Sunday People


Khawaja’s tonderful reply to Ashes ‘Bazball’

- By Mike Walters

USMAN KHAWAJA deserves to put the kettle on and enjoy a ‘kipper tie’, as they say in Birmingham, after answering Bazball with a chanceless hundred.

On a flat, sandpaper-coloured pitch at Edgbaston, England found out the hard way that it will take more than funky declaratio­ns, bowling changes and field settings to regain the Ashes.

Khawaja feared his Test career had run up a dead end when he managed only 122 runs in six innings on his last tour of these shores.

But as the Aussies fought like a pack of outback dingoes to wrest control of the first Test, their Pakistan-born opener would not be moved.

Even when Stuart Broad speared the second new ball through Khawaja’s defence, England’s celebratio­ns were cut short by a marginal no-ball call.

But if that was his only stroke of luck, Khawaja deserved it simply for spraying graffiti over Ben Stokes’ Bazball manual and he celebrated his 15th Test hundred by throwing his bat in the air. Who can blame him?

Watchful, if not actually timid, before lunch, 36-year-old Khawaja went through the gears to finish unbeaten on 126 out of Australia’s 311-5 – just 82 runs in arrears.

Bazball is fun, it’s entertaini­ng and it’s a breath of fresh air.


But it doesn’t work if you don’t do the basics right, and England may live to rue three mishaps – a missed stumping, a dropped catch and that

Broad no-ball.

They were desperate to make early inroads – and Broad’s Ashes ‘bunny’ David Warner duly obliged.

Broad has now dismissed Warner 15 times in Tests – not so much a bunny as the whole of Watership Down – and there were few redeeming features about the Aussie opener’s lunge at a delivery that demanded more respect.

Marnus Labuschagn­e, perhaps distracted by a policeman in a hi-viz jacket moving in front of the sightscree­n as he took guard, perished next ball. Fishing airily at a full-length delivery, the World No.1-ranked Test batsman nicked behind for the diving Jonny Bairstow to pouch a superb onehanded catch. Nice work, plod.

That brought Steve Smith to the crease – a man whose last 10 Test innings on English soil read like a threat: 143, 144, 142, 92, 211, 82, 80, 23, 121 and 34. Booed all the way to the middle – as he was in 2019 – over his role in the sandpaper ball-tampering scandal five years ago, Smith easily survived Broad’s hat-trick ball, speared down the leg side.

But England were cock-a-hoop when skipper Stokes pinned Smith right back in the crease on 16 and DRS sent him packing leg-before – and at 67-3 England could smell blood.

It was only Stokes’ second Test wicket of 2023, vindicatin­g his shuffle of the pack like a Monte Carlo casino croupier and using SEVEN bowlers in the pre-lunch session.

Khawaja and Travis Head (50 off 63 balls) rallied the Aussies until Head shovelled Moeen Ali to midwicket.

Cameron Green survived a huge stumping chance two balls later, Bairstow spilling the toast as it popped out of the toaster – a big miss.

And by the time Green was castled by Moeen (left) spinning a jaffa out of the footmarks, the Aussies were in calmer waters at 220-5.


Alex Carey, dropped on 26 by Bairstow off Joe Root the over before England took the new ball, went on to 52 not out overnight, playing with ominous freedom, but this was Khawaja’s day in the land of strangled vowels.

If you haven’t quite mastered the Brummie dialect yet, Usman, this might help: What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison? You can wash your hands in a bison.

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