Usman Khawaja (180, 422b, 21x4) braved the sweltering conditions and batted for 611 minutes - a little more than five sessions - to guide Australia to 480 in the first innings of the fourth Test before Ravichandran Ashwin pulled things back with a six-wicket haul (6 for 91).
By the time India came out to bat, only ten overs remained, and openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill put up 36-0 at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Friday.
However, the first couple of sessions belonged to Khawaja and the young Cameron Green, who brought up his maiden century (114, 170b, 18x4).
Khawaja - the highest run-scorer in this edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with 333 runs - started from where he left on the opening day and ensured that Australia breached the 400-run mark despite Ashwin’s relentless effort on a placid surface.
Khawaja held the fort while the tall Green - resuming the day on 49 - made the most of the track, where the ball came nicely onto the bat. He cut and drove fluently, putting on a mammoth 208-run stand with Khawaja.
Every time the Indian bowlers, who went wicketless in the first session, erred in their lengths, the Aussie duo cashed in. Despite temperatures soaring, both Khawaja and Green looked calm as they extended the lead. On his first Test tour of India, Green picked up 18 boundaries en route to his ton.
At a time when it seemed like a walk in the park for Australia, Ashwin struck. Attempting a sweep, Green was caught down the leg side by stumper KS Bharat, thus ending the long partnership.
The seasoned Ashwin tightened the noose further, removing Alex Carey and Mitchell Starc in quick succession and surpassed Anil Kumble’s wicket tally (111) in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with 113 scalps and joined Nathan Lyon as the highest wicket-taker.
Though India chugged back with Ashwin’s 32nd five-for and Australia lost three wickets for nine runs, Khawaja looked unfazed. Becoming the first overseas batter to play 400 balls in an innings in India since 2010, Khawaja rebuilt before being trapped plumb in the front by Axar Patel, shortly after tea.
This was the second time this year that he missed out on scoring a double hundred despite coming closer. As a dejected Khawaja walked back to the pavilion, there were apprehensions of Australia being bundled out soon.
But Lyon put on 70 runs for the ninth wicket with Todd Murphy before Ashwin dismissed the latter leg before. He then tempted Lyon to nick it to the slips, thus denying Australia a chance to go past 500.
India started aggressively, with Rohit hitting a couple of boundaries and Gill hammering a six. However, with three full days of action remaining and Australia enjoying a mammoth lead of 444 runs, India has a long way to go.
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