Usman Khawaja’s unbeaten 138 made it Australia’s day as they go into day three on 307-6, despite a late onslaught from the Proteas’ pace attack.
It was yet another day of compelling pink-ball cricket that saw the momentum sway as the day turned into night. But, despite the late charge from a fired-up Proteas attack, Usman Khawaja made it Australia’s day.
The 48-run lead puts them in an ideal position to nail home the advantage in the morning session on day three, as a significant first-innings lead will put huge pressure on the tourists in unfamiliar conditions.
Despite Kyle Abbott’s twin strikes in the morning session to see off Matt Renshaw (10) and David Warner (11), skipper Steve Smith and opener Khawaja built up a potentially match-deciding 137-run stand, this after Khawaja was forced to open on Thursday night due to Warner being off the field for too long before Faf du Plessis decided to declare on 259-9.
Smith was handed a reprieve on 42 when Hashim Amla put down a regulation catch at slip, but he only added 17 more runs as a rush of blood to the head proved his downfall. He attempted to go for a quick single, only for Khawaja to send him back after it was too late.
Any hope of a collapse were put to bed by debutant Peter Handscomb, who took to international cricket very comfortably indeed, hitting three boundaries in a row to rush to a half-century off just 70 balls. When Abbott snared him for 54, someone who didn’t take to Test cricket too warmly was Nic Maddinson, who was handed a huge send off from Kagiso Rabada when he bowled him for a duck. It will be interesting to see if Rabada lands himself in hot water for his fiery exchange with the debutant.
Matthew Wade was given an equally hostile exit when Vernon Philander got in on the act to see him off for four, capping off a spell for the tourists that saw three wickets fall for 10 runs.
Mitchell Starc did well to hang on for 16 not out, albeit surviving a very close DRS decision late on, but the man of the day was undoubtedly Khawaja.
‘As good a century as I’ve seen from an Australian player for a few years,’ said Shane Warne from the commentary box, as Khawaja notched up his fifth Test ton, and Australia’s first in this series.
Khawaja looked at ease throughout the day and he will be the big wicket in the morning session should the Proteas want to stand any chance of condemning Australia to their first-ever series whitewash.
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