Khawaja conquers the pressure to compile dream SCG innings


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After a series of doubts, pressure and the threat of selectors' ire with a tour of South Africa looming, Usman Khawaja can hold his head high after his heroics at the SCG.

Khawaja (171) put Australia in complete control of the fifth and final Ashes Test in Sydney, punishing England's listless bowling attack to all corners in a mammoth knock for his sixth century in the five-day game.

After several starts without conversion throughout this series, Khawaja — who has flitted in and out of the Test side with some regularity — had to deliver in a big way to cement his spot in the Test squad to tour South Africa in March.

And he did it with aplomb, in a 381-ball knock featuring 18 fours and a six — his first-ever Test ton at his former home ground.

"My first century, where I sort of grew up at the SCG when I was younger. An Ashes hundred felt really far away before the start of the game," Khawaja told Grandstand.

"Amazing how quickly things can change."

Usman Khawaja raises his bat while Steve Smith looks at him out on the SCG.

Khawaja tends to go big when he gets into triple figures, but amid the heat in the bright Sydney sunshine, Australia's number three said there was nothing easy about his innings.

"It felt like it was easier to score off the spinners, it also felt like they were more likely to get you out," he said.

"It was a tough day, ended up being a very good day, but there's no easy runs in Test cricket.

"Especially with that wicket wearing out today, we wanted to get as many runs as we could in this first innings. The second innings is going to get harder, especially if we have to bat last.

"Hopefully we get enough runs on the board to avoid that or at least reduce that. We knew first-innings runs were important, so in the back of my head, that's what I was thinking about all day."

Khawaja admits 'there's always pressure'

Pressure comes as nothing new to the SCG century maker. In fact, he is well aware it will rear its head again at some point in his career.

But the disappointment at failing to capitalise at various points throughout a successful Ashes series proved to be the driving force behind Khawaja's plundering of the English attack.

"Playing Test cricket, there's always pressure," he said.

"After going 3-0 up in the series, I guess it was nice as a team aspect to win that, but there was a little bit of pressure going into it.

"It was a little disappointing, even at the WACA, I felt like I batted well, ground out a 50, got out and was still getting nailed after that.

So it was a little bit disappointing … but coming into this match I obviously wanted to get a big score, and I got a big score.

"It was in the back of my mind absolutely, so it was nice to go out there and make some runs. I'm sure it's not the last time it's going to happen. It's Test cricket, there's always pressure on."

Usman Khawaja's dismissal gave England spinner Mason Crane (L) his first Test scalp.

And it is the little adjustments — tinkering with his technique in the nets, behind the scenes, that seem to have reaped huge benefits.

"There's been a few adjustments. Obviously with Moeen [Ali] bowling I've adjusted a few of my tactics to him after that first game at the Gabba," he said.

"[Mason] Crane was a bit different because he was a new bowler. I adjusted my tactics to Broady [Stuart Broad] and [James] Anderson, particularly Anderson who's a very good bowler, very skilful. He's someone who doesn't give you much, he's quite tough to score off.

"A few things to tinker with, last game. I probably batted more leg side. This game, squared it up a little bit.

"They're little things that you probably don't see during the game that I worked on during the week. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, so I'm glad it worked today."

External Link: Fifth Ashes Test scorecard

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