Usman Khawaja has left cricket fans and commentators in awe after producing a brilliant century on the opening day of the fourth Test against India. The Aussie opener batted through the entire day, bringing up triple figures in the final over as he finished 104 not out off 251 balls at stumps.
Khawaja's classy knock marked Australia's first century in the series and just the second from either team (after Rohit Sharma in the first Test). His century steered Australia to 4-255 at the close of play as the tourists look to salvage a 2-2 draw in the series.
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The Queensland batter has previously come under scrutiny for his perceived inability to play spin. But in bringing up his first century against India on Thursday, he well and truly put those thoughts to bed.
"Any time I got to play spin, people were like 'you can't play spin' - I probably started believing it myself," Khawaja said after the first day's play in Ahmedabad. "I didn't really get the support from the people around me at the time.
"Didn't feel like the team really supported me, didn't feel like the coaching staff and selectors really supported me through that journey. It just made it so hard. Throughout the middle of my career, I got told I couldn't play spin and that's why I never got an opportunity to play in India.
"Whether I was or wasn't (weak against spin), I'm a better player of spin now, no doubt about that. Fortunately enough, I'm quite stubborn so I went out of my own way to learn. I had to go back and figure it out all by myself."
The 36-year-old was picked to tour India in 2013 and 2017, but never got to play in either series. He had to wait until the first match of this series in Nagpur last month to make his first Test appearance in the country.
Usman Khawaja heroics leave cricket world in awe
And he certainly hasn't wasted any time proving his critics wrong, becoming the leading run-scorer in the series with his brilliant knock on Thursday. Incredibly, Khawaja wasn't even in Australia's XI at the start of the 2021/22 Ashes series, with Marcus Harris given an opportunity ahead of him.
But Khawaja came back in when Travis Head was forced to miss the fourth Test of that series due to Covid-19, and hasn't missed a trick in the 15 months since. He famously scored twin centuries in that match at the SCG, before making it three hundreds in a row in Sydney in 2022.
In between he has made runs in Pakistan and Sri Lanka - and now India. He was named the Shane Warne Test Player of the Year last month after amassing 1080 runs with four centuries throughout 2022.
"It's just nice to go out there and tick off a hundred in India which was something if you told me that five years ago I'd think you were crazy," Khawaja said. "There was a lot of emotion, I just never expected this to happen.
"I do feel like that monkey went off my back when I scored that hundred in Dubai (against Pakistan in 2018) - but that was Dubai. "I wanted to do it in the subcontinent, so it's very special."
All-rounder Cameron Green also batted brilliantly and went to stumps on 49 not out. The Aussies had gone to tea at 2-149, with Khawaja and acting captain Steve Smith becoming the first pair from either team to bat through an entire session during this series.
But Smith (38) and Peter Handscomb (17) fell in quick succession after tea, giving India a sniff of running through the Aussie batting order again. But Khawaja and Green steadied the ship, ensuring the Aussies finished on top after the opening day.
496 runs in Pakistan in 3 Tests in 2022.
45.67 average in Sri Lanka in 2 Tests in 2022.
Leading run-scorer for Australia in India in 2023.
The second coming of Usman Khawaja has been beautiful. pic.twitter.com/5vEF40Uijf
— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) March 9, 2023
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 9, 2023
You’d be hard pressed finding a more popular Australian athlete than Usman Khawaja right now. A ton in India adding to an incredible legacy since his return to test cricket. Amazing stuff. 👏 #INDvAUS #Cricket
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) March 9, 2023
Since Usman Khawaja returned to Test cricket in January 2022, after more than two years out, no one has scored more Test runs than Usman Khawaja.
— Daniel Cherny (@DanielCherny) March 9, 2023
— Imran Ahmad Khan (@imranahmadkh) March 9, 2023
— Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) March 9, 2023
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