Usman Khawaja has revealed he gave Pat Cummins his blessing to declare on day four of the SCG Test and leave him stranded on 195 not out. Cummins' brutal call divided opinion in the cricket world, with many fans and commentators blasting the Aussie captain.
However Khawaja has since revealed how he told Cummins to "do what you need to do" in order to help Australia win the Test match. Khawaja was on 195 not out when rain brought an early end to the second day's play at the SCG, before day three was completely washed out.
It left Cummins in the tricky position of having to decide whether to bat on and let Khawaja get his maiden Test double century or declare and try to bowl South Africa out twice. It has since emerged that Cummins would have kept batting if play resumed on Saturday morning, however more rain and concerns over the pitch meant the entire morning session was lost.
Cummins then made the brutal call to declare and leave Khawaja five runs short of his double century. Speaking after stumps on day four, Khawaja told Triple M: “The plan was always to bat in the morning. The rain was the only thing that was going to halt it – and it rained at the worst time.
“Every time we thought we were going to get on, a little bit of rain would come through. Then they took the covers off and there were a few muddy patches. It just kept getting less likely and less likely (we would bat).
“I knew obviously Patty wanted to bowl at some stage … before he even came up to me and talked to me, I could sort of read the sign. I honestly just went up to him and went: ‘Patty, whatever you need to do to win this Test match, just do it. I love playing for Australia and you know if I‘m not playing this game to win this game, it’d be wrong for me to ask to go out there for two or three overs and just do what you feel is right.’
“I got in first. I don’t want him to come to me. I just went: ‘Mate, you make the decision, take the emotion out of it and do what you need to do.’ I made the initiative to make sure I got up to him first.”
Khawaja had previously said it would have been 'harsh' if Cummins declared with him on 195. However the extra delays on Saturday morning changed the situation dramatically. Nevertheless, some fans and commentators were left fuming over Cummins' call.
The match is heading for a draw. Why not give Khawaja the chance to reach an individual milestone? #AUSvSA
— Alexander Grant (@AlexGrantOz) January 7, 2023
Usman Khawaja has every right to be pissed off right now - it was gonna be a draw anyway, let the poor man make 5 more runs #AUSvSA
— Leonardo Puglisi (@Leo_Puglisi6) January 7, 2023
Pat Cummins deciding to declare when Khawaja need 5 runs to get a double-ton is disgraceful. The match is going to be a draw regardless.
— L. J. Galanti (@jamesgalanti) January 7, 2023
Can’t believe people are being critical of Pat Cummins declaration today with Khawaja 195*. Almost two whole days lost to rain, you have to try and win the Test match. Sorry Ussie, team sport. I’d prefer to sing the team song after a Test win than 200* in a tame draw. #AUSvSA
— Jacob Landsmeer (@jlandsme_93) January 7, 2023
Aussies believe they can win third Test
On Saturday, Australia took six of the 20 wickets they require for victory over South Africa, leaving them the unlikely prospect of taking 14 on Sunday. South Africa went to stumps at 6-149 in their first innings, needing another 127 to avoid the follow-on.
Australia will be desperate to bowl the Proteas out for less than 275, as it means they can send South Africa straight back in to bat again and not have to worry about losing time by batting a second time themselves. Josh Hazlewood said the Aussies are confident they can take 14 wickets in 98 overs on day five.
"If we were going out needing seven, eight or nine wickets, we would be very confident," Hazlewood said. "The wicket against India (in 2021) was totally different. It had long grass all through it, and that here keeps it together so much. (This) wicket after a bit of traffic down, it looked quite nice with Gazza (Nathan Lyon) bowling into that rough."
Working in Australia's favour is the fact South Africa haven't survived 70 overs in an innings so far this series. With no Test matches until Australia's tour of India in February, Hazlewood said the Aussie bowlers are willing to push themselves to the limit on Sunday.
"You're there in that XI to win that Test match, and do whatever it takes to win it. And then you see how everyone has pulled up after it regardless," he said. "We have three weeks off and you can sort of burn yourself on Sunday if the pace is playing more of a part than spin."
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