Khawaja sheds ‘lazy’ tag
Pakistan skipper lauds Aussie’s epic innings as one of the best
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.