SYDNEY. — Usman Khawaja was left unbeaten on 195 as rain cut short the final session of play with Australia building a formidable first innings total of 475 for four in 131 overs on the second day of the third and final Test cricket at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.
The elegant left-hander, the last word in nonchalance, who already has his highest test score with this, his 13th hundred, had earlier completed his third consecutive century at the SCG after his twin tons against England in the New Year’s test this time last year. He eventually walked off the ground that he can call his own just five short of what would be his maiden test double-hundred, having eaten up 368 balls and struck 19 fours and a six in an epic innings.
But the plaudits don’t rest only with him. In a command performance by the dominant hosts, Steve Smith went past Sir Donald Bradman’s total of 29 test hundreds with a superb 104 in 192 balls (11×4, 2x6s) as he and Khawaja added 209 for the third wicket in 377 balls.
And if that wasn’t enough for the Proteas to absorb, the super-aggressive Travis Head rubbed salt into an already gaping wound when he smashed 70 in 59 balls (8x4s, 1×6) in a lightning fourth-wicket partnership of 112 in 117 balls with Khawaja. He was eventually well caught on the square leg boundary by substitute fielder Rassie van der Dussen off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada.
It was Rabada’s first wicket of the innings, but he and spinners Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer all conceded a century of runs as the Australians ruthlessly built themselves an impregnable position in the match.
Maharaj at least had the consolation of picking up his first wicket of the series when he dismissed Smith — caught and bowled — to pick up the first South African scalp of the day in the afternoon session.
But these were brief flashes of light in the darkness for the South Africans on a day when Australia ruled the roost on a slow, flat pitch that offered little to either the pacemen or the spinners.
Khawaja and Smith resumed on their team’s overnight total of 147 for two in 47 overs and — barring a brief period when drizzle returned which took them off the field for 12 minutes — proceeded without any problems on a pitch that remained slow and without any swing or seam deviations.
Rabada and Anrich Nortje began accurately enough for the tourists, followed by Marco Jansen and Keshav Maharaj. Smith began slowly, taking 13 balls to get off the mark, but he too began to look increasingly comfortable.
The spike in run accumulation was largely through exploiting Maharaj’s innocuous left-arm spin with Khawaja off-driving him for the first six of the match in his second over. The batsmen sought to dominate the spinner. His partner, Harmer, looked more effective, at least getting some slow turn and drift, but it was a tough task for all the bowlers to get anything out of the somewhat turgid but blameless surface.
As the day progressed and the South African attack inevitably tired, the Australians became more aggressive, a process that culminated in Head’s late assault.
In terms of overall figures, only Anrich Nortje can look back on the first two days with much satisfaction, finishing with 2/55 in 22 overs of hard work. — AFP.
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