In Brisbane, first, and in Melbourne, third, he bowled first in England in just a few seasons. Here in Sydney, as in Adelaide, Australia batted first, slow-roasted England. The first method of cooking engulfs the mind of the victims. The second rips their bodies apart.
At the end of the second day, Australians are realizing it’s time for a feed. On a good pitch that was already taking a bit of a misbehavior, he scored 416 runs from the declared eight, largely thanks to a brilliant comeback century from Usman Khawaja.
It was a statement from Pat Cummins, with Nathan Lyon launching Stuart Broad – who completed his second five-wicket haul in Australia – into the Sundar members’ pavilion for six, then running off the ground with Mitchell Starc.
With the light fading and the crowd, Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley faced a severe test of five overs from Cummins and Starc. There was a scare when Crowley was caught for a duck off Starc at first slip; Replays showed it was a no ball – the kind of error you’d expect England to make, not Australia.
In the field, England was gradually torn apart. There was a crucial missed opportunity, as Jos Buttler and Joe Root dropped Khawaja for just 28 off a poor Jack Leach delivery. A key player, Ben Stokes, was injured, injuring himself while pursuing a strategy that was never going to work: Steve Smith and Khawaja returned to the ground with bouncers.
He left the field before lunch, returned after the break, but did not bowl again. The all-rounder’s dubious side put the England side under strain.
This meant that the dangerous pace of aging champions Jimmy Anderson and Broad, as well as Mark Wood, were forced into a spell after a commendable spell. These are the kind of days that would hasten the retirement of old boys, or break the wood, but they kept on running. While Anderson and Wood didn’t add up to crucial wickets taken on the first evening, Broad got the reward he deserved.
It was clearly evident Australia were in no hurry in the morning session, as Smith raced to the pavilion as soon as he felt a splash of rain falling. This happened three times, with the umpires obediently following their lead, arranging for short breaks in the game.
It halted a gruesome morning session for England in which a dropped catch fell to the head. Leach bowled very defensively, he found the edge, which went to Root in Butler’s glove and straight slip off the thigh. Opportunity to react.
It will be an extremely painful day for Leech. He dominated in Brisbane, dropped in Adelaide, and was on the defensive in Melbourne. I’ve tried the same game here too, but was weaned. By lunchtime, Dawood Malan was bowling closely to him, but was given more aggressive areas. Root arrived in the afternoon and picked up an impatient Alex Carey, who passed into the safe hands of Jonny Bairstow.
It was the only wicket of the day that Broad did not fall. He ended Khawaja’s 115-run partnership with Smith, who was destined for a century, but fell behind after a few minutes in which he dropped the ball and survived a review lbw. Cameron Green came and went, caught at third slip.
Green averages 14 from No. 6 and Carrie, No. 7, is just 18. The trouble for England is that Cummins and Starc, who follow them, pile on the pain every time. He shared in the stands of 46 and 67 with Khawaja when things turned ugly.
Broad, in a passage of DRS comedy, picked up Cummins, bounced, before bowling Khawaja, his fifth. That means the crowd’s applause wasn’t Broad, but another one remembered the 35-year-old. Not even Broad, however, would recall Khawaja, as Travis Head tested positive for Covid, in A Moment in the Sun.
Khawaja in Sydney has turned into a beautiful story in the Ashes. In 2011, he was made his debut at his home turf at the age of 24, becoming the first Muslim to represent Australia. With the lowest level of Australian cricket (performance-wise, at least), the locals stuck to his first innings 37 as the Ashes with the thinnest silver lining surrendered at home. 11 years and a few days later, it was 137.
In 2018, he kept a thin series behind him to score 171 runs, setting up Australia’s thumping victory. And now, with Headingley out of favor since 2019, he went on to score another hundred, full of style, class and beautiful bridges. It has been nine years since he left New South Wales for Queensland, where he is the captain, but the Sydney crowd applauded him at every crucial moment in his innings. There were only a few.
Khawaja has the latest feel-good story for Australia this summer. Head century on his return to Test; Michael Neser, who struck his second ball, and Scott Boland, the second Indigenous man to play Test cricket, won the Johnny Mullagh medal as he took six for seven. Jhye Richardson has also taken five wickets for the first time. What a different story it has been for England.