The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - BEN HORNE

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

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