A ton of defiance from Usman Khawaja has inspired a remarkable Queensland revival in their Sheffield Shield clash against South Australia, just as Australia is looking for an opener for the Ashes.
Khawaja’s unbeaten 158 and Jimmy Peirson’s rapid 89 not out steered the Bulls to 4-370 in their second innings at stumps on day three.
Khawaja began Sunday on 15 with the Bulls 2-63, trailing SA by 65 runs.
He ended the day with his side 242 runs ahead and in the driver’s seat to force a result at Adelaide Oval.
The big score came as Will Pucovski was revealed to have suffered another concussion, putting him in doubt for this summer’s Ashes series.
Incumbent Marcus Harris, who played in the last Test against India in January after Pucovski was ruled out with a shoulder injury, and Travis Head are both candidates to step into the role.
The 34-year-old may seem like a long shot to return to the side for the first time since being dropped during the 2019 Ashes series, but the Queenslander does average 96.80 in seven innings as a Test opener, despite more often batting at three in the national side.
Khawaja’s 31st first-class century on Sunday defied the Redbacks, who twice believed they dismissed the classy left-hander.
In the last over on Saturday, Khawaja appeared to glove a ball to gully but was given not out on 13, and when 108 on Sunday, the Bulls skipper survived a confident appeal for caught behind after attempting to hook a short ball.
The flashpoints came as Peirson, Test star Marnus Labuschagne (45) and Matthew Renshaw (41) offered support to their captain.
Khawaja and Labuschagne put on 94 runs for the third wicket, but soon after lunch Labuschagne — who hit his first ball for four but did not reach the boundary again in his 179-ball stay — was trapped leg before wicket by SA quick Nathan McAndrew.
Khawaja and Renshaw put on 68 runs before the latter feathered an outside edge to wicketkeeper Alex Carey from McAndrew’s bowling in the last over before tea.
Khawaja and Peirson then dominated the last session, amassing 165 runs from 38.3 overs.