SYDNEY: Usman Khawaja’s stunning return to Test cricket continued on Saturday with a blistering century in Australia’s second innings on day four which led the hosts to 265-6 declared and set England an unlikely 388 runs to win the fourth Ashes Test.
Openers Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed then survived a nervous 11 overs in fading light to get England safely to stumps at 29 without loss at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
Pakistan-born Khawaja, who scored 137 in the first innings in his first appearance since the 2019 Ashes series in England, headlined another dominant day for Australia with an unbeaten 101 off 138 balls as part of a 179-run partnership with Cameron Green.
The 35-year-old scored his first fifty off 86 balls, but then accelerated his scoring rate by playing some extravagant strokes and brought up his hundred just 45 balls later with a couple of runs off Dawid Malan.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” said left-handed Khawaja, who’s 10th Test century included 10 boundaries and two sixes. “I’ve always wanted to score a century in both innings of first-class cricket and never done it.
“But it’s a nice one to tick off and put the team in a situation where hopefully we can win a Test match tomorrow. It all worked out pretty well, it doesn’t always happen in life, in cricket, it’s special.”
Khawaja however said he doesn’t expect the twin-centuries show in Sydney will be enough to keep his place in the Australia team for the final Ashes Test in Hobart.
Khawaja only came into the side for isolating Covid victim Travis Head and he made full use of his opportunity with fairytale twin centuries.
Captain Pat Cummins has already guaranteed Head will regain his place for Hobart and there have been suggestions it will be at the expense of Marcus Harris, who again missed an opportunity to cement his berth in the Sydney Test.
“To be totally honest, I’ve batted at number five in this Test match and it was a lot of fun. I got runs but you can’t really compare five to opening,” Khawaja said. “It’s like apples and oranges. I know because I’ve done both of them.
“I came in here for Travis Head, he’s had a great series and I know the selectors have made a lot of tough decisions in this series and I don’t really expect it to be any different because I scored back-to-back tons.
“It’s just the way it is. All I’ve done is I’ve had an opportunity for Australia, scored some runs which I am grateful for.
“The hunger is still there. I’ve shown that I can still score runs at this level if an opportunity does present itself in the future.”
It was just the third time that twin centuries have been made at the SCG with former Australian captain Ricky Ponting the last man to score two centuries during an SCG Test against South Africa in 2006. Doug Walters, another Australian, had done it back in 1969 against West Indies.
“Happy for him, but obviously would have liked it against different opposition,” said England batting coach Graham Thorpe about Khawaja. “I thought he played very well and made it very hard for Australia to leave him out.
“He looked a better player from when he last played for Australia and not a bad one coming into the team.”
Green (74) made a welcome contribution for Australia, which had sunk to 86-4 earlier in the day, with his second half-century in his eighth Test.
The record successful fourth innings chase at the SCG is 288, which was achieved by Ponting’s Australia in the same 2006 Test against South Africa.
While it’s highly unlikely England will defy the SCG history and chase down a near 400-run target, Crawley (22 not out) and Haseeb (eight not out) helped give England a glimmer of hope that it may yet save the game and achieve their best result so far in the series.
“With some of the injuries we’ve got we’re going to need whether it is two, three or four players to really stand up and bat for a long time,” said Thorpe. “What I want to see is us play positively and have a good mental approach to it.
“I thought tonight our approach from Zak and Hass [Haseeb] was very good. I thought they moved well, you could see their intent.”
Rain is also forecast for Sydney on Sunday which may assist England’s cause in playing for a draw.
“[It will] be interesting to see how tomorrow plays,” said Khawaja. “Fingers crossed we get some good weather because we probably need all those 98 overs that we have.
“It’s going to be a bit of a grind but if we can keep asking questions over and over again I think we’ve a chance.”
Earlier, Spinner Jack Leach took four wickets for England, including taking Green and Alex Carey off the final two balls of Australia’s innings, in what was his best bowling performance of the series.
Leach (4-84) also took Marcus Harris (27) and then got the prize wicket of Steve Smith for 23, bowling the star batsman with a delivery that kept low off the SCG pitch to reduce Australia to a potentially vulnerable 86-4.
Mark Wood, who has troubled all of Australian batsmen with his pace this series, got the wickets of Warner (3) and Labuschagne (29), both caught behind by Ollie Pope, who had replaced injured wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
Resuming on Saturday at 258-7, England could only muster another 36 runs as Nathan Lyon, then Scott Boland quickly mopped up the lower order to establish a first-innings lead of 122 runs.
Lyon (2-88) struck in the third over the morning, teasing Jack Leach into a big shot but was easily caught by Pat Cummins for 10.
Boland, returning with the all-clear after needing a scan on his ribs following a fall while he was bowling just before tea on Friday, finally ended Jonny Bairstow’s defiant innings at 113. Bairstow faced 158 balls, hitting eight boundaries and three sixes.
Boland then had Stuart Broad caught behind for 15 to end the innings. Boland finished with 4-36 and now has 11 wickets in his first three Test innings.
Over the first two rain-affected days at the SCG, Australia made 416-8 declared led by Khawaja’s 137.
AUSTRALIA (1st Innings) 416-8 declared (U. Khawaja 137, S. Smith 67; S. Broad 5-101)
ENGLAND (1st Innings, overnight 258-7):
H. Hameed b Starc 6
Z. Crawley b Boland 18
D. Malan c Khawaja b Green 3
J. Root c Smith b Boland 0
B. Stokes lbw b Lyon 66
J. Bairstow c Carey b Boland 113
J. Buttler c Khawaja b Cummins 0
M. Wood c Lyon b Cummins 39
J. Leach c Cummins b Lyon 10
S. Broad c Carey b Boland 15
J. Anderson not out 4
EXTRAS (B-9, LB-6, NB-2, W-3) 20
TOTAL (all out, 79.1 overs) 294
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-22 (Hameed), 2-36 (Crawley), 3-36 (Root), 4-36 (Malan), 5-164 (Stokes), 6-173 (Buttler), 7-245 (Wood), 8-266 (Leach), 9-289 (Bairstow)
BOWLING: Cummins 20-6-68-2 (2w, 1nb); Starc 16-2-56-1 (1nb); Boland 14.1-6-36-4; Green 9-4-24-1 (1w); Lyon 17-0-88-2; Labuschagne 3-0-7-0
AUSTRALIA (2nd Innings):
M. Harris c Pope (sub) b Leach 27
D. Warner c Pope (sub) b Wood 3
M. Labuschagne c Pope (sub) b Wood 29
S. Smith b Leach 23
U. Khawaja not out 101
C. Green c root b Leach 74
A. Carey c Pope (sub) b Leach 0
EXTRAS (LB-3, W-5) 8
TOTAL (for six wickets decl, 68.5 overs) 265
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-12 (Warner), 2-52 (Harris), 3-68 (Labuschagne), 4-86 (Smith), 5-265 (Green), 6-265 (Carey)
BOWLING: Anderson 12-1-34-0; Broad 11-3-31-0; Wood 15-0-65-2 (1w); Leach 21.5-1-84-4; Root 7-0-35-0; Malan 2-0-13-0
ENGLAND (2nd Innings):
Z. Crawley not out 22
H. Hameed not out 8
TOTAL (for no wicket, 11 overs) 30
BOWLING (to-date): Starc 4-0-10-0; Cummings 4-0-15-0; Boland 3-1-5-0
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2022