Usman Khawaja played what he called his toughest innings, a gritty and classy 141, to help Australia pull off a remarkable draw against Pakistan in the first of their two Tests.
The final day’s play in Dubai started with Australia at 136/3, 326 away from victory, with Pakistan needing seven wickets.
In familiar conditions, with Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas and others in their ranks, not many expected Pakistan to falter. They didn’t, they kept at it, but with Khawaja taking the lead, Australia battled away, reaching 362/8 when the captains shook hands.
Khawaja began the day unbeaten on 50, and batted on till well into the final session in the scorching Dubai heat, for close to nine hours, before being dismissed by Yasir Shah, but once captain Tim Paine patted back the last ball of the game, he was the hero, the toast of the Australian team.
“That was as tough as any innings as I've played. 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,” said Khawaja, who had scored 85 in the first innings as well.
“I was just asking for god to get the sun down so we could get some shade. We got in the change rooms and felt good again after I got in there and then it got a bit cooler.
“I just love batting and I was just enjoying batting out there and enjoying getting a few partnerships with the boys and playing cricket for Australia. It's what you dream to do.”
I have worked my backside off for the past 10 years in first-class cricket, day in, day out
Batting in the final innings on the fifth day isn’t easy even in friendly conditions. In Dubai, it was expected to be close to impossible.
“I was just batting like it was any other innings. I wasn't worried about whether it was the fourth innings or whether we were trying to save a match at any stage. It was more of a mindset thing to make sure we stayed positive,” said the Player of the Match.
“I knew that if I went away from batting normally, I was more likely to get out in those conditions. Especially being a left-hander, with Yasir Shah bowling into the rough, and Bilal (Asif) had some rough, too, I knew I had to bat as I would in any situation.”
For Khawaja, it was an important innings also because he has often been criticised for not doing well in Asian conditions. In nine previous innings, he had a top score of 26 and an average under 15. But he came on the current tour fitter and leaner than ever, and warmed up with a century in a first-class game against India last month.
“It was mostly about getting a hundred for Australia on the last day of a match, trying to save a game. A lot of work goes into playing cricket at the highest level. I work as hard as anyone. I have worked my backside off for the past 10 years in first-class cricket, day in, day out,” he said.
“People think, because of my relaxed nature, that's not that case, and that I've been gifted to be able to get to where I am, but that's not the case at all. There is no secret to success, it is all about hard work. I was grateful to be out there playing for Australia and getting a hundred.”
Personalise your homepage with an ICC account
News, fixtures and updates tailored to your favourite team. Never miss a moment!