REVERSE SWEEP DREAMS
BORDER PRAISES KHAWAJA’S BOLD SHOT CHOICE
THREE decades after Allan Border sent a rival to purgatory for playing a reverse sweep, the godfather of door-die batting has marvelled at Usman Khawaja’s stunning mastery of cricket’s most death-defying shot.
Khawaja played an extraordinary 21 reverse sweeps in his heroic match-saving hundred against Pakistan in Dubai which, according to CricViz, is an all-time Test match record.
Border played a key role in the most infamous reverse sweep in history during the 1987 World Cup final when he brought himself on to bowl and inspired a brain snap from England captain Mike Gatting that proved the turning point in a fabled Australian triumph.
England were cruising to Cup glory in front of 100,000 people in Kolkata, then Calcutta, when Gatting got down on his haunches and butchered it all in one bizarre moment.
Even in the T20 age the reverse sweep is still seen as the epitome of high-risk batting yet Khawaja executed the shot as his staple against a high-quality attack on a deteriorating fifth-day pitch over a marathon nine-hour and 302-ball stay at the crease.
Border, Australia’s greatest backs-to-the-wall captain who scored 16 of his 27 Test centuries in draws and forged a reputation as the ultimate match-saver, said Khawaja’s audacity under pressure should go down as one of the most remarkable innings ever played.
“Usman was just phenomenal the way he went about the whole process,” Fox Cricket commentator Border told The Sunday Telegraph.
“I’ve always got my heart in my mouth when he’s playing the reverse sweep but when you talk to him about it, he’s just as comfortable playing that shot as the forward defence because he feels as though he’s less likely to offer a bat-pad opportunity.
“It’s one thing when you’re setting a target and you play the reverse sweep to stuff up their fielding and bowling options. But in a rearguard situation, where you basically want to keep wickets in hand and the runrate doesn’t matter, it was an extraordinary way to do it.
“I’d reckon it’s the world record for the most amount of reverse sweeps played in a Test match innings and I can’t remember him missing one. It was quite incredible.”
Pakistan’s leg-spinning weapon, Yasir Shah, has only played 29 Test matches yet ranks inside the top 10 for most fourth-innings wickets by a spinner in the history of the game.
Surviving that remarkable examination has catapulted Khawaja into the International Cricket Council’s top 10 Test batting rankings for the first time in his career. Border said it should once and for all dispel the notion that Khawaja is a lazy cricketer.
“It’s all put to bed now and he can just get on and play,” Border said.
Usman Khawaja reverse sweeps during the first Test in Dubai. Picture: Getty