It all comes down to this. After 14 days of Test cricket that has yet to produce a match-winner, Pakistan's home series against Australia will be decided on the final day in Lahore, and it could hardly be any more tantalisingly poised.

Australia opener Usman Khawaja delivered another classy century on Thursday, remarkably his fourth of the calendar year, as Australia posted 227-3 declared to set Pakistan a target of 351 for victory in the third and final Test.

The tourists would have wanted to make inroads into their opponents' top order before the close, but instead Pakistan reached 73 without loss from the 27 overs they faced after Australia's post-tea declaration.

It means Pakistan require a further 278 runs for victory and Australia need 10 wickets on day five at the Gaddafi Stadium, where something surely has to give.

 

Australia's men are unbeaten in their last seven Tests (W4 D3), and Pakistan have not lost any of their last five (W3 D2).

The Australians have been beaten only once by Pakistan in the last nine Tests between the sides, yet Pakistan have just a single defeat in their last 12 Tests at this ground, and that was against Sri Lanka all the way back in March 2002.

After draws in Rawalpindi and Karachi, this match looks ripe to produce a victory for one of the teams, but it could easily go either way.

Australia were 11-0 at the start of play and reached 96 without any loss when Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled David Warner for 51 with a sensationally good delivery. Khawaja kept going and anchored the innings with 104 not out, Marnus Labuschagne weighing in with 36 and Steve Smith passing 8,000 career Test runs in making 17.

Captain Pat Cummins declared early in the late-afternoon session, once the lead passed 350, but Abdullah Shafique (27 not out) and Imam-ul-Haq (42 not out) helped Pakistan to the close without any damage.

Shafique used up a life moments before the close when he edged spinner Labuschagne past the left hand of Smith at first slip, potentially a highly costly miss by the fielder.


Khawaja does it again

Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan, did not play a Test between matches against England in August 2019 and January of this year. It is testament to Australia's resources that they could afford to leave out a batter of his quality. The 35-year-old made 91 in the first innings of this match and surpassed that second time around.

He now has 751 runs in five Tests this year, far and away the most of anyone in Tests. Shafique is second on that list, with 397 runs and counting.

Record for Smith, but dropped catch sours his day

Australia would have ended the day on a high if Smith had clung on to the sharp chance from the penultimate delivery of the day. Shafique drove aggressively at Labuschagne, who drew the edge but saw the ball race away to the boundary rather than stick in Smith's claw.

Smith earlier reached his runs landmark in his 151st Test innings, the fewest of any batsman to have reached 8,000 Test runs.

Usman Khawaja's superb series in the country of his birth continued but Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah ensured day one of the decisive Test between Pakistan and Australia ended finely poised.

Draws in the first two Tests set up a winner-take-all contest in Lahore, where the surface appears to have plenty in it for the bowlers to ensure a result this time around.

Shaheen's blistering start suggested as much, as the Pakistan seamer removed David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne in the space of three deliveries to leave Australia reeling on 8-2.

But Khawaja, born in Pakistan, once again excelled with the bat, he and Steve Smith leading the Australia response to help them fight back to reach 232-5 at stumps. Khawaja was denied a second century of the series, as a stunning one-handed catch at slip from Babar Azam saw him out for 91.

Bowlers have consistently had to work hard for wickets in an attritional series but when Shaheen had Warner (7) trapped lbw and Labuschagne edged a poor shot behind to fall for a duck, Pakistan had hope of blitzing their way through a frequently steadfast Australia batting order.

Any such prospect was extinguished by the partnership of Khawaja and Smith (59), the latter recording his third successive half-century as they put on 138 for the third wicket.

But Naseem had Smith trapped in front to end his hopes of converting his fifty into a hundred and Khawaja was then denied three figures by Sajid Khan and the brilliance of Babar.

An excellent length delivery from Naseem removed Travis Head for 26, though Cameron Green and Alex Carey's unbroken partnership of 26 from 42 balls gave Australia reason for hope at the close.

Khawaja shows his class again

After falling three short of a hometown century at Rawalpindi in the opener, Khawaja - having hit a brilliant 160 in the second Test - again fell in the 90s here, but his consistency since returning to Test set-up in January has been remarkable. He has now scored at least 90 in five of his last eight innings.

Smith closing on 8,000

Smith did not review the delivery that ended his innings, but there must have been a great deal of temptation to do so given his dismissal left him just seven runs shy of 8,000 in the longest format.

Usman Khawaja's century put Australia in control at the end of day one of the second Test against Pakistan at the National Stadium in Karachi.

After drawing last week's opening Test in Rawalpindi, it was Australia who laid down an early marker on Saturday as they reached stumps on 251-3.

The in-form Khawaja batted all day as he made an unbeaten 127, while Steve Smith was also on course for three figures before being caught by Faheem Ashraf off the bowling of Hasan Ali for 72 just before the close.

Khawaja profited from what he described as "pretty negative" bowling from the hosts to hit 13 fours and one six in a classy knock.

David Warner went for 36 and Marnus Labuschagne was run out on a duck, but Khawaja's batting ensured even the late loss of Smith did not hamper the tourists too much.

Nathan Lyon will resume alongside Khawaja on Sunday as Pakistan look to make inroads after a frustrating opening day.

"It would have been nice to have Smith there at the end," Khawaja said. "We've still got plenty of batting to come. 

"The wicket was pretty nice today and is going to get worse, and it's feeling like it'll break up in the back end of the match. 

"They bowled pretty negative and we were not going to give them free wickets. It would have been nice to get a hundred both in Rawalpindi and here but I'll take this one."

Khawaja goes one better

After falling three short of a century in Rawalpindi last week, the Islamabad-born Khawaja was not to be denied an 11th Test century on Saturday.

He has now logged two centuries and five half-centuries across eight Test innings against his country of birth.

Pakistan falter

Babar Azam's tactics after tea must be questioned, though Hasan did find a breakthrough when ending a 159-run partnership late on to give Pakistan a platform to build on.

Pakistan have only suffered two defeats at the National Stadium in 44 Tests and will need some quick wickets with the new ball in Sunday's morning session.

Babar Azam says Australia are not frightened about facing Australia after Pakistan "dominated" the first Test at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.

Australia only took four wickets in a drawn opening match of the series as Imam-ul-Haq scored a century in both innings.

Captain Pat Cummins felt the pitch in Rawalpindi had been prepared to nullify the tourists' pace attack.

Pakistan skipper Babar felt his side might have forced a victory if they had not lost time due to the weather in the opening match of the series and is hopeful they will come out on top at the National Stadium, 

He said: "We're not frightened of Australia. The conditions are the same for both teams, and the World Test Championship points are very crucial.

"As a captain, I wanted us to win. The way our side dominated, we had batters score 150-plus and [bowlers] get wickets. So there's nothing to panic about. We dominated.

"We didn't get a result, unfortunately, but that's not in our hands. If all the overs that were lost due to rain were played, maybe we'd have a different result."

Babar says Pakistan will not be taken by surprise when they face Australia spinner Mitchell Swepson, who will make his debut in Karachi.

The Pakistan skipper said: "I haven't seen much of him. We'll watch videos of him and plan accordingly. We've started practice here; i

"tt's quite hot and the conditions are different. We have momentum with us; we dominated the first Test and had great individual and team performances.

"The batters batted well, the bowlers took ten wickets, and Nauman six. The overall team performance was good and we're trying to take that momentum into this game."

 

Azhar nearing landmark

Azhar Ali made a magnificent 185 in the first Test as Pakistan piled on the runs in Rawalpindi.

The former captain is only 94 runs away from reaching the 7,000 run milestone in the longest format.

Azhar has scored four Test centuries against Australia and he will have a big part to play in Pakistan's quest to take a 1-0 lead.

 

Khawaja making up for lost time

Australia batter Usman Khawaja made a brilliant 97 in the opening Test as he continues to make up for lost time following his recall.

Khawaja made a century in both innings in January on his recall for the Sydney Cricket Ground Test against England in January.

The left-hander has registered a hundred and five half-centuries in his past eight Tests against his country of birth Pakistan and can set the tone at the top of the order once again.

Usman Khawaja was able to put the disappointment of missing out on a Test century against the country of birth into perspective after being dismissed for 97 on day three of the first Test between Pakistan and Australia.

Opener Khawaja was born in Islamabad, less than half an hour's drive from Pindi Cricket Stadium where he shone for Australia on Sunday.

Khawaja appeared on the verge of his 11th century in the longest format as Australia responded superbly to Pakistan's first innings' 476-4 declared.

But impatience perhaps got the better of Khawaja as he contributed to his own downfall, misjudging a reverse sweep and gloving Nauman Ali to Imam-ul-Haq at forward short-leg, with Aleem Dar forced to overturn his original not out decision following a review.

Khawaja's contribution, along with half-centuries from David Warner (68) and Marnus Labuschagne (69 not out), took the tourists to 271-2 – trailing by 205 runs when bad light stopped play.

"It's disappointing," Khawaja said of his failure to reach three figures. "Cricket is a funny game. Three runs – you bat so well for 97 and then you get out. You don't get a hundred, you come back in the changing room and it probably feels worse than getting a 20 in some respects.

"It's a bizarre feeling. Yeah, I would love to get a hundred out here. Rawalpindi, Islamabad – where I grew up.

"I think it would have brought a lot of joy. But at the same time, I think mum, dad, Rachel, my wife, would have loved me being out there.

"I was having a lot of fun. I was enjoying playing. To put it in perspective, I wasn't even in an Australian team a few months ago. So I'm very grateful to be here. I'm happy that I contributed to the team."

Khawaja made his return to the Australia side for the first time since 2019 for the fourth Test of the Ashes in January and scored a century in each innings in a man-of-the-match performance.

And after backing up that display with another of high quality and some fortune – twice Pakistan dropped potential catches of Khawaja – he added: "I felt really good today.

"I felt mentally in a really good spot coming into it, I guess. Probably because I've been out of the system. I've been out of Cricket Australia for two years. And now it's not the be-all and end-all anymore.

"I've been in and out of the team so much. I've been dropped. It doesn't matter. I just play the way I want to play. I just think of it as if I'm playing club cricket or Shield cricket back home. And that's how I take it for Australia now.

"Obviously, I'm a Muslim. I believe in God. I trust what happens. Good or bad, you have to take it equally. A lot of good things have happened in my life. Sometimes you want certain things to go a certain way and they don't happen. I think you just have to accept that and move on, and take the good with the bad. I'm very grateful."

Usman Khawaja fell three runs shy of a century as Australia produced a superb top-order performance on day three of the first Test against Pakistan.

Responding to Pakistan's first innings' 476-4 declared and resuming on five without loss, Khawaja's 97, along with half-centuries from David Warner (68) and Marnus Labuschagne (69 not out), took the tourists to 271-2 - trailing by 205 runs when bad light stopped play.

It means Australia, playing with heavy hearts following the sudden passing of legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne on Friday, are in an excellent position to at least claim a draw.

The Islamabad-born Khawaja and Warner laid the foundations, combining for a stand of 156, the second-highest opening partnership in Test history in Rawalpindi.

Both Khawaja and Warner played in attacking fashion, the former's half-century coming off just 67 balls. Warner's came in 86, but he was undone when he attempted to go square through the off side and missed a Sajid Khan delivery that careered into middle stump.

His exit did not open the floodgates as Pakistan might have hoped, but they did at least prevent Khawaja from recording an 11th Test hundred.

Khawaja contributed to his own downfall as he got a reverse sweep all wrong, gloving Nauman Ali to Imam-ul-Haq at foward short-leg, with Aleem Dar forced to overturn his original not out decision following a review.

Yet, with Labuschange and Steve Smith (24 not out) surviving until the fading light forced the players off, Australia have two batters who are among the most difficult in world cricket to dislodge set at the crease, a sign that is, for Pakistan, as ominous as the gloom that stopped proceedings.

Khawaja and Warner narrowly miss out on history

Only Mark Taylor and Michael Slater (176) have linked up for a higher first-wicket stand than Khawaja and Warner in Rawalpindi, that duo excelling in October 1994 in a match that ultimately ended in a draw. The same result looks likely again here after Khawaja and Warner narrowly missed out on surpassing their compatriots.

Labuschagne to let loose?

Pakistan will have painful memories of their previous two encounters against Labuschagne, which saw him score 185 at Brisbane and then 162 at Adelaide in 2019. He looks in the kind of form to deliver another massive score.

Australian batsman Usman Khawaja says Test skipper or white-ball skipper Aaron Finch needs to come out and explain Justin Langer's exit as head coach.

Khawaja, who returned to the Test side during the Ashes after more than two years outside the team, was named in Australia's squad for next month's Pakistan Test series.

The 35-year-old admitted he was sad for "the person" when Langer resigned as Australia head coach amid a messy exit with talk of a player revolt.

Langer spent almost four years in the head coaching role but resigned on Saturday, rejecting a six-month contract extension.

The 51-year-old's exit comes after leading Australia to a 4-0 Ashes triumph and a stunning T20 World Cup victory which has raised eyebrows, yet there have been rumblings of internal issues.

"I just came back in the team two months ago. I've been a little bit out of it, a little bit disconnected, but there's obviously a lot of ex-players coming and talking about the playing group," Khawaja told reporters on Tuesday.

"At some stage, one of the captains, probably Finchy or Patty, will probably have to stand up and answer some questions just to get rid of all the speculation that's going around. To just put an end to it all."

Khawaja said Langer had tried to take on player feedback and insisted "always got along with him".

But several key members of the Australian side, including Cummins, failed to publicly back Langer for a contract extension in the lead-up to Saturday's announcement.

"It's part of speculation which I don't think is really healthy. I just don't want to add to it," Cummins said on Thursday when asked about a contract renewal for Langer.

"That's Cricket Australia's job. It's not my job. I've really loved my time working with JL and we've had an evaluation process. I've been part of that, a lot of other players and staff have been part of that.

"Just like when we get evaluated. I've got huge respect for JL, really like working with him. But it's not my call."

Australia hold a perfect Ashes day-night record and England will have to put up another huge fight to prevent them from ending the series with a win in the historic Test in Hobart.

The tourists avoided a whitewash when they batted out a draw on a tense final day at the Sydney Cricket Ground last week, James Anderson and Stuart Broad preventing Australia from taking the one wicket they needed to go 4-0 up.

They will start a first-ever Ashes Test in Hobart on Friday with Pat Cummins' side strong favourites to make it three Test wins out of three over England under the lights.

The series finale was due to be staged in Perth, but was moved due to Western Australia's border restrictions.

England have not won a Test in Australia since they came out on top at the SCG 11 years ago and they have never looked like ending that drought during this one-sided series.

Blundstone Arena has been a happy hunting ground for Australia, the hosts nine out of 13 Tests in Hobart – that 69 per cent win rate being their best at any home ground where they face played more than twice in the longest format.

A draw stopped the rot for the tourists, but they are winless in seven away Tests. It is their longest run without a victory on their travels since a 13-match barren spell from October 2016 to March 2018.

Both sides face selection dilemmas for what Australia hope will be their 150th Test victory over their fierce rivals. Their next best winning record is against West Indies (58 victories).

England, meanwhile, will simply be hoping for a win to at least take some positives from what has been a miserable tour. However, in both day-night meetings between these sides to dates, Australia have triumphed by 120 runs (in December 2017 and December 2021).

Head return leaves Harris vulnerable

Usman Khawaja could not have wished to make a bigger impact after getting the nod at the SCG, scoring a century in both innings of his first Test since August 2019.

Khawaja became the first player to plunder a ton in each innings of an SCG Test since former Australia captain Ricky Ponting 

The experienced left-hander replaced Travis Head, who missed out after testing positive for coronavirus.

Head is fit for the fifth Test and averages 62 in the series, so he is set to come back into the side. Khawaja believed he was unlikely to retain his place despite his brilliance in Sydney, though there is a possibility the 35-year-old could find himself opening, with Marcus Harris potentially making way. 

Josh Hazlewood is still unavailable due to a side injury, while Mitchell Starc says he does not need a rest and that is no surprise given his outstanding record in day-night Tests.

Billings set for Test bow

Sam Billings is poised to make his Test debut for England after Jos Buttler flew home with a broken finger.

Billings drove over 500 miles to answer an England SOS call, having been in Queensland playing for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League.

Ben Stokes (side) and Jonny Bairstow (thumb) batted through the pain barrier in Sydney and will be checked on, with the vice-captain possibly playing only as a batter.

Rory Burns could be recalled in place of a struggling Haseeb Hameed, while Ollie Robinson will be hoping to come back into the team and head coach Chris Silverwood is back with the touring party after missing the fourth Test due to coronavirus.

Captain Joe Root (23) is one away from recording the outright second most hundreds for England in men's Tests, while he has scored 847 runs in the red-ball format in Australia – the second-most by any non-Australian player without having scored a century in the country.

Broad, meanwhile, is only four wickets shy of becoming England's second all-time leading wicket taker against Australia in men's Tests. The paceman is on 125 as it stands, three behind the late Bob Willis (128), with Ian Botham the record holder with 148.

Australia captain Pat Cummins wishes the weather had been on his team's side after England frustrated their hosts to draw the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney.

James Anderson batted out the final over of the day – and the 102nd of England's second innings – at the Sydney Cricket Ground to ensure the tourists reached 270-9 at stumps and avoided a series whitewash.

With the Ashes already lost after a dismal opening three Tests, Joe Root's team performed resiliently to restore some pride heading into the final match in Hobart.

They relied on some good fortune, too. Rain delayed the restart in the second session on Sunday, further stalling Australia after they had clinched the important wicket of Zak Crawley (77), who became England's third-youngest opener to score a half-century in an away Ashes series, just before lunch. Rain also effected play earlier in the match.

Cummins, meanwhile, held on late to declare on day four despite Australia having built a towering lead, with Crawley and Haseeb Hameed only facing 35 minutes at the crease late on Saturday.

"Obviously, [we were] really keen [for the win]," Cummins said at the post-match presentation.

"But I think it was a great game of Test cricket, we got close. A bit less weather might have got us there but it was a really hard-fought match – that's why we all love it. We'd have loved to go up 4-0, but it was a good match.

"The weather forecasts are hopeless, I learned that this week. I think day four was meant to rain all day. I was ready to follow-on, we'd have had a full day of sunlight yesterday to bowl in."

Asked about his late declaration, Cummins added: "Being in a position to get up close to 400, I think we needed that.

"The wicket wasn't playing many tricks, we’ve got some class batters. Today was good fun, I felt really lucky to have genuine bowlers plus Smithy [Steve Smith] and Marnus [Labuschagne] to throw the ball to. It felt like we were right in with a shot."

Australia were led in the fourth Test by the magnificent Usman Khawaja, who marked his first appearance in their red-ball side since the 2019 Ashes series with a hundred in each innings.

He became just the third player to score a hundred in each innings of an SCG Test, and the first since former Australia captain Ricky Ponting in 2006, also against England.

"Two hundreds, no it can't [get much better]," Usman said.

"It was a terrific game. We'd have loved to win but it was a great game, a great fight from England, Test cricket at its best, right down to the wire. It could have gone either way – we couldn't ask for much more."

Khawaja has already said he does not expect to be in Australia's team for the final Test, with Travis Head expected to return from a coronavirus-enforced absence, but the 35-year-old knows he has a big role to play over the next 12 months.

"I'm enjoying the game, love the game. There's lots of ups and downs. I fully know I could go out next time I play and get two ducks, it's just the way this game is," he continued.

"That's why we love it. It's such a hard game. It's really satisfying. There's nothing harder that Test cricket, when you perform like that you know you've done something right.

"There's a lot of cricket coming up. Fingers crossed we stay healthy. The guys have played unbelievably before this game, 3-0 up. We couldn't have asked for much more from this series and hopefully the next game we can win that, and then win a few games away."

Australia's Usman Khawaja is expecting to miss out on a place in the side for the final Ashes Test, despite his stunning display at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

England will need to bat out the final day at the SCG on Sunday, and perhaps hope for help from the weather, as they look to seal a draw from the fourth Test and stave off the threat of a 5-0 series whitewash.

The tourists will resume on 30-0, their highest opening partnership of the series so far, after Australia declared on 265-6 in their second innings.

England had kept themselves in the fight thanks to Jonny Bairstow's century on day three, and added 36 runs to their overnight total in the morning session on Saturday.

Their bowlers started well, reducing Australia to 68-3 by the time Khawaja came to the crease, and Steve Smith's dismissal then left the hosts at 86-4.

Yet Khawaja, who marked his recall in place of coronavirus-hit Travis Head with 137 in the first innings, went on to thwart England's bowling attack once more, with his unbeaten 101 leading Australia into a 387-run lead.

Khawaja, who played for New South Wales and currently is a star man for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, became the first player to score a hundred in each innings of an SCG Test since former Australia captain Ricky Ponting in January 2006, also against England.

However, the 35-year-old, who had not appeared in an Australia Test team since facing England at Headingley in 2019, does not expect his performance to be enough to secure his spot in the XI for the final match in Hobart.

"At the moment I'm quite resigned to the fact that I'll probably miss out," Khawaja told reporters. "That's just from talking to [head selector] George Bailey about continuity. That's important, I'm not totally against that process.

"I felt like throughout my career, a lot of changes were made and I was on the wrong side of them, so I'm the first to say that I think there needs to be structure and stability. I know how hard it is for a cricketer chopping and changing.

"I actually like the processes that the selectors have been taking throughout the series, so at the moment I'm not really expecting to play the next match, but I'll always be ready.

"Someone else may get COVID or something else happens. Heady batted beautifully in that first Test. I'd be very surprised if too much changed. Scotty Boland was amazing last game, something I'm not sure I'll see again, and he was going to be dropped. It's just the reality. It sucks, but that's just cricket."

While Khawaja is not expecting to play in Tasmania, he may also be joined in watching on by England trio Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Bairstow.

Stokes scored a resilient 66 as he battled through a side strain in England's first innings, while both Buttler and Bairstow did not field on Saturday after sustaining hand injuries.

Ollie Pope filled in at wicketkeeper, taking four catches, while Sam Billings has been called up by England for the Hobart Test, and assistant coach Graham Thorpe does not know if the trio will be fit to return.

"We've obviously got some blows. It's possible [they will miss the final Test] but we will be assessing all of that at the end of the game," he told reporters.

Usman Khawaja borrowed a celebration from NBA superstar LeBron James as he marked his return to Australia's Test team with a sublime century against England.

The left-hander made a magnificent 137 in Australia's 416-8 declared on day two, leaving the tourists staring at a major challenge to avoid another Ashes defeat at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Khawaja reached his second Ashes hundred after being given a life on 28 when an edge off Jack Leach grazed Jos Buttler and was dropped by England skipper Joe Root at first slip.

He celebrated with a high-knees strut and thumped his chest, copying Los Angeles Lakers star James' famous 'silencer'.

Khawaja had not featured in a Test for Australia since the dramatic Headingley loss to England in 2019, when Ben Stokes' sensational century drove the hosts to victory, so for the 35-year-old this was a moment to savour.

"It's the silencer - you probably shouldn't do it to a home crowd," said a cheery Khawaja after England closed on 13-0.

"I was so excited, everything just came up to me. I love LeBron James, so it just felt right.

"I do it mucking around with the boys all the time and if I'm playing basketball and hit a few good shots I do it, so I've had a bit of practice at it, so it just happens.

"I love Test cricket. Sometimes it feels a bit traditional for my liking, so I like to give it a bit of spark."

Australia lead 3-0 so have already retained the urn, and now they are pushing for a clean sweep of the five-match series.

Khawaja said of his near seven-hour innings: "It's pretty sweet. I wasn't expecting it. Hundreds don't come every day.

"It's a pretty tough wicket. I'm just trying to bat. I'm just trying to grind away. It's a lot of fun. I'm a bit tired, a bit lost for words. It's pretty special."

Khawaja said he had been "in a very good spot the last couple of years", despite being absent from the Australia team.

He has become a father, with his wife and daughter in the SCG crowd on Thursday, and has enjoyed his cricket despite dropping out of the Test side.

This might be a one-off recall, with Khawaja included due to Travis Head returning a positive COVID-19 test result.

"I said earlier, I've got nothing to prove to anyone," Khawaja said on beIN Sports.

"I love playing cricket, whether it's grade cricket down at my local club Valleys [Valley District], or playing for Queensland. I'm just really enjoying the game

"Getting selected in the Australian squad and then playing this game, they're all bonuses for me now, so I'm just really enjoying my life and cricket.

"Every time I go out to play for Australia it's special, and then when you score a hundred on top of that, I guess the only way to make it better is if we get a victory here."

Usman Khawaja scored his ninth Test century after being recalled by Australia for the first time in more than two years as the hosts took control against England in the fourth Ashes Test.

Australia declared at 416-8 late in the final session on day two at the SCG, in an innings headlined by Khawaja's 137, where he batted for almost seven hours and hit 13 boundaries.

Khawaja reached his second Ashes hundred after being given a life on 28 when an edge off Jack Leach grazed Jos Buttler and was dropped by Joe Root at first slip.

England's openers survived five overs late in the day to be 13-0 at stumps, with Zak Crawley given a reprieve for a no-ball after being caught at first slip by David Warner off Mitchell Starc for a duck.

Australia, though, took a major advantage in the Sydney Test having resumed at 126-3 after a rain-interrupted opening day, with Steve Smith and Khawaja putting together a 115-run fourth-wicket stand.

Stuart Broad was the pick of the English attack, claiming the first five-wicket haul for the visitors this series with figures of 5-101.

England's hopes of making inroads into the Australian batting line-up were not helped by Ben Stokes limping off with left side tightness. He later returned to field but did not bowl.

Broad had Smith caught by Buttler for 67 shortly after taking the new ball, representing the ninth time the English paceman has dismissed the Australian vice-captain at Test level.

The headband-wearing 35-year-old paceman also claimed the wickets of Cameron Green (5), Pat Cummins (24) and Khawaja, who played on to a leg-cutter.

Starc got lucky with a series of reviews in his batting cameo with 34 not out before Australia declared, getting five overs late at the tourists who got through with Crawley and Haseeb Hameed at the crease.

Broad justifies his recall

Broad's five-wicket haul was his sixth against Australia and a 19th across his decorated career, where he has taken 531 Test dismissals.

The 35-year-old right-arm paceman had been left out for two Tests earlier in this series and justified his recall emphatically.

Khawaja stars upon return

Khawaja had not played for Australia at Test level since August 2019 in the Ashes but managed his second century against England, having earned a recall after back-to-back hundreds for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield. Khawaja reached triple figures shortly prior to tea.

Australia have opted for Travis Head over Usman Khawaja as captain Pat Cummins confirmed the starting XI to face England in the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba.

It was between Head and Khawaja in the race to bat at number five in Wednesday's opener in Brisbane and Australia stuck with the former.

Head, who played in four of the 2019 Ashes Tests and top-scored with 51 at an average of 27.28 before sitting out the final match, has made 394 runs – including two centuries – at 49.25 this Sheffield Shield season.

His overall Test record also stands at an average of 39.75 from 19 matches, including two tons.

Khawaja – without an international appearance in the longest format of cricket since the third Ashes Test in 2019 – also had a pair of hundreds as part of a 460-run haul at 65.71 in the Sheffield Shield.

But new Australia skipper Cummins and selectors preferred Head as they bid to retain the urn, though England are yet to confirm their XI.

"It was a tight one. Both really good options, really strong form," said Cummins on Sunday.

"Experience is great from Uzzie and we feel really lucky to have that in the squad, but Trav's been playing a lot for us the last couple of years.

"He's gone away and he's churned out runs in England, here in Australia, and we feel like he's really ready to go."

Australia quick Mitchell Starc avoided the axe, selectors keeping faith with the paceman alongside fellow pace bowlers Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Starc's position was under threat due to his form and the rise of Jhye Richardson, who had taken 15 wickets in his past two Sheffield Shield matches.

England captain Joe Root declined to announce his team during Sunday's series launch, telling reporters: "We've got all the options on the table [but] we're not going to name a team just yet.

"We'll have to see the closer forecase and how that pitch changes over the next couple of days.

"But it's a great place to play spin. It's something we'll weigh up and consider, but we're not in a position to make that call right now."

 

Australian XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (c), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc.

England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Australia have named a 15-man squad for the opening two Ashes Tests, with captain Tim Paine included despite an injury cloud and veteran Usman Khawaja recalled.

Paine is yet to return to competitive cricket after neck surgery in September but leads an Australia team looking to win the Ashes after retaining the urn with a 2-2 series draw in England in 2019.

Khawaja, who turns 35 next month, earns a recall after strong Sheffield Shield form with two centuries in four matches, having not played the longest format of cricket since the third Ashes Test in 2019.

Victorian left-hander Marcus Harris appears set to open the batting alongside David Warner, with Will Pucovski absent due to another concussion, while Travis Head and Khawaja will battle to take the number five role.

Head was dropped in Australia's last Test series against India in January.

The first Test takes place at the Gabba in Brisbane from December 8, followed by the day-night Test at Adelaide Oval from December 16.

National selection panel chair George Bailey said: "Marcus has been a consistent run scorer domestically and had a strong winter further developing his game with Leicestershire. He is a good player who will be looking to build a strong partnership with David Warner at the top of the order.

"Travis finished last summer strongly, second only to Cameron Green for runs scored, and has again started the season well. He drives the game forward and can put the opposition under pressure with his ability to score quickly.

"Similarly, Usman Khawaja has been in great touch. He brings a calm, consistent and experienced component to the batting line up and is a proven run scorer at Test level. He also has the ability to bat across a range of positions in the batting order."

Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser are included as fast bowling depth, although the latter recently sustained a minor hamstring strain playing for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield.

"Jhye is seeing the rewards of concentrating on his red ball cricket in the build up to this series. We know he has an exceptional skill set and are excited about what he brings to the team now his body is back on track," Bailey said.

 

Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins (vc), Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner

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