Can Usman Khawaja defy team India today?

Jan 07, 2019, 08:00 IST | Gaurav Joshi

Australia batsman will have to draw from the grit that saw him score 141 to eke out a draw against Pakistan in Dubai last year to save Sydney Test today

Can Usman Khawaja defy team India today?
Australia's Usman Khawaja during his gritty 302-ball 141 against Pakistan on Day 5 of the drawn Test in Dubai last October. Pic/AFP

It was only a couple of months ago that Usman Khawaja played the innings of his life to ensure Australia escaped with a draw against Pakistan in UAE. Khawaja batted for over nine hours in a marathon knock of 141 on a Day Five pitch against a formidable Pakistan attack.

The innings was inked as the next step in his career. It was the innings that had given Australia hope that their batting can deliver in the absence of David Warner and Steven Smith on home soil against India.

Heroic knock in Dubai
Australia needs Khawaja to play another heroic knock today that will ensure they go down to India 2-1 and not 3-1. A draw might not mean much in the context of the series, but for Khawaja, it is the last chance to stamp his authority and rescue his nation from a humiliating defeat.

In his seven innings, Khawaja has only managed to score one fifty. He has scored 198 runs at a paltry average of 28.80. For the most experienced batsman in the Australia line-up, it has been an appalling series. His ugly swipe in the first innings against Kuldeep Yadav was an indication that the left-hander still doesn't trust his defence against the spinners.

Indian bowlers relentless
The Indian bowlers are aware of his weakness and Kuldeep stated after Day Two that he, "knew he would get after me and maybe hit at midwicket or mid-on." The fact that the spin bowlers are reading his mind poses additional problems for Khawaja as he tries to defy India today.

India have meticulous plans for Khawaja. He hasn't been able to play the horizontal bat shots. Nor has he been able to get easy singles off his hip. But rather than runs, it will be the occupancy of the crease that will be important on the final day. India will try all sorts of tactics. The fast bowlers will bowl around the wicket and look to nab him in front of his stumps. The spinners will tempt him to hit over the top and choke him by luring him into front foot defensive prods.

The Sydney pitch is still good and Khawaja has the memories of Dubai still fresh in his mind. But can he do it against a bowling attack that has been relentless throughout the four-Test series? It's a big challenge but not one that he cannot conquer.

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