Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Khawaja leads the way as Australia pull away from England


SYDNEY: Australia strengthened their position on the third day of the fifth and final Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground after finishing the day at 479/4, a lead of 133 over England’s 346. It was an eventful Saturday (January 6) at the venue bathed in pink, which saw wickets taken on no-balls, decisions reversed on reviews and Steven Smith’s dismissal – something that hasn’t happened easily this series.

At stumps, the Marsh brothers, Shaun (98) and Mitchell (63), accompanied each other, with Shaun just two runs away from his second century of the series.

It was, however, Usman Khawaja’s day. He registered his maiden Ashes century, which was also his second first-class century early 2017. Smith (83) was dismissed at the stroke of lunch, when he pushed a Moeen Ali delivery back to the bowler, thereby giving the Englishman his fourth wicket of the series.

Smith and Khawaja had, by that point, added 81 runs to Australia’s overnight total of 193/2 and 188 runs in total for the third wicket. Khawaja brought up his hundred off the 233rd ball he faced, while Smith brought up his half-century off 94 balls. Australia went in to lunch at 277/3, with Khawaja on 132.

Khawaja leads the way as Australia pull away from England

England went wicketless in the second session as Khawaja and Marsh added 88 runs, a stand that saw Australia claim the lead by the time tea arrived. However, it wasn’t for want of trying. Shaun Marsh was even given out caught behind off Joe Root, but it was found on review that there was a significant gap between bat and ball and the decision was overturned.

Then, in the final over of the session, Mason Crane, the debutant legspinner, thought he had his maiden international wicket when he trapped Khawaja in front. Khawaja didn’t offer a shot and padded away the delivery, and the appeal was turned down by the umpire. England decided to review, only to realise it would have been out had Crane not overstepped.

Crane finally had his man early in the final session, when Jonny Bairstow had Khawaja stumped after he was deceived by sharp turn. That remained the only positive for England though as the Marsh brothers batted aggressively to help take England’s lead past the 100-mark. There was still some drama though as Mitchell Marsh was rapped on the pads by Tom Curran and was given out by Joel Wilson, the umpire. England’s joy was short-lived though as the third umpire, on an Australia’s review, adjudged that there was an inside-edge.

England desperately need wickets on the fourth morning. They are otherwise looking at another long day.

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