Khawaja ton puts pressure on selectors

Scott Bailey |

Usman Khawaja has put pressure on the selectors to extend his Test career after scoring an undefeated 102 for Australia on his international return.

Four years after bringing up a big century against England in the SCG Ashes Test, Khawaja repeated the dosage with his ninth career ton in the fourth Ashes Test.

Countless times since that January 2018 knock, Khawaja all but conceded his Test career was over.

Dropped after the third Test of the 2019 Ashes, Khawaja was at peace with the idea of being on the “never-again” pile.

“I have been on both sides of the spectrum,” Khawaja said at the start of the summer.

“I have been in the Australian team and been dropped. I have had contracts, I haven’t had contracts. 

“When you’re a bit younger you hold onto those things more tightly. 

“But I was in the Australian team, I have been dropped and then in the last couple of years I have been playing for Queensland without a contract for Australia. 

“I have enjoyed life on both sides of the fence, life wasn’t too dissimilar.”

Khawaja was unlikely to get another chance when Travis Head hit a ton in the first Test at the Gabba.

This was followed by David Warner overcoming a rib injury in Adelaide, which placed further doubt on his Test career.

Then, out of the blue, Head contracted COVID-19 and the door opened for Khawaja to reclaim a spot at No.5 in Sydney.

“It’s funny because I had clocked off a bit. I thought I wasn’t going to get a go,” Khawaja said on Seven before the SCG Test.

“But I know it is just one game.”

After Khawaja’s exploits on Thursday, there’s now a fair argument it shouldn’t just be one game.

The 35-year-old made a mark with his first scoring shot, pulling Mark Wood for four in scenes reminiscent of his glorious debut innings at the SCG against England 11 years ago.

He drove superbly, looking at home against the spin of Jack Leach,  once hitting the spinner to the cover boundary twice in one over.

And he burst into exaltation when he worked the spinner into the legside just before tea, bringing up his hundred off his 201st ball.

Khawaja’s best chance of keeping his spot could likely come at the top of the order, with Marcus Harris yet to cement his position.

Selectors have made clear they want to give Harris a long run at the role, but Khawaja’s knock will only add further question marks around that call.

Khawaja averages 95.6 as an opener while Harris’ career mark is at 25.21 after 25 innings.

Next on Australia’s agenda after the Ashes is a tour of Khawaja’s birth nation in Pakistan, where a homecoming awaits in March.