Ashes: Classy Khawaja leads Australian defiance at Edgbaston
SUMMARY: England 393-8 declared from 78 overs (Joe Root 118*, Jonny Bairstow 78, Zak Crawley 61; Nathan Lyon 4-149, Josh Hazlewood 2-61) vs Australia 311-5 from 94 overs (Usman Khawaja 126*, Alex Carey 52*, Travis Head 50; Cameron Green 38; Stuart Broad 2-49, Moeen Ali 2-124)
England wasted chances and were defied by a classy century from Australia’s Usman Khawaja on a riveting second day of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Khawaja batted throughout the day for his unbeaten 126, the left-hander’s first Ashes ton in England guiding Australia to 311-5, just 82 runs adrift.
He was bowled by a Stuart Broad no-ball on 112, one of four errors from England that also included Jonny Bairstow missing two opportunities behind the stumps.
In an electrifying morning session, England used favourable overhead conditions to reduce the tourists to 67-3 in reply to their 393-8 declared.
The renewal of Broad’s battle with David Warner resulted in a 15th dismissal in Test cricket and, next ball, Broad sent Edgbaston into rapture by having Marnus Labuschagne brilliantly caught by Bairstow.
Ben Stokes, proving his fitness to bowl, trapped Steve Smith lbw for 16.
But Khawaja stood firm, adding 81 with Travis Head, who made 50, and 72 with Cameron Green. Both Head and Green were removed by Moeen Ali on his return to Test cricket.
Even at 220-5, Australia were on the back foot, only for Khawaja to add another unbroken stand of 91 with Alex Carey, the beneficiary of a Bairstow drop in his 52 not out.
By the end, Australia had moved to a position from where they can take a first-innings lead, which could be crucial on an extremely dry pitch that seems set to deteriorate later in the match.
Tactical battle follows frantic first day
If day one was frantic from start to finish, this was a strategic battle, yet still every bit as compelling, dramatic and competitive.
Just as they were defensive in the field on Friday, Australia barely engaged in England’s full-throttle approach. There were more maidens in the first three overs than the whole of day one and Australia crawled at marginally more than two an over in the first session – and it played right into England’s hands.
Stokes was relentlessly tinkering. Seven bowlers were employed in the first session, and the use of Harry Brook’s medium pace inside the first hour stretched credulity. Smith was greeted by eight close catchers on his arrival.
Broad’s dismissal of Warner was almost comical in its inevitability, followed by wild celebrations at the Labuschagne dismissal next ball. The Edgbaston roar returned when Stokes got Smith and for Moeen’s important interventions.
But on such a placid surface, and with Khawaja fronting the Australian resistance, England needed to take all of their chances. The four mistakes – there was also an edge between Bairstow and slip Joe Root in the dying moments – could yet prove to be hugely costly.
Khawaja stands up in the chaos
Since being recalled in the last Ashes series, Khawaja has outperformed all of his Australia team-mates, but retained the stigma of an average below 18 in this country.
However, this was an assured century when Australia badly needed him – Khawaja showing steel to be the constant presence in the rearguard partnerships with Head, Green and Carey.
Khawaja is a beautifully languid player. When England’s pace bowlers dropped short, he swivelled to pull. When Moeen was bowling, he chassed down the pitch to hit straight, twice for six.
He reached his 15th Test hundred, and first Ashes century outside of Sydney, by late-cutting Stokes then celebrated passionately by throwing his bat into the air. At the end of the day, he took his daughter to the news conference.
Khawaja was, though, decisively beaten in Broad’s first over with the second new ball. With the off stump pegged back, Khawaja’s walk back to the pavilion was halted when the TV umpire detected the no-ball.
By that point, Carey had been let off on 26 by Bairstow off Root’s off-spin and later, on 46, another edge off Moeen went between the keeper and Root, who was slow to move low to his right. (BBC Sport)