Usman Khawaja returned to haunt England with a stylish century on Thursday as Australia took a firm grip of the fourth Test in Sydney.
The Pakistan-born Khawaja, playing his first Test since the 2019 Ashes series in England in place of Covid-isolated Travis Head, was at his unflappable best in compiling 137 off 260 balls to put Australia in charge after declaring on 416-8.
Nathan Lyon smoked Stuart Broad for six over mid-wicket to prompt captain Pat Cummins to end the innings and give Australia’s pace attack seven overs at the weary Englishmen, who had toiled for 134 overs in the field. Mitchell Starc was 34* at the declaration.
England survived unscathed to the close at 13 without loss with Haseeb Hameed on two and Zak Crawley not out two.
Crawley enjoyed a massive reprieve before he had scored when he was caught by David Warner at slip only for Starc to be no-balled for over-stepping.
Khawaja, dropped by Joe Root on 28, made the most of his recall and was finally dismissed late in the day giving Broad his fifth wicket.
Khawaja looked set to be there at the end, but an inside edge off Broad cannoned on to his stumps to end his mighty knock and he left the field to a rousing reception.
His ninth Test century came four years after his 171 against England at the same Sydney Cricket Ground, but it may not be enough to keep his spot for the final Hobart Test later this month with Brisbane centurion Head expected to be available for selection.
The elegant 35-year-old left-hander looked in the groove, patient with his shot selection to deny the tourists after Broad had made a double breakthrough after lunch.
Khawaja brought up his century in the over before tea when he whipped spinner Jack Leach behind deep backward square for three.
Khawaja brings up the ton with a flick through the leg side!
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) January 6, 2022
Khawaja had a let-off on 28 before lunch when Root fumbled a good chance at slip off Leach and then made the tourists pay dearly.
Khawaja’s patient knock stabilised the Australian first innings after Broad had dismissed Steve Smith and Cameron Green in a double breakthrough.
Broad struck twice with the second new ball, removing the threatening Smith for 67 and young all-rounder Green for five.
Broad, following up on his 13th Test dismissal of ‘bunny’ David Warner on the opening day, got Smith for the ninth time in the Ashes, on this occasion caught behind.
Smith was annoyed with himself as he left the wicket as he looked in good nick to score a 28th Test century, 12th in the Ashes and fourth at the SCG.
During his knock Smith became Australia’s seventh-highest Test run-scorer, passing current team coach Justin Langer’s 7,696 runs. He now has scored 7,734 runs at 60.89.
Broad followed up with the wicket of the tentative Green, who lunged forward and got a thick edge to Zak Crawley at third slip.
Broad went on to take the wicket of Cummins with a vicious rearing delivery for 24 and Khawaja to finish the day with 5-101 off 29 overs.
In another blow for England, star all-rounder Ben Stokes pulled up bowling his 14th over clutching his left side after a short-pitched delivery to Smith and immediately left the field for treatment.
He later returned but was unable to bowl.
Root, forced into bowling his off-spin in the absence of Stokes, snared the wicket of Alex Carey for 13.
The Ashes are already gone for England after going down by an innings and 14 runs inside three days in the third Test at Melbourne to give Australia a 3-0 lead with two Tests to complete.
© Agence France-Presse