The Ashes: Usman Khawaja 2.0 arrives with century
He would not have played the match if Travis Head had not contracted the coronavirus, but Usman Khawaja, returning to the Test arena after two years, made it a comeback to remember while also putting Australia in command of the fourth Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Groundon Thursday.
Khawaja’s crafty 137 allowed Australia to declare at 416/8, shortly before the close of play on the second day.
Seamer Stuart Broad took 5/101 in England’s cause and openers Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed, both on 2 not out, survived five torrid overs before stumps.
England finished the day on 13 without loss. But England still have a mighty mountain to climb. Their batsmen have flopped terribly so far in the series, while the Australian bowlers have always looked ready to exploit even the smallest of weaknesses in their arch-rivals.
After defeats in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne to go 0-3 down in the five-match series, England are desperate to rebuild their reputation, but will need to come up with a strong game to counter the hosts’ precision.
Reprieve well utilised
Relishing his latest comeback at the ground where his Test career began in the 2011 Ashes, the 35-year-old left-handed batter was stylish and unflappable in equal parts as he put England to the sword.
He survived a scare on 28 when he got an edge on a delivery from Jack Leach but the ball evaded keeper Jos Buttler and Joe Root was unable to hold the catch at first slip.
He made the most of his reprieve, picking the moments to deploy his elegant strokes and bringing up his ninth Test century with three runs through square leg just before the tea break. Celebrating his comeback hundred, he treated the applauding 24,855 crowd to a rendition of the “Silencer” moves made famous by NBA star Lebron James.
“The SCG, honestly, it was probably the most touching, humbling, amazing feeling out there today getting that hundred, I never expected it ... the love I’ve got out there today (Thursday), I’ll never forget,” said Khawaja.
Khawaja was out when he played on a Broad delivery. Khawaja, who hit 13 fours in his 260-ball innings, had combined with Steve Smith in a 115-run fourth wicket stand.
Broad, who was left out of the side for the Brisbane and Melbourne Tests, finally separated them when Smith edged the ball behind on 67 after lunch and then quickly dispatched all-rounder Cameron Green for 5.
England’s cause was not helped by an injury to all-rounder Ben Stokes, who was treated for “tightness” in his left side just before lunch.
(Written with agency inputs)