Monday, January 24

Usman Khawaja’s Second Century Leaves England Needing a Last Day Miracle | Ashes 2021-22


England will need to hit for the entirety of the final day to end Australia’s quest for an Ashes bleach in Sydney, after Usman Khawaja’s second-century match set the hosts for victory on day five in Sydney. Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley played the final 11 overs to reach 30 without losing, but England need another 258 runs to secure an unlikely victory.

Having scored his first appearance in two and a half years with a graceful 137 in the early innings, Khawaja repeated the feat with an excellent 101 at his old field and gave his team every chance to go 4-0 up. in the series.

By the time Australia declared 265-for-six, England was looking at a distant target of 388, exactly 100 more than the record chase in this terrain and 91 more than their series best total.

Not many stats from the current season offer good news for Joe Root’s team, but the fact that Khawaja has already scored more than any other Englishman save the captain himself is a painful reminder of his shortcomings.

The initial pairing has been the biggest problem of all and they seemed to be ready for harvest in an awkward period before the stumps. But Hameed and Crawley, both terribly short of runs, finished undefeated to record what is notably England’s best first-wicket finish on the tour.

Australia should get another 98 overs on Sunday, with England leading three injured men in their top seven. Ben Stokes has had scans for a concerning side complaint, while Jos Buttler (left index finger) and Jonny Bairstow (right thumb) have had X-rays.

In the absence of the last pair, Ollie Pope was drafted as a substitute wicketkeeper and performed impressively with four catches, but all will be needed to play his part at the bat.

England started the day with Centurion Bairstow still in the fold and three wickets up their sleeve as they looked to cut an overnight deficit of 158.

Only 36 more could be removed, with Scott Boland eliminating Bairstow by 113 and adding Stuart Broad to continue the Australian’s remarkable introduction to the proving ground.

Returning to field 122 in arrears and with Pope as a substitute behind the stumps, England knew they needed a lot of effort with the ball in hand. For a time, at least, it seemed they might produce one.

Root threw the ball to Wood while it was still fresh, with only five overs, and he responded by immediately hooking the outside edge of David Warner. Pope took it safely and work was on.

Pope’s second catch was more impressive, facing the top of Jack Leach, staying low and hitting a sharp edge from Marcus Harris. By the time they added, the award-winning scalps of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith Australia were cracking at 86 by four.

The world’s top-ranked hitter, Labuschagne, lost his head-to-head to Wood for the third straight inning, throwing a hard-hitting delivery to Pope. Smith, meanwhile, had a strange aberration when he lost his half stump cutting Leach.

There was, for a moment or two, a hint that Australia might be beaten, but Khawaja went on to lead a superb position of 179 with Cameron Green.

She instantly found her rhythm, gracefully pulling and stroking the gaps. When England opted for centrifugation, it milked or crushed it according to its whim.

There were a pair of emphatic sweeps for six from Leach, each accomplished with a firm stride and full swing.

By the time he reached 50 with coverage of Broad, the idea that it would double had already taken hold. Green was much less sure of himself, but the lack of pressure on the scoreboard and Khawaja’s calm assurance helped him calm down.

There were only a couple of slight doubts on the way to the Khawaja hundred, a notch of Root going in and out of Pope’s glove, and an upbeat lbw recommendation at 98.

If England thought the latest delay would upset him, his decision to hand over the next shift to Dawid Malan, part-time, had the opposite effect and Khawaja launched a long jump for two to start a long standing ovation.

A statement seemed certain, but Pat Cummins gave Green a chance to run for his own ton. He went all the way to ’74 before hitting Leach straight out of the air. Roulette made it two out of two when Pope’s clever reactions doomed Alex Carey to a golden duck, but Cummins refused to allow a hat-trick opportunity, waving at Khawaja from the balcony.

Australia has gotten used to the new ball grounds, but found Crawley (22nd) in joyous form, while Hameed held on to eight.

The report from Ali Martin of the SCG will follow …


www.theguardian.com

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