Australia’s batting blueprint for getting back to respectability in Test cricket is to bat as Usman Khawaja did in Adelaide.
Khawaja went out to bat with twelve overs to go on the first day of the Adelaide Test and had one thing in his mind- bat until stumps. He knew that it would be easier to bat in the sun the following afternoon and that runs would come then. Getting there was the priority.
Three runs in those 12 overs meant that he was able to start again the next morning. By close on day two, Khawaja had batted through the whole day- and two nights- to remain unbeaten on 138 from 285 balls. More importantly, he had anchored the Australian innings and seen his side past 300 and into a first innings lead.
The innings was a masterclass in Test match batting as Khawaja showed his teammates how to build slowly- that in a five-day game, there doesn’t need to be a rush. He remained watchful throughout and played balls on their merits.
When Faf du Plessis decided to declare early in the hope that Australia might lose some wickets in the 12 overs they had to face, he wouldn’t have anticipated that Australia would still be bating two days later. South Africa’s captain could be forgiven for making that assumption, considering how brittle Australia’s batting had been throughout the series. But he hadn’t reckoned with Khawaja.
Thrust into uncertainty on the first evening of the match when asked to open because David Warner had been off the field for too long, Khawaja seemed unfazed and accepted the responsibility. His demeanour brought a calm over the rest of the batting order.
Australia are unbeaten when Khawaja reaches three figures with four wins and a draw. He has now scored five Test centuries, and while the other centuries came when others were scoring round him, this one was a match winning performance in its own right.
It was Khawaja’s best innings in Test cricket and one in which careers are defined.
Khawaja is now a senior player in a young Australian line-up. His place in the side is assured.
The rest of the batsmen would do well to heed the lessons given by Khawaja. His innings should be watched over and over again and until the rest of the team goes out to bat with the same mindset- survive first, score later.
As the adage goes, good things come to those who wait and in both this innings and his career, Khawaja has shown that to be true.