Ashes 2021-22: Australia's SCG hero Khawaja expects to miss out on final Test

By Sports Desk January 08, 2022

Australia's Usman Khawaja is expecting to miss out on a place in the side for the final Ashes Test, despite his stunning display at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

England will need to bat out the final day at the SCG on Sunday, and perhaps hope for help from the weather, as they look to seal a draw from the fourth Test and stave off the threat of a 5-0 series whitewash.

The tourists will resume on 30-0, their highest opening partnership of the series so far, after Australia declared on 265-6 in their second innings.

England had kept themselves in the fight thanks to Jonny Bairstow's century on day three, and added 36 runs to their overnight total in the morning session on Saturday.

Their bowlers started well, reducing Australia to 68-3 by the time Khawaja came to the crease, and Steve Smith's dismissal then left the hosts at 86-4.

Yet Khawaja, who marked his recall in place of coronavirus-hit Travis Head with 137 in the first innings, went on to thwart England's bowling attack once more, with his unbeaten 101 leading Australia into a 387-run lead.

Khawaja, who played for New South Wales and currently is a star man for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, became the first player to score a hundred in each innings of an SCG Test since former Australia captain Ricky Ponting in January 2006, also against England.

However, the 35-year-old, who had not appeared in an Australia Test team since facing England at Headingley in 2019, does not expect his performance to be enough to secure his spot in the XI for the final match in Hobart.

"At the moment I'm quite resigned to the fact that I'll probably miss out," Khawaja told reporters. "That's just from talking to [head selector] George Bailey about continuity. That's important, I'm not totally against that process.

"I felt like throughout my career, a lot of changes were made and I was on the wrong side of them, so I'm the first to say that I think there needs to be structure and stability. I know how hard it is for a cricketer chopping and changing.

"I actually like the processes that the selectors have been taking throughout the series, so at the moment I'm not really expecting to play the next match, but I'll always be ready.

"Someone else may get COVID or something else happens. Heady batted beautifully in that first Test. I'd be very surprised if too much changed. Scotty Boland was amazing last game, something I'm not sure I'll see again, and he was going to be dropped. It's just the reality. It sucks, but that's just cricket."

While Khawaja is not expecting to play in Tasmania, he may also be joined in watching on by England trio Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Bairstow.

Stokes scored a resilient 66 as he battled through a side strain in England's first innings, while both Buttler and Bairstow did not field on Saturday after sustaining hand injuries.

Ollie Pope filled in at wicketkeeper, taking four catches, while Sam Billings has been called up by England for the Hobart Test, and assistant coach Graham Thorpe does not know if the trio will be fit to return.

"We've obviously got some blows. It's possible [they will miss the final Test] but we will be assessing all of that at the end of the game," he told reporters.

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