Ashes: Australia’s Usman Khawaja nears century on day two at the SCG

Usman Khawaja bats
Usman Khawaja hit his highest score of the series so far
Fifth Ashes Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (day two of five)
England 346 all out (112.3 overs): Root 83, Malan 62, Cummins 4-80
Australia 193-2 (67 overs): Khawaja 91*, Warner 56, Smith 44*

Australia laid a platform from which they can take control of the final Ashes Test against England on the second day in Sydney.

Usman Khawaja’s unbeaten 91 took the home side to 193-2, 153 behind.

Khawaja shared stands of 85 with David Warner, who made 56, and an unbroken 107 with captain Steve Smith, ominously placed on 44 not out.

Ashes: Australia’s Usman Khawaja nears century on day two at the SCG
Ashes: Australia’s Usman Khawaja nears century on day two at the SCG

England earlier moved their overnight 233-5 to 346 all out in an action-packed morning session.

After Dawid Malan fell for 62, Moeen Ali chipped in with 30 before some edging, swiping and the occasional meaty blow brought Tom Curran 39 and Stuart Broad 31.

Pat Cummins, bowling with hostility, ended with 4-80, but he and Josh Hazlewood were both guilty of awful dropped catches off Curran and Moeen respectively.

Australia, who have already sealed the Ashes and lead the series 3-0, are looking to extend England’s winless run down under to 10 Tests.

On a pitch that remains excellent for batting, albeit showing consistent signs of turn, they have the opportunity to get up to and beyond the tourists on Saturday.

Australia dig in

Cameron Bancroft is bowled by Stuart Broad
Cameron Bancroft was bowled for a seven-ball duck

England’s hopes of running through the Australia top order would have been raised by Broad finding a gap between Cameron Bancroft’s bat and pad in the second over after lunch, only to be snuffed out by Khawaja, Warner and Smith.

The touring bowlers did little wrong on a surface that looks to be losing its pace and bounce. New-ball pair James Anderson and Broad went through their skills to provide a constant threat, while debutant leg-spinner Mason Crane looked capable of causing problems.

Warner, who had made centuries in his past three Tests in Sydney, looked primed for another when playing flowing cover drives. It took a clever off-cutter from Anderson to find the edge of the opener’s bat.

Khawaja, out of sorts at first, played the supporting role in his partnership with Warner, but gradually became more comfortable in the company of Smith. The left-hander played square of the wicket on both sides and lofted the spinners down the ground – his half-century was reached with a straight six off Moeen.

It is the continuing presence of Smith, who has already made three centuries in the series, that is of most concern to England.

On 26, the skipper edged Broad past diving wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow but, for the most part, was in to his familiar, infuriating work of nudging the ball behind square on the leg side.

Fastest players to 6,000 Test runs
D Bradman (Aus)68
Smith (Aus)111
Sobers (WI)111
Hammond (Eng)114
Hutton (Eng)116

Promising signs from debutant Crane

At 20, leg-spinner Crane is the youngest spin bowler to play for England in 90 years.

His first taste of Test cricket was inauspicious – batting at number 10 he was the last wicket to fall, run out following a mix-up with Anderson who wanted a single that never looked to be on.

The Hampshire man was given the ball 14 overs into Australia’s reply and, though he started with a long hop, grew into a spell that was largely accurate, if sometimes a little too short.

He often aborted his action in the delivery stride, drawing boos from the Sydney crowd.

When Crane did release the ball, he found turn, created a number of half-chances and was unlucky to end the day empty-handed.

Twice Khawaja gave inside edges that dropped out of the reach of short leg, while on another occasion the number three edged between wicketkeeper and slip.

Crane also found the edge of Smith when the skipper was on 19, but it fell short of Joe Root at slip.

Lower-order entertainment

Tom Curran hit six fours in his enterprising knock
Tom Curran hit six fours in his enterprising knock

Two wickets in the final seven deliveries of the first day left England’s lower order exposed to the new ball on the second morning.

The tourists looked even more vulnerable when Malan, 55 not out overnight, edged Mitchell Starc to second slip, where Smith took a stunning catch, arcing his body to take the ball in his left hand just before it hit the turf.

Still, England’s last four wickets managed to add 95 runs in an entertaining spell before lunch, helped by the two horrendous Australia drops.

First Curran offered a straightforward chance to mid-on off Nathan Lyon, only for Cummins to put it down. Four balls later, Hazlewood inexplicably failed to get a hand on the simplest catch in the same position when Moeen top-edged Cummins.

Moeen, under pressure for his place before this match, showed patience and brief glimpses of fluency through the off side, but he was troubled by the short ball and his eventual glove behind off a Cummins bouncer was tame.

It was when Broad joined the aggressive Curran that the action became frenetic. As Australia bowled almost nothing but bouncers, the eighth-wicket pair swung their way to a stand of 41 in only six overs – Broad twice hooked Cummins for six.

The short bowling finally worked – Curran fended Cummins to short leg and, after Broad top-edged off-spinner Lyon, Crane was run out as the last three wickets fell for 11 runs.

Play it again, Smith – analysis & reaction

Steve Smith watches fellow leg-spinner Mason Crane's action closely
Steve Smith watched fellow leg-spinner Mason Crane’s action closely

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “Steve Smith hasn’t broken sweat. It’s the same DVD that comes out every single Test match with Smith.

“Tactically, England change a few things to him, but he doesn’t get disturbed by it.

“Bowling-wise, Mason Crane was pretty good but Moeen Ali struggled once again. The seamers, on both sides, look cooked. It’s been a long series.

“You felt England had really controlled Khawaja in the first four Test matches but he came out here and played nicely.”

England’s Mason Crane: “It was awesome to bowl for the first time. I was naturally a little bit nervous but also really excited. I had great fun out there and I can’t wait for tomorrow now.

“Smith is playing well and seeing it well but he’s only human and we’ll keep plugging away. He’s a key player for them and we’re hoping if we can get him out, a couple more wickets will follow and we can earn a first-innings lead.”

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