Usman Khawaja reaches century undefeated, Steve Smith makes CGS history, score, reaction
For everyone but Usman Khawaja, COVID-19 has been one of life’s great disruptors. But for the 36-year-old, it was his second coming.
A year ago, after an 863-day test exile, Khawaja returned to the international landscape with hundreds of twins against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
He only got the chance to strike in the middle order because Travis Head was ruled out with the virus after the Boxing Day test.
Khawaja hasn’t looked back since taking the chance and the return to his backyard has seen him rediscover his touch after a meager streak to date.
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The stately southpaw started the day on 54 after just 47 overs were thrown on day one, but when the stumps were called on day two the opener had risen to 195 when the rain abruptly ended day two at Sydney Thursday.
His brilliant and patient shot had put Australia in a dominant position at 4-475 after two days, with rain and poor light once again taking their toll on the port city.
After starting the day 2-147, Khawaja and Steve Smith took the test away from the Proteas as the pair put in 209 for the third wicket before the latter was caught and played by Keshav Maharaj for 104 to give the tweaker his first wicket of the series.
While his departure was a soft end to a brilliant run, Smith had shown his greatness with a series of pullovers, drives and flicks that showed the right-hander regaining control.
Along the way, the prolific hitter had worked his way past some of Australia’s greats, as he passed Matthew Hayden (8,625) and then Michael Clarke (8,643) to rank fourth on Australia’s top scorers list. .
Smith’s departure, however, did not stem the tourist haemorrhage.
Travis Head scored his third consecutive half-century, as he battled his way to a quick 70 before handing Kagiso Rabada his first wicket of the game.
His sacking saw Matt Renshaw complete his remarkable return to Test cricket, with the Queensland southpaw contracting COVID-19 early in the first day.
Renshaw was five when the covers were called midway through the last session.
But the day belonged to Khawaja, who started the day with a flurry after the day one grind.
When he cut Rabada, he moved within two passes of a 13th in the second session. One ball later and Khawaja had his third consecutive SCG century, as he fired Rabada and took the arm from the bottom to rush in for his second run.
Khawaja leapt into the air like his childhood friend David Warner had done a week earlier.
Then he danced like a man full of life without anyone watching him in the shower.
Except a strong crowd of 27,663 had taken to the pitch in the second session to see him become the fourth player in Test history to score three hundred in a row at the SCG after the greats Wally Hammond, Doug Walters and VVS Laxman.
“There have been three Tests played against South Africa this series; one in Brisbane, one in Melbourne and one in Usman Khawaja’s garden,” Kerry O’Keeffe said on Fox Cricket. “That was the story of the day.
“This guy is so comfortable the moment he steps out of his back door in the SCG, he just beats forever.”
Adam Gilchrist added: “Wonderful scenes, wonderful recognition. Three in a row for Usman Khawaja at this venue. This is the pitch where he resurrected his career. He didn’t think he would play again with that badge on his helmet. Shit, he came back.
Australian captain Pat Cummins now has a decision to make.
With 475 points on the board, Australia have enough points in the bank if the last two massive wins, including the innings victory in Melbourne, have anything to do with it.
But in a time when captains rarely like to give an opposition a thumbs up, he might be tempted to hit longer. He doesn’t need to though.
With more rain expected on day three, Cummins probably won’t want to force a follow-up if he shows up, given he only has two fast bowlers at his disposal.
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