The Ashes, 4th Test: Khawaja’s brilliant ton put Australia on top against England on Day 2


Left-handed batter Usman Khawaja’s brilliant ninth Test century (137) put Australia on top against England on the second day of the fourth Ashes Test, here on Thursday.

Like most other days in the ongoing Ashes series, Australia dominated once again on a challenging SCG pitch. Led by Khawaja’s century on return to the side, Australia piled on 416-8 before declaring late in the day.

In reply, England had five overs to see through before stumps and they would’ve lost Zak Crawley who had edged to David Warner at slip had Mitchell Starc not overstepped in his delivery stride.

However, in the end, England’s openers survived the required overs to finish on 13/0, still trailing by 403 runs against hosts. Haseeb Hameed (2 not out) and Zak Crawley (2 not out) were at the crease when play ended on Day 2 at Sydney Cricket Ground.

Earlier, rain caused four interruptions in the morning session. England had the upper hand at the end of Day 1, but Australia did some good work in the opening hour to keep the visitors at bay.

Although English bowlers kept the Australian batsmen in check, they couldn’t make inroads. They bowled good lengths and lines, but none of the bowlers created chances or looked likely to threaten Steven Smith and Usman Khawaja, who saw through a testing phase where runs were coming at a trickle.

However, rain arrived periodically to send the players off a number of times, upsetting the rhythm of both the batsmen and the bowlers. Yet, Australia’s batsmen didn’t lose focus and were 209 for 3 at lunch, with England also being good for most parts of the session too.

Resuming the second session, English bowlers who looked flat in the first session, were lively after Lunch, led by top class Stuart Broad. He troubled Steve Smith 3-4 times in the sixth over after the break before having him caught-behind for 67, breaking the 115-run stand. The pacer then forced an under-pressure Cameron Green (5) to nick off too who opted to lunge and defend against Broad’s seam bowling.

However, it was an outstanding knock from Khawaja which kept the momentum going for Australia. The batter weathered through the tough phases to settle into the innings and has looked the most comfortable and composed.

With the good partnership going on between Khawaja and Alex Carey, England skipper Root brought himself into the attack. He struck immediately, putting an end to Carey’s innings in the middle with Jonny Bairstow taking a splendid catch behind midwicket.

Pat Cummins took 22 balls to get off the mark but struck back-to-back fours against Malan to push forward Australia’s total. Khawaja got to his century in the final over before Tea, having added 36 runs with Cummins in 51 balls for the seventh wicket.

The skipper fell early in the third session after Australia went past 330, but the crucial stand between Khawaja and Starc helped Australia go past 400. The duo started off briskly, and eventually paced themselves well during the stand. They took on the poor deliveries and saw off the good ones.

Khawaja’s fine innings finally came to an end as he chopped on to give Stuart Broad another Test five-wicket haul. It was the first fifer for an England bowler in this series. Thereafter, it was only a matter of how many more runs Australia could get. Starc remained unbeaten on 34 and Lyon on 16, having hit two fours and a six as hosts declared their innings on 416/8.

Brief scores: Australia 416/8 decl in 134 overs (Marcus Harris 38, Steve Smith 67, Usman Khawaja 137, Mitchell Starc 34*; Stuart Broad 5-101) lead England 13/0 by 403 run



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