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Ken Borland

Pair of effortless centuries lifts Australia to huge score

Posted on October 23, 2023 by Ken

A pair of effortless centuries by Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith lifted Australia to a huge 394 for three at tea on the second day of the third Test against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.

While left-handed opener Khawaja was still there at the break on a tremendously classy 172 not out, the Proteas were at least relieved to get rid of the prolific Smith for 104 just as he was really beginning to accelerate.

Khawaja scored his third successive century at the SCG, joining English legend Wally Hammond and Australian hero Doug Walters as the only other batsmen to do that. He and Smith added 209 for the third wicket after the home side began the day on 147 for two. The partnership not only thoroughly blunted the South African attack on a placid pitch but also continued the duo’s history of great stands together.

Smith did eventually fall after collecting 11 fours and two sixes in 192 balls, giving Keshav Maharaj a return catch when the left-arm spinner produced a bit more flight.

The in-form Travis Head then came to the crease and reached 17 not out at tea.

Spinners Maharaj and Simon Harmer have borne the heaviest burden on a dry pitch, both bowling 25 overs. But Maharaj has been poor, conceding 108 runs, while Harmer has been putting more revs on the ball and asking more questions, but so far without reward. He has at least conceded less than three runs an over (73).

Fast bowler Anrich Nortje did not add to his two wickets on the first day, but he was again South Africa’s most impressive bowler. Unfortunately, his fellow pacemen could not follow his lead. Young left-armer Marco Jansen was not quite at his best, but continues to market himself as one of the brightest talents in international cricket, bowling a fine spell with the second new ball. Kagiso Rabada is out-of-sorts and has conceded 94 runs in his 24 overs.

Khawaja’s 335-ball innings, with 17 fours and a six, has been a super display of the craft of an opening batsman; he has shown great precision in both the selection and execution of his strokes and has put away the loose deliveries in elegant fashion.

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