Usman Khawaja’s day as he and Alex Carey fuel Australia’s comeback
Usman Khawaja was 122 runs better off as he made his way up the changing room stairs at Edgbaston, walking up the stairs unbeaten for the second straight evening.
When declaring in time for a shot at Usman Khawaja with the new ball on Friday, England expected that four overs would be needed to remove him. However, 24 hours later, he had established his immovability.
Khawaja played 93 times for his country before turning 34 without ever feeling like a regular fixture in the side, and for much of his career, he was the man of Australian cricket. His temperament and technique were questioned, and after three years away from international cricket, it seemed he had served the time he was given.
Khawaja, though, ran down the pitch to celebrate his sixth Test hundred since his recall 18 months ago after cutting Ben Stokes for four in the bright sunshine of Birmingham. He has scored hundreds in Australia, India, and now, for the first time in his career, England since the year 2023 began.
Khawaja and Australia scored on a sluggish, dry pitch at a different pace from what England had established on the first day. They only scored at about two-thirds the rate that England did in their first innings, but Khawaja’s performance, which was full of beautiful drives and pulls, made sure that they trailed by only 82 at the end.
Australia just 24 balls to add to their 14 for zero total from the previous day. They also took more maidens in the first three overs of the day than England had taken in their whole first innings. Stuart Broad and James Anderson were the ones who Khawaja pulled and flicked for boundaries as he made his way through the day, but it was Broad who made the morning interesting.
His sixth over began with a wide inswinger hanging outside off stump, but David Warner fell for the trick. As he prepared to thump Broad over the covers, his rear leg collapsed, and a thick inner edge redirected the ball into the top of his leg stump. He immediately threw his hands at the ball and leaned back.
Warner had been removed by Broad 15 times, but he acted as if it had been his first, running off toward the Hollies Stand with his fists so tight that the veins in his neck began to pulse. Broad could sense that something was going on when Marnus Labuschagne motioned for a policeman to leave his seat next to the sight screen.
At the top of his mark, he thrilled the crowd by raising his hand and spinning his finger. He slanted an outswinger into him as he approached from wide on the crease, and Labuschagne was compelled to drive away from him. Australia was 29 for 2 when Jonny Bairstow made a low toss to his right and made the catch with one hand.
When Steven Smith raised his arms in celebration of his third wicket, the hat-trick ball harmlessly passed by his thigh pad. Smith then defended resolutely against everything Ben Stokes threw at him, including an over bowled by Harry Brook at a moderate medium pace inside the first hour. Stokes decided to take matters into his own hands and came on for just the second over in a game since mid-February and the first since early April.
Despite having an ongoing knee problem, he attempted to prove his health with a front-foot no-ball in his first delivery. However, the final ball of his second over slipped onto Smith’s pad. Stokes asked Marais Erasmus to dismiss Smith, but the DRS was unable to do so because ball tracking indicated the ball would have reached the top of the stumps.
Along with Khawaja, Travis Head gave each side of the meal a unique counterpunch. After the break, he survived an attack of short balls, and both left-handers faced Moeen Ali, who bowled as brilliantly as could be expected for a man who just recently returned to Test bowling. Stokes steadfastly refused to remove Moeen or move the field back as he started to leak runs.
Head reached his half-century in 60 balls while Khawaja needed 106, clipping an unfocused Ollie Robinson away from the square in the process. He failed to add any more runs, skipping down the pitch and misfiring at Moeen at short midwicket; Moeen nodded to Stokes at mid-off as he turned away in joy.
When Cameron Green charged out of his crease, Moeen should have taken two wickets in three balls. As a result, Green and Khawaja built up 72 runs for the fifth wicket in a stand that lasted until tea as an unsighted Bairstow missed the opportunity to stump him.
Green received the finest ball of the day at 38 when Moeen sent an off break wide outside off. It strayed slightly off course before turning unexpectedly about from a good distance to beat Green, who was lunging forward as if treading on an insect, on the inner edge and peg back his leg stump.
Khawaja and Alex Carey added an unbroken 91 for the sixth wicket, preventing England from taking another wicket. Carey had a life on 26, pushing Joe Root forward but Bairstow turned off the opportunity; a slip edge past Root from Moeen pushed him to 50. Khawaja also received a break. Broad used the second new ball to smash off stump back after finding some nip off the seam.
Broad was able to continue to the close after the third umpire called attention to the fact that he had overstepped. By the time he left with a beaming smile at the conclusion of a day that will go down in history as Usman Khawaja’s, the gathering had begun to thin away.