Khawaja sheds ‘lazy’ tag

Pak­istan skip­per lauds Aussie’s epic in­nings as one of the best

The Gympie Times - - SPORT - BEN HORNE IN DUBAI

CRICKET: An emo­tional Us­man Khawaja has opened up about just how much his match-sav­ing hun­dred means 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 the his­tory of cricket, and a per­for­mance that has se­cured Aus­tralia one of the great­est Test match saves of all time.

Chasing a world-record 462 to win, the tourists sur­vived 140 overs to fin­ish on 8-362, with skip­per Tim Paine un­beaten on 61 and Nathan Lyon five not out.

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

Khawaja’s wife, Rachel, broke down in tears when her hus­band brought up his ton, and 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 hun­dreds scored by an Aus­tralian.

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

Last year, Aus­tralia great Ian Healy crit­i­cised Khawaja as “lazy”, a com­mon per­cep­tion that Khawaja hoped would be put to bed for­ever fol­low­ing his hero­ics in Dubai.

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

“A lot of work goes into play­ing cricket 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.

“But it’s not the case at all ... you don’t get to play at the high­est level with­out putting in the hard yards.

“There’s no se­cret to suc­cess, it’s all about hard work. I’m just grate­ful to be out there play­ing for Aus­tralia and get­ting a hun­dred.”

Pak­istan cap­tain Sar­fraz Ahmed de­scribed it as one of the best Test in­nings ever.

On a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing wicket, Khawaja out­lasted one of the game’s most dan­ger­ous day­five bowlers, leg-spin­ner Yasir Shah, pep­per­ing the rough.

Khawaja’s great skill and brav­ery un­der fire was de­fined by the num­ber of times he ex­e­cuted the re­verse sweep.

The 31-year-old said a shift to open­ing the bat­ting helped in con­di­tions where start­ing was treach­er­ous.

In to­tal, he spent 13 hours at the crease over the course of the five days, hav­ing also made a stoic 85 in the first dig.

An­chor­ing part­ner­ships worth 87, 132 and 79 with Aaron Finch, Travis Head and Tim Paine, Khawaja was a con­stant calm­ing pres­ence be­fore de­part­ing with just un­der 15 overs left in the match.

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