Khawaja savours a lazy 141

Stun­ning cen­tury pro­vides the ul­ti­mate an­swer to crit­ics

Geelong Advertiser - - SPORT - BEN HORNE

US­MAN Khawaja has opened up about just how much his match-sav­ing hun­dred meant to him af­ter a decade of be­ing la­belled lazy by crit­ics.

Khawaja’s 141 off 302 balls span­ning nine hours against Pak­istan in the crush­ing Dubai heat stands as the sec­ond­longest fourth in­nings knock in cricket his­tory and a per­for­mance that se­cured Aus­tralia the great­est of Test match saves.

Adding to the weight of Khawaja’s achieve­ment was the fact his strug­gles in Asian con­di­tions in the past could have cost him his Test ca­reer.

Khawaja’s wife Rachel cried when he brought up his ton.

His own leap into the sky and dou­ble fist pump said it all about the per­sonal an­guish that in­spired him to one of the great­est fight­back hun­dreds scored by an Aus­tralian.

Un­der the pump to prove him­self in Aus­tralia’s bold new era, Khawaja has spent the past few months shed­ding 7kg and mak­ing runs over­seas.

Aus­tralian Test great Ian Healy last year crit­i­cised Khawaja as “lazy”, a com­mon per­cep­tion that he hopes will now be put to bed for­ever fol­low­ing his hero­ics in Dubai.

“Yeah, there was def­i­nitely some­thing there I reckon,” Khawaja said about the point he had to prove in Asia.

“A lot of work goes into play­ing at the high­est level. I’ve worked as hard as any­one. I’ve worked my back­side off for the last 10 years of first-class cricket, day in, day out.

“Peo­ple think be­cause of my re­laxed na­ture that’s not the case. That I’ve been gifted to be able to get to where I am.

‘‘I’ve re­ally worked as hard as I can in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions like this and in Eng­land. Peo­ple over­look that sort of stuff. But you don’t get to play at the high­est level with­out putting in the hard yards.”

Pak­istan cap­tain Sar­fraz Ahmed de­scribed Khawaja’s knock as one of the best in­nings ever in Test cricket.

On a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing wicket Khawaja out­lasted one of the most dan­ger­ous day five bowlers in the game — leg-spin­ner Yasir Shah — pep­per­ing the rough.

Khawaja said a shift to open­ing the bat­ting helped in con­di­tions where start­ing was treach­er­ous.

In to­tal the 31-year-old spent 13 hours at the crease over the course of the five days — un­afraid to ex­e­cute the re­verse sweep — hav­ing also made a stoic 85 in the first dig.

Khawaja ad­mit­ted the mag­ni­tude of his achieve­ment was yet to sink in.

“That first-in­nings 85 was as tough as any in­nings I’ve played,” he said. “I was drenched.’’

An­chor­ing part­ner­ships worth 87, 132 and 79 with Aaron Finch, Travis Head and Tim Paine, Khawaja was a con­stant calm­ing pres­ence.

Khawaja de­parted with just un­der 15 overs left in the match and was forced to watch Tim Paine and Nathan Lyon’s ex­tra­or­di­nary fi­nal stand from the dress­ing room.

Khawaja sat along­side the No.11 Jon Hol­land, who was ner­vously wait­ing in case he was needed as Aus­tralia hung on at eight wick­ets down.

“I don’t know how Dutchy was feel­ing, but I was crap­ping my­self,” Khawaja said.

“You can’t deny how hard of a sit­u­a­tion that is, es­pe­cially when you come off the field.

‘‘You’ve done all that work, all you want is just ‘Please, get through this’.”

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