Usman Khawaja produced the second-longest fourth innings knock in Test history.
Usman Khawaja produced the second-longest fourth innings knock in Test history.

Uzzy hits back at critics in best way possible

AN emotional Usman Khawaja has opened up about just how much his match-saving hundred meant to him after a decade of being labelled lazy by critics.

Khawaja's epic 141 off 302 balls spanning nine hours against Pakistan in the crushing Dubai heat stands as the second longest fourth innings knock in the history of cricket and a performance that secured Australia one of the greatest Test match saves of all time.

Adding to the weight of Khawaja's momentous achievement was the fact his abject struggles in Asian conditions in the past could have very well cost him his Test career.

Khawaja's wife Rachel broke down in tears when Khawaja brought up his ton and his own leap into the sky and double fist pump said it all about the personal anguish that inspired him to one of the greatest hundreds ever scored by an Australian.

Under the pump to prove himself in Australia's bold new era, Khawaja has spent the past few months shedding 7kg and making a mountain of runs overseas.

Ian Healy last year criticised Khawaja as "lazy", a common perception that Khawaja hopes will now be put to bed forever following his heroics in Dubai.

"Yeah, there was definitely something there I reckon," said Khawaja about the point he had to prove in Asia.

"… A lot of work goes into playing cricket at the highest level. I've worked as hard as anyone. I've worked my backside off for the last 10 years of first-class cricket, day in, day out.

"People think because of my relaxed nature that's not the case. That I've been gifted to be able to get to where I am.

"But it's not the case at all. I've really worked as hard as I can in different conditions like this and in England.

Tim Paine and Usman Khawaja were the heroes on the final day.
Tim Paine and Usman Khawaja were the heroes on the final day.

"People overlook that sort of stuff. But you don't get to play at the highest level without putting in the hard yards.

"There's no secret to success, it's all about hard work. I'm just grateful to be out there playing for Australia and getting a hundred."

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed described it as one of the best innings ever in Test cricket.

On a deteriorating wicket Khawaja outlasted one of the most dangerous day five bowlers in the game, leg-spinner Yasir Shah peppering the rough.

Khawaja's skill and bravery under fire defined by the number of times he executed the reverse sweep.

The 31-year-old said a shift to opening the batting helped in conditions where starting was treacherous.

 

Usman Khawaja produced a career-defining century in Dubai.
Usman Khawaja produced a career-defining century in Dubai.

In total Khawaja spent 13 hours at the crease over the course of the five days having also made a stoic 85 in the first dig.

Khawaja admits the magnitude of his achievement was yet to sink in, but says he will take the time to digest what he managed with all the odds stacked against him.

"That first innings 85 was as tough as any innings I've played," said Khawaja.

"I was drenched. I came off the field with sweat through my shirt. My shirt was drenched and my pants were drenched.

"That took it out of me a fair bit. I've never had an innings like that."

Anchoring partnerships worth 87, 132 and 79 with Aaron Finch, Travis Head and Tim Paine, Khawaja was a constant calming presence.

Khawaja ultimately departed with just under 15 overs left in the match and was forced to watch Tim Paine and Nathan Lyon's extraordinary final stand from the dressing room.

Khawaja sat alongside the No.11 Jon Holland, who was nervously waiting in case he was needed as Australia hung on eight wickets down.

"I don't know how Dutchy was feeling, but I was absolutely crapping myself," said Khawaja.

"All that hard work that we'd done to set the game up in that last hour, then I got out and left Painey up with the big task to steer it home.

"You can't deny how hard of a situation that is especially when you come off the field. You've done all that work, all you want is just 'please, get through this'.

"Lyno batted beautifully and Painey batted beautiful at the end. Credit to all the guys who came before especially Heady. He got a really good partnership going in his first Test.

"It was really hard when he came in yesterday but he got through that and played really well. Those are partnerships you need if you're trying to save a match on the last day."



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