Usman Khawaja, after a decade-long wait, finally achieved his maiden Test hundred in England, leading a remarkable recovery for Australia in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston on Saturday.
At the start, Australia found themselves in a tough spot at 67-3 when Stuart Broad struck twice in consecutive deliveries, dismissing David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne. England captain Ben Stokes then claimed the prized wicket of star batsman Steve Smith.
However, by the end of the second day of the five-match series, Australia had fought back admirably, reaching 311-5. Opening batsman Usman Khawaja remained unbeaten on 126, while wicketkeeper Alex Carey provided strong support with an undefeated 52, forging an unbroken partnership of 91 runs.
Australia still trailed England by 82 runs, who had declared their first innings at 393-8, with Joe Root contributing an unbeaten 118.
[Read More: Moeen Ali fined a for code of conduct breach]
Australia captain Pat Cummins emphasized that his recently-crowned World Test champions didn’t need to adopt England’s ultra-aggressive ‘Bazball’ style of batting. He stated, “Somewhere our batters might take 200 balls to get a hundred and that’s totally fine.”
Khawaja’s performance perfectly exemplified Cummins’ words as he reached his hundred in 199 deliveries. It was Khawaja’s 15th Test hundred and seventh in 18 matches since his recall last year. He achieved the milestone by playing a late-cut four off Stokes.
Initially, it seemed that Khawaja’s resilient innings had come to an end when Broad dismissed him for 112 with the new ball. However, replays revealed that Broad had overstepped the crease, resulting in a marginal no-ball, and Khawaja was given a reprieve.
Earlier, Broad had also accounted for Warner, whom he had dismissed seven times during the drawn 2019 Ashes in England. Warner, batting on nine, chased a wide delivery from Broad and inside-edged it onto his stumps.
[Read More: Broad criticizes Edgbaston wicket]
In the same over, Labuschagne, the top-ranked Test batsman in the world, departed for a golden duck, edging a Broad outswinger that was brilliantly caught one-handed by diving wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
Smith managed to survive the hat-trick delivery but struggled throughout his 59-ball stay, failing to hit a single boundary. Stokes, despite concerns about his bowling fitness due to a long-standing knee injury, dismissed Smith for 16 with a nip-back ball that struck him on the back foot. The decision was upheld after Smith’s review.
As the ball got older and batting conditions improved, Khawaja and Travis Head formed a solid fourth-wicket partnership, adding 81 runs to stabilize Australia’s innings. Both left-handers took on Moeen Ali, hitting the off-spinner for sixes on his home ground in Birmingham.
Stokes persisted with Moeen, who was playing his first Test in almost two years after stepping away from red-ball cricket. The persistence paid off when Head, fresh from a century in Australia’s World Test Championship final win over India, fell for a quickfire 50 off 63 deliveries, mistiming a drive off Moeen to Zak Crawley at midwicket.
At 148-4, Australia had a scare when Cameron Green charged at a sharply-turning delivery from Moeen on his second ball but was saved as Bairstow missed a clear stumping chance. Moeen eventually dismissed Green for 38, but not before the all-rounder had added 72 runs with Khawaja.
Bairstow, who scored a rapid 78 on the previous day, also dropped Alex Carey on 26 off the occasional spin of Joe Root.
Follow TigerCric on Facebook for regular updates.