Usman Khawaja receives player of the match award for his twin tons in SCG Test
“The hunger is still there. I’ve shown that I can still score runs at this level if an opportunity does present itself in the future,” said Usman Khawaja after his phenomenal return to Test cricket.
The fourth Test of Ashes 2021-22 played at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) will be remembered in the coming days for Usman Khawaja's magnificent return to Test cricket as he went on to smash hundreds in both innings (137 in the first essay and 101* in the second) of the drawn game.
The task was difficult as the shots were being blazed against a competent set of English bowlers but the Australian didn't let any of those go through his chest.
"Defend, cut, drive" were the only answers that Khawaja had prepared for English bowlers as he knew he had waited for this moment long and only he could live it to the fullest.
The 35-year-old stylish batter last played in whites for Australia in August 2019 and made a return to Australia's playing XI after Travis Head tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Sydney Test.
Considering the selection criteria and finalising the playing XI for Australia, Khawaja was fighting for the no. 5 spot in the team with Travis Head and was not considered as a first-choice player, as Head was given preference over him in the first three Tests. However, after Head tested positive for the deadly virus, Khawaja finally got an opportunity which he utilised to the fullest.
Thanks to Khawaja's unbeaten 101 in the second innings of Australia, the Pat Cummins-led side declared on 265 for six on the fourth day of the fourth Ashes Test on Saturday, handing England a massive target of 388 which was highly unlikely to be achieved and England managed to eke out a draw trundling along to 270/9 by the fag end of the final day of the Sydney Test.
Following the stellar feat, the Pakistan-born Australian player joined an elite list of players from down under - Warren Bardsley, Arthur Morris, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden and Steven Smith - to have scored two centuries in an Ashes Test.
He also joins compatriots Doug Walters (versus West Indies in 1968-69) and Ricky Ponting (versus South Africa in 2006) as the only players to score centuries in both innings of a Test at the SCG, the first to do so in an Ashes series.
"It's a surreal moment," Khawaja told Fox Cricket after registering his 10th Test century.
"I've never got back-to-back hundreds in first-class cricket, let alone Test cricket. It's pretty special," he added.
From not being in the scheme of things for the SCG Test to making it to the playing XI after Travis Head returned COVID-19 positive and returning with the player of the match award, history has been created in Sydney. Also, after playing only one match in the ongoing Ashes, Usman has become the fifth-highest run-scorer of Ashes 2021-22.
Most Runs in Ashes 2021-22
Usman Khawaja has no Hobart Hopes
However, despite smashing twin hundreds at the SCG, the southpaw is uncertain regarding his place in the Australian team for the next and final Test in Hobart.
"At the moment I'm probably quite resigned to the fact that I will miss out," Khawaja said.
"I like the process the selectors have been taking. At the moment, I'm not expecting to play the next Test but I'll always be ready. Who knows, someone else may get COVID-19 or something else happens. Heady batted beautifully in that first Test. I'd be very surprised if too much changed. Scotty Boland was amazing last game, something I'm not sure I'll see again and he was going to be dropped. It's just the reality. It sucks, but that's just cricket," he added.
The experienced southpaw might not be sure of his place in the next Test in Hobart but following his remarkable effort at SCG, one thing is for sure that the Australian selectors will apply all the permutations and combinations to make him stay in the playing XI.
With his Sydney heroics, the 35-year-old has also boosted his possibilities of being a regular in the Australian cricket team. Australia is scheduled to tour Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka in the coming days and Khawaja has a good record against them, making him an automatic pick.
Australia lead England 3-0 going into the fifth Test of Ashes 2021-22 to be played at Bellerive Oval in Hobart from January 14.