Tuesday , June 28 2022

Hot Khawaja comeback rolls on as epic finale awaits

Fourteen days of cricket proved too few for either Pakistan or Australia to secure a Test series victory, but both sides await a chance to clinch the inaugural Benaud-Qadir Trophy on the final day of the three-match battle.

As Steve Smith became the fastest in history to register 8000 Test runs, Usman Khawaja continued to shine in his extraordinary return to the top level, peeling off an unbeaten 104 to tally his fourth century of 2022.

Only a declaration could bring the veteran’s innings to a close, when captain Pat Cummins ushered in his charges with a lead of 350 on the board.

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Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq then toiled through 27 overs as Pakistan reached stumps on day four at 0-73.

The mission for the hosts is hunting down another 278 runs, while Australia’s quest is capturing 10 wickets.

Khawaja’s 12th Test hundred upped his total of runs for the series to 496, which includes two centuries and two scores in the 90s, at the average of 165.83.

The Pakistan-born strokemaker picked off eight fours, three of which came off paceman Hasan Ali in the 49th over, and brought up his ton off left-arm orthodox bowler Nauman Ali.

Khawaja nudged an Ali delivery to the point region and a misfield allowed him to run two, a resounding roar echoing throughout Gaddafi Stadium as he leapt high in the air and pumped his right fist.

“That has been an outstanding hundred,” said former England batter Rob Key on Fox Cricket.

“What a player he has been on this tour. What a tour he is having. He has been the stand-out batsman of this very good Australian side. So much is indebted to that man.”

Khawaja returned to the Australian Test side in January as a replacement for Travis Head, who’d been felled by COVID-19.

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He struck twin centuries in his comeback Test at the SCG and, when Head returned to the side for the following match, in Hobart, Marcus Harris was axed and Khawaja shifted up the order to open, where he’s remained.

“I think what’s special about it is that only a couple of months ago Usman Khawaja thought his Test career was over. That’s what makes this special,” said former Australian opener Simon Katich after play.

“It’s in his country of birth, it’s the first time in 24 years Australia’s back here playing Test cricket.

“This will be very, very special for him when he looks back on his career.”

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