Burgeoning Khawaja-Smith stand powers Australia to 149-2

Australia's Usman Khawaja plays a shot during the first day of the fouth and final Test cricket match between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on 9 March, 2023AFP

Usman Khawaja smashed his third half-century of the series and combined in a flourishing 77-run stand with Steve Smith to steer Australia to 149 for two wickets at tea on the opening day of the fourth and final test against India on Thursday.

Khawaja was batting on 65 at the break, with Smith on 38 as they batted through the entire second session in easily the best batting conditions of the series.

Leading the side in the absence of regular skipper Pat Cummins, who flew home to be with his ailing mother, Smith elected to bat as Australia, trailing India 2-1, bid to level the series.

They got off to a good start too with Khawaja and Travis Head, who made 32, raising 61 runs for the opening wicket.

India wicket-keeper KS Bharat endured a torrid opening hour behind the stumps and floored a waist-high sitter after Head, then on seven, had edged Umesh Yadav.

Head kept playing his shots but did not get his timing right against Ravichandran Ashwin and was caught at mid-on by Ravindra Jadeja.

India tasted further success largely because of Marnus Labuschagne's penchant to occasionally get stuck in the crease.

Australia's Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith in action

The right-hander, currently the top-ranked test batsman, pushed at a Mohammed Shami delivery only to drag it on to his stumps.

Khawaja, who brought up his 50 with a four off Shami, and Smith looked largely untroubled against the Indian attack.

The morning session crowd included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after whom the stadium is named, and his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese.

India, who lead the series 2-1, need to win the match to join Australia in the final of the World Test Championship at The Oval in June.