Sydney, Jan 8 (MNN) Usman Khawaja hit an unbeaten 101 in the second innings to create history as Australia recovered from an early wobble to pile on runs and set England a target of 388 runs for victory in the fourth Test here on Saturday.
In reply, England finished day four of the Ashes Test at SCG on 30 for no loss. Zak Crawley made 22* in the final hour of play, and will be joined by Haseeb Hameed (8*) when play resumes on Sunday.
The day clearly belonged to Khawaja though, joining just five other Australian batters to score twin tons in a single Ashes Test, finishing 101 not out from just 138 balls in Sydney.
Hitting ten fours and two sixes with a mix of touch and occasional force, Khawaja made runs through a textbook of shots all around the wicket.
Bereft of ideas in response, England’s several plans against him brought little success, with a number of sweeps and reverse sweeps adding to a host of drives through the cover region, as well as his trademark pull shot.
Coming in at 68/3, Khawaja at first provided a mix of stability and proactivity, after the hosts made a slight stumble earlier in the day, trying to accelerate.
David Warner (3) and Marnus Labuschagne (29) both fell to Mark Wood (2/65) who was the pick of the quick bowlers, with the under-pressure Marcus Harris unable to convert his start of 27 into a bigger score.
Harris fell to Jack Leach who finished with figures of 4/84, though a pair of Leach’s wickets came in the final moments of Australia’s innings, as they made a late scamper with the bat.
Only recalled after Travis Head tested coronavirus positive, Khawaja was joined by Cameron Green in a partnership of 179 from just 238 balls, as the pair bludgeoned the opposition to all corners of the ground.
Green was seemingly freed by the match situation, and posted 74, his second Test half-century. Interestingly, his other Test fifty was made at the same ground last year against India.
Having scored 137 in the first innings, Khawaja finished unbeaten after the fall of Green and Alex Carey first ball, making back-to-back centuries for the first time in his first-class career.
The only realistic hurdle to Australia taking a 4-0 lead in the lopsided Vodafone Ashes is summer storms similar to the one that bore down on the SCG on Saturday evening, with further rain tipped to fall on Sunday morning.
If weather interventions see Australia fall short of the 10 England wickets they require, they may rue captain Pat Cummins’ decision to delay this afternoon’s declaration until an hour before stumps were scheduled even though his team had clearly batted (and battered) their foes out of the contest.
The fact the tourists posted their best opening stand of the campaign to reach 0-30 at stumps – still 358 in arrears – suggests they are not yet bereft of fight despite the challenging nature of an increasingly erratic SCG pitch ensuring they are running worryingly short of soldiers.
The 35-year-old Khawaja has become the first Australia player to post a hundred in each innings of a Test since Steve Smith at Edgbaston in the opening Test of the 2019 Ashes, the first at home since David Warner against New Zealand at the Gabba in 2015, and only the third (after Doug Walters against West Indies in 1968-69 and Ricky Ponting v South Africa in 2006) to manage it at the SCG.