Aussies declare at SCG after Khawaja ton

Rob Forsaith |

Usman Khawaja has steadied and starred yet again at the SCG, scoring another declaration-prompting century to help Australia set England a target of 388 late on day four of the fourth Ashes Test.

Khawaja celebrated his Test recall with a sparkling knock of 137 on Thursday, having entered the fray at 3-117 and left shortly before Pat Cummins declared at 8-416.

On Saturday, the left-hander scored 101 not out to further demoralise an attack weakened by Ben Stokes’ inability to bowl because of a side injury.

Cummins ended Australia’s second innings at 6-265 after Khawaja moved the game along in style, having been summoned to the middle at 3-68 when he knew quick runs were required.

“It’s a surreal moment. I’ve never got back-to-back hundreds in first-class cricket, let alone Test cricket,” Khawaja told Fox Cricket.

Ricky Ponting, the most recent man to post twin tons in a Test at the iconic ground, described it on Seven as “a very special (moment) in the history of Test” cricket.

Khawaja’s 10th Test ton, ably supported by Cameron Green (74) in a 179-run stand, will raise further questions as to how selectors can leave him out of the XI in Hobart.

And why he was snubbed for so long after the 2019 Ashes, having only been called up because of Travis Head’s positive COVID-19 test.

Australia are in the box seat to push for a 4-0 series lead, with 287 still the highest successful chase in an SCG Test.

However, forecast showers loom as a potential impediment as Justin Langer’s side seek to avoid a repeat of last year’s draw against India at the same venue.

India batted for 131 overs to salvage a draw, frustrating the hosts before they went on to record an epic series win.

It would be easy to describe Saturday as deja vu for England’s beleaguered bowlers, who once again heard boos ring out when Khawaja’s batting partner failed to get the fan favourite on strike as he bore down on three figures.

But the fashion in which the veteran achieved his feat, becoming the third man to post two hundreds in an SCG Test, was more ruthless and rollicking than day two.

Khawaja slog-swept Joe Root into the stands to crash into the nervous 90s then reverse-swept the under-fire captain’s next ball.

The 35-year-old scored freely and in the manner he so often has for Sydney Thunder, bringing up a ton in 131 deliveries.

And whereas Khawaja offered a chance off the bowling of Jack Leach on 28 during his first innings; Saturday’s was faultless.

England’s unsuccessful review of an lbw shout from Mark Wood, when Khawaja was on 98, was the closest they came to dismissing the Queensland skipper.

Left-arm spinner Leach, who endured a baptism of fire when hit out of the attack and the XI at the Gabba, finished with a haul of 4-84.