Usman Khawaja's staggering act leaves cricket world in awe

Once maligned for his struggles against spin, Usman Khawaja came through with a brilliant innings in the third Test.

Usman Khawaja plays a sweep shot against India.
Usman Khawaja's innings of 60 has powered Australia to a first innings lead in the third Test against India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Usman Khawaja's starring role on the first day of Australia's third Test against India has left fans thrilled for the 36-year-old opener, with the visitors getting the best of things on day one. On a pitch that has subsequently been heavily criticised, Khawaja was the only player to record an innings of any note on the first day.

Once maligned for difficulties playing against spin, particularly in the sub-continent, Khawaja proved a class above, impressing the cricket world after Australia skittled the hosts for just 109 in their first innings. Faced with a dusty pitch that was offering wild spin on day one, Khawaja battened down the hatches and got to work.

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The going proved to be just as difficult for Australia with the bat as it had been for India, with Travis Head falling quickly after being promoted to open in the injured David Warner's stead. But Khawaja, having had a glimpse of how volatile the pitch had been during India's first innings, set about slowly constructing a total for Australia to defend.

It was a carefully built innings from Khawaja, one which also allowed the likes of Marnus Labuschagne (31) and Steve Smith (28) to build a start to their respective innings. Khawja was ultimately brought undone attempting to sweep Ravindra Jadeja to the boundary, lofting his shot into the waiting hands of Shubman Gill and departing for 60.

While fans were disappointed Khawaja wasn't able to add more to his total, many were seriously impressed with the cool-headed knock, particularly after the hosts were bowled out so convincingly early on day one. Fox Cricket commentator and former Australian opener Matthew Hayden praised Khawaja for his poise throughout the innings.

“Excellent half century, and just the way that he’s played. He’s seemed comfortable at the crease, he’s had soft hands, low hands … He hasn’t overhit. He’s been the standout for me today," Hayden noted.

On social media, fans lauded the impressive effort from Khawaja on a day where runs otherwise proved incredibly difficult to come by.

Khawaja said at the end of day one that he had tried to simplify the game to the best of his ability to deal with the unpredictable pitch. “I played with my plans, tried to score when I saw a scoring opportunity and respected the good ball when it was there. It’s not rocket science to be honest," he said.

“It wasn’t an easy wicket out there. It was spinning in the morning, it was spinning this afternoon. It felt pretty tough out there the whole time I was out there.”

Australia ahead in third Test after shocking India collapse

Australia go into day two at 4-156, a lead of 47 over the shell-shocked Indians. The 26-year-old spinner Matt Kuhnemann was the unlikely hero of Australia's stunning start to the third Test on Wednesday, taking career best first-class figures of 5-16.

Kuhnemann, who was playing in the Sheffield Shield for Queensland in front of barely a 100 spectators less than three weeks ago, ran through India's star batting line-up in just his second Test. His outstanding performance helped set the tone for Australia's most dominant day of the series.

"Really special to take wickets out there with the team," Kuhnemann said. "I think it is a really good day for our team in general with the bowlers going really well and the batters stepping up as well and doing a good job for us.

"Yeah it's really cool, but there's a long way to go in this game. Thursday is going to be a massive day."

Peter Handscombe and Cameron Green are at the crease for Australia, each finishing the day on seven and six not out respectively. With the pitch expected to become slightly more friendly for the batsmen as the Test goes on, early runs have proven to be worth their weight in gold.

with AAP

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