Usman Khawaja says the taunts of the Edgbaston crowd spurred him on to an “emotional” maiden Test hundred in England as he led Australia’s fightback in the Ashes opener on Saturday.
Australia were reeling at 67-3 after Stuart Broad struck twice in two balls to remove David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne, the world’s top-ranked Test batsman, before England captain Ben Stokes captured the prize wicket of Steve Smith.
Yet they recovered to 311-5 at stumps on the second day, 82 runs behind England’s first-innings 393-8 declared, with left-handed opener Khawaja 126*.
Broad later blasted the pitch as “soulless”.
Khawaja’s more than six-and-a-half hour stay may have lacked the dynamism of some of England’s ‘Bazball’ batting, but there was no denying the value of an innings that still featured 14 fours and two sixes.
The 36-year-old’s seventh hundred in 18 Tests since he was recalled last year also ended a decade-long wait to reach three figures at this level on English soil.
Prior to this innings, Khawaja’s top score in a Test in England was 54, with his corresponding average a lowly 19.60.
“When I’m getting sprayed [barracked] by the crowd as I’m walking out there today and as I’m going to nets being told that I can’t score runs in England … I guess it was just a bit more emotional than normal,” he said.
Khawaja, who attended Saturday’s post-play press conference with his daughter Aisha, said having his family around him helped ease the pressures surrounding what is set to be his last tour of England.
“These young ones keep me young and make me realise that there’s a lot to life and a lot of good stuff after I stop playing cricket,” he explained. “So for me, it’s just about enjoying it. My wife has been awesome to me, she’s been my rock throughout my career.
“That perspective makes it a lot easier for me to go out there and just enjoy it as much as I can, whether I get a duck or a hundred.”
He added: “Every Test match is a bonus for me because we thought my career was over. In my head, it’s the last [Ashes] tour I’ll be on, unless I pull a Jimmy Anderson and come back when I’m 41.”
Khawaja was bowled by Broad on 112 only for replays to reveal the veteran seamer had over-stepped for one of his six no-balls in the innings.
Broad said the intensity of the occasion allied to a “soulless” pitch, contributed to a “frustrating day”.
“I’m not really a big no-ball bowler,” he told the BBC. “I have probably bowled more today than in a Test match day before. There’s no excuse.
“But it is the first innings of an Ashes Test match, you have some big emotions there so you are trying to gain energy from the surface and maybe pushing a little bit too hard.”
He added: “It is certainly one of the slowest pitches I can remember bowling on in England … Hopefully it is not a trend for the whole series.”
© Agence France-Presse