Australia 75-2 at lunch on first day of 4th test vs India

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Travis Head plays a shot | PTI

Ahmedabad: Making full use of the best batting conditions of the series, Australia reached 75-2 at lunch on the first day of the fourth cricket test against India on Thursday.

The visitors won the toss and unsurprisingly chose to bat, after which Australia’s openers made good on some lackluster bowling by India with the new ball.

At lunch, Usman Khawaja was batting on 27 runs, with captain Steve Smith 2 not out.

It was an unusual start to day one with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in attendance to mark 75 years of ‘Friendship Through Cricket’ between the two nations.

Owing to security concerns, the players couldn’t make use of the ground for their morning warm-ups. It reflected in the Indian pacers’ performance with both Mohammed Shami (1-14) and Umesh Yadav (0-28) looking rusty with the new ball.

Shami, in particular, was wayward as India conceded 10 extras, including eight byes in the first three overs.

There was uneven bounce in the pitch as well affecting wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat. Nevertheless, he dropped a regulation catch off Travis Head on seven.

Head made good on the chance as he scored 32 runs off 44 balls, including seven boundaries. He put on 61 runs for the first wicket with Khawaja as Australia dominated the first hour of play. India pulled one back through Ravichandran Ashwin (1-18) as spin was introduced in the ninth over.

Head was out caught off Ashwin in the 16th over as India got a breakthrough. Australia lost a second wicket in seven overs as Shami returned with more rhythm and bowled Marnus Labuschagne (3). The hosts were able to get control of proceedings in the second hour of the session as Australia managed only 19 runs in 15 overs. India has a 2-1 lead in the four-match series and has already clinched the Border-Gavaskar Trophy which it has held since 2017.

Australia fielded an unchanged side, going into the test with three frontline spinners. Pat Cummins has not returned for the match as he continues to be home with his ailing mother.

India made one change — fast bowler Mohammed Siraj was rested and Mohammed Shami came in as his replacement.

India must win the fourth test in a bid to qualify for the World Test Championship final from June 7-11 against Australia at The Oval in England. A loss or a draw would mean Sri Lanka’s results in its two-test series against New Zealand would come in to play.

Australia qualified for the final after winning the third test against India in Indore by nine wickets. India won the first test in Nagpur by an innings and 132 runs and the second in Delhi by six wickets.

While the day’s proceedings kicked off with folk music and dance, a crowd in excess of 100,000 was expected to attend the first day. The official record for highest attendance for a single day of test cricket is 91,112 on the first day of the Ashes Boxing Day test between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in December 2013.

Ahead of the first ball, the two prime ministers took a lap of honor across the ground. AP

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