WORK IN THE NETS PAYS OFF
Before the Ahmedabad contest, Australia’s lower order was on track for its worst series batting performance in Test history, with the No. 8-11 batters contributing 84 runs at 4.94 throughout the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Captain Pat Cummins was the only Australian tailender with a score higher than 10 in the first three Tests, peeling off 33 in Delhi.
“It’s not like we’re not training hard,” Australian spinner Nathan Lyon told cricket.com.au earlier this week.
“We’re batting for long periods of time – I was in the nets for probably the longest I’ve batted in my career a couple of days before this last Test.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Australian assistant coach Daniel Vettori encouraged the team’s bowlers to take a more aggressive approach with the willow in hand — and that’s exactly what Todd Murphy did at Narendra Modi Stadium on Friday.
The Victorian smacked an entertaining 41 (61) on day two, combining with Lyon for a 70-run partnership for the ninth wicket to push Australia’s total above 450.
Murphy, who only mustered five runs in the previous three Tests, slapped five boundaries on the way to his highest score at first-class level. He wasn’t afraid to play his shots, throwing his arms at anything wide of the stumps and confidently flicking off the pads when required.
Lyon, meanwhile, survived 96 deliveries in the middle, making it the longest innings of his 12-year Test career. He still holds the record for most Test runs without a fifty.
Originally published as Cameron Green proves Galle heroics were no ‘fluke’ before Alex Carey’s ‘softer than butter’ dismissal