Khawaja’s strong response to doubters | cricketnetwork.com

Khawaja’s strong response to doubters

12 October 2018

Player of the match defends work ethic after his career-defining century helped Australia secure a draw in the first Test

A spirited Usman Khawaja took aim at his critics after scoring his match-saving maiden Test ton in Asia, fiercely pointing to a decade of hard graft as the main factor in his incredible effort in Dubai.

In near 40-degree heat, Khawaja was the backbone of Australia's nail-biting final-day batting performance against Pakistan, playing one of the greatest fourth-innings hands in Test history with a 302-ball 141.

His eight-hour, 44-minute vigil was the longest ever by an Australian in the fourth-innings of a Test and the second-longest overall, while only Bob Simpson and Mark Taylor (both in games when they made triple-centuries) have spent more time at the crease in a Test than Khawaja's 12-hour, 47-minute stay.

Having previously lamented that he's described as elegant when he's making runs and lazy when he isn't, Khawaja passionately defended his work ethic after the Aussies clung on a for an improbable draw.

Khawaja delivers ‘one of the great Test innings’

"A lot of work goes into playing cricket at the highest level, I've worked as hard as anyone," the 31-year-old told reporters.

"I've worked my backside off for the last 10 years of first-class cricket, day in, day out. 

"People think because of my relaxed nature that's not the case, that I've been gifted to be able to get to where I am, but it's not the case at all. 

Dubai hero Khawaja reflects on first Ashes ton

"I've worked my absolute backside off for the last 10 years and really worked as hard as I can in different conditions like this and in England and other places. 

"People overlook that sort of stuff and you don't get to play at the highest level without putting in the hard yards. There's no secret to success, it's all about hard work."

Khawaja's previous Test record in Asia has been mentioned endlessly – a top score of 26 through nine innings and an average of 14 – but the signs have been there that his tireless efforts to improve it are paying off. 

The left-hander scored a first-class hundred against India A last month while he also struck a second-innings county century for Glamorgan earlier this year on a dry, dusty track in Swansea.

Khawaja has insisted in recent times that his supposed weakness against spin is only a perception and his first-innings effort of 85 – a knock that came before Australia's astonishing collapse of 10-60 – demonstrated his capabilities against the likes of Yasir Shah and Bilal Asif, who claimed 10 wickets between them for the match.

The 31-year-old said that his 175-ball first-innings knock was as sapping as it was confidence-boosting.

New Australian era dawns with fifth day heroics

"That was as tough as any innings as I've played," he explained. 

"I was drenched. I came off the field with sweat through my shirt. My shirt was drenched and my pants were drenched. 

"That took it out of me a fair bit. I've never had an innings like that.”

On his second-innings century, he added: "I was feeling pretty good for most of it until we got to the second session with one hour left before tea, then I was withering. 

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"I was just asking for God to get the sun down so we could get some shade. 

"We got in the changerooms and felt good again after I got in there and then it got a bit cooler. 

"I just love batting and I was just enjoying batting out there and enjoying getting a few partnerships with the boys and playing cricket for Australia. 
"It's what you dream to do."

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed admitted his side was powerless to stop an all-time great knock. 

"I have seen one of the best innings in Test cricket, especially in the fourth innings," said Sarfraz. 

"The way he batted, he took Australia to the draw. He batted very well, he played most of his shots, even the reverse sweep - his was a brilliant knock

"No praise is enough for his batting and then Head also supported him. Khawaja played all his shots which are usually tough on the fifth day for a batsman, sweep and reverse sweep so it's frustrating. 

"Test cricket's beauty lies in that a team (can) draw from a position of losing after a thrilling contest."

Australia: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine (c & wk), Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland

Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz

Qantas Tour of the UAE

Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc

Pakistan Test squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez

Oct 7-11: First Test, drawn

Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi

About the Writer

 @LouisDBCameron
@LouisDBCameron

Louis Cameron is a Melbourne-based journalist. A former Victorian Bushrangers fast bowler, Louis joined the cricket.com.au team with assistance from the Australian Cricketers' Association's Internship Program in 2016.