Khawaja’s twin centuries delight the SCG crowd

By Kersi Meher-Homji

What a thrilling end to an engrossing Ashes Test match! Now who can say that a drawn Test is boring?

Yesterday’s Sydney Test which ended in a nail-biting draw held me and other spectators spell-bound at the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground). The result was in doubt till the last ball.

It was a spine-tingler with Australian batsman Usman (Usie) Khawaja as the super hero. It was a magical Test comeback for him after being left out of the side for two and half years. His second innings score of 101 not out made him become the third man behind Doug Walters and Ricky Ponting to score twin hundreds at the SCG, the ninth to do it in an Ashes Test and just the 10th player in Test history to score twin centuries in a Test batting at number five or lower.

Australians who have scored centuries in each innings of an Ashes Test match at different venues are: Warren Bardsley 136 and 130 runs in 1909, Arthur Morris 122, 124 (1947), Steve Waugh 108, 116 (1997), Matt Hayden 197, 103 (2002), Steve Smith 144, 142 (2019) and now Usman Khawaja 137, 101 not out in the just concluded Test.

Winning the toss, a confident Australia with the Ashes in their pocket, batted brilliantly to declare at 8 for 416. Crowd favourite Khawaja was the top-scorer with 137 runs enriched with 13 fours. When he reached his century the spectators chorused, “Usie, Usie, Usie.” He added 115 runs for the fourth wicket with Steve Smith (67 runs).

Already 0-3 down in the series, England started their innings disastrously being four wickets down for only 36 runs. They were rescued by Ben Stokes (66 runs with 9 fours and a six) and Jonny Bairstow (113 runs with 8 fours and 3 sixes) who added 128 gutsy runs for the fifth wicket. Australia’s Scott Boland took 4 for 36 and England was all out for 294, trailing Australia by 122 runs.

Usman Khawaja was at his very best in the second innings scoring an unbeaten 101 (hitting 9 fours and a six) while adding 179 classy runs with Cameron Green (74 with 7 fours and a six). Australia declared at 6 for 265 setting England an unlikely 388 runs to win.

For once in the series England put up a fight. Opening batter Zak Crawley started off with an impressive 77 with 13 fours. When all seemed lost for them, Ben Stokes scored 60 match-saving runs. Australia’s off-spinner Nathan Lyon was bowling well and looked like demolishing England when skipper Pat Cummins took the new ball.

Although Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Boland bowled well they could not get rid of the English tail. With nine wickets down for 270 runs England’s tail-enders batted with courage and the epic Test was drawn.

Khawaja was the undisputed Person of the Match. He said at the presentation, “No, it can’t [get better]. Terrific game, we would have loved to win but great fight from England. Could have gone either way, couldn’t have asked for much more. [Fluent batting?] Didn’t feel that way, thought Smith was batting beautifully. I was just like ‘let’s get a partnership, the wicket’s a bit green’, thought 300 first innings would be a good score.

“I’m enjoying the game, lot of ups and downs. I know I could go out next time and get two ducks. When things go well, it’s really satisfying. Lot of cricket coming up, fingers crossed I’ll stay healthy. We’ve played beautifully to this point, almost gone 4-0 up. Couldn’t have asked for much more this series, hopefully next game we can win that, then win a few games away. World Test Championship, everything counts.”

Hope to see other gallant innings from Australia’s favourite Usie, Usie, Usie. The fifth and final Test starts at Hobart on 14th January.

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