Usman Khawaja’s second ton leaves England at bat to save the test

Usman Khawaja marked his second century of the game to help Australia at 265 for six declared on Matchday 4 of the Ashes’ fourth test on Saturday, giving England an unlikely victory goal of 388. England, including l Hopes of avoiding a 4-0 loss in the series would appear to rest on a stubborn stick and the weather will resume on the final day on the 30th without a loss after Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley survived 11 overs before strains.

The day belonged again to Khawaja, who returned to test cricket after 2.5 years as a makeshift replacement for Travis Head when the middle-order batsman tested positive for COVID-19.

The 35-year-old once again oozed class as he re-energized the Australian innings in a 179-point partnership with all-rounder Cameron Green after England blocked their march to a second declaration of the game. Unfazed and elegant, Khawaja added a 101 no to the 137 he scored in the opening innings, scoring two runs to reach the milestone for the 10th time.

“Surreal moment,” said Khawaja, who now has three centuries against England at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). only the third batsman to score centuries in both innings in a floor test match, joining compatriots Doug Walters against the West Indies in 1969 and Ricky Ponting against South Africa in 2006.

After being sacked for 294 in the first 40 minutes of the day, England had a decent bowling shot against Australia and knocked out the top four at the cost of just 86 points. That only brought Khawaja and Green together, however, and they moved closer to Australia with a 400-point lead when the latter beat Jack Leach for 74 to ultimately break the partnership.

Leach (4-84) then took Alex Carey behind the next ball, but Australia’s Pat Cummins denied the spinner a hat-trick opportunity, refusing to pad and calling Khawaja back to the locker room with the statement. Four of the Australian wickets were taken over by Ollie Pope, who was guarding wickets in place of the injured Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow.

Bairstow, who marked England’s only century in the series in the opening innings, Buttler and versatile Ben Stokes all had pre-match injury scans but are expected to strike on Sunday. The weather could still have something to say about it with storms sweeping the Pacific coast, but if they miss the eastern suburbs of Sydney, England’s task seems daunting.

The most successful fourth inning chase in 140 years of testing cricket at SCG came when Australia revised a 287 goal against South Africa in 2006.

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