Usman Khawaja was the best batter on show on day one of the second Test between India and Australia at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here.
The veteran left-hander saw off a difficult first hour and took his chances for a pugnacious 81 that proved the bedrock for what seems a formidable first-innings total of 263. His approach to the innings was simple: just playing by feel and reading the game.
Khawaja refused to make any judgement on whether the score would challenge the Indian team but stated that batting on the spicy pitch – there’s a lot of turn and bounce on offer for the spinners – will pose a difficulty for the Indian batters.
“’I feel like  is pretty good, but we will have to wait and see tomorrow. They’re obviously very good in their conditions. Now that we have three spinners in this team, especially on that wicket, it’s going to be quite challenging, just like their spinners were challenging. We won’t know the par score until tomorrow, unfortunately,” Khawaja said at a press conference after the first day’s play.
Fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami were difficult to negotiate too, Khawaja admitted. Much of it had to do with their quality as fast bowlers but the pitch also helped.
“There are cracks on the wicket, the fast bowlers were just hitting those cracks. I was tapping the cracks when we first went out there. They’re not stable. They’re moving. On top of that, Siraj and Shami are very good bowlers. You expect them to get something with the new ball, and when it starts reversing also they’re very good bowlers,” he said.
Was it more comfortable to bat when the ball got older?
“It might have. We saw even when Petey and Patty were batting, they were batting pretty well. India has obviously got a lot of right-handers, and there’s not really any rough out there for the right-handers. So, there’s a little bit of a different game. I still think that wicket’s got a bit of up and down. There’s a couple that bounced, which we didn’t really see in Nagpur - it was spinning but not bouncing like that. So it will be interesting to see how this game plays out. The wicket feels different than Nagpur in a lot of respects just because of that bounce,” Khawaja explained.
His opening partner David Warner stuck on with him for almost 16 overs but scored just 15 runs. Warner looked out of sorts during his brief stay and was trying hard to survive. But Khawaja refused to accept the judgement that he wasn’t prepared to go on the offensive, a trait he is known to possess.
Backing him to come good soon, Khawaja said: “It’s never easy out there, especially when you’re opening the innings. I was lucky today, got a couple to get me going, sometimes you don’t get that. Three innings is not enough for me [to judge]. I think it’s still a long way to go in this Test series. Davy has been such a terrific player for such a long time, every time his backs are against the wall he produces something, so we’ll see.”
Warner got hit on the head as he tried to pull a delivery from Siraj. As a result of that hit, Warner couldn’t come out to field when it was India’s turn to bat in the evening.
“I think the medical staff will have to assess tomorrow. He must be a little weary at the moment. Got a knock in the arm and to the head, [the knock in the head] has made him a little bit weary. And hence he hasn’t come out to field. I think the medical staff will have to figure out what happens to him here on in,” stated Khawaja.
Khawaja also praised debutant Matthew Kuhnemann during his brief spell of bowling.
“I thought he was awesome. It was very nervous for Matthew, obviously. He is from my home State – Queensland. I’ve captained him a lot. He’s a terrific young player. He’s a terrific young person. He’s a competitor. One thing I love about Kuhny and everyone who plays with him is that he’s a competitor. Loves being in the contest, so you could see he was out there today. He could have been nervous, but you couldn’t tell. He was on his mark. Great start for him. Looked like he was in the game. Created half-chances. I’m looking forward to seeing him bowl tomorrow.”
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