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Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Day 2 Review: Usman Khawaja leads the way for Australia

Usman Khawaja of Australia is applauded off the field at the end of play during day two. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Usman Khawaja of Australia is applauded off the field at the end of play during day two. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

For the first time in the series, Australia looked strong enough to complete with South Africa who dominated them all the way in the last two Test of the series. The series so far was only about the South African fast bowlers and the Faf du Plessis’ ‘mintgate.’ However, opener Usman Khawaja hit the Australia’s first hundred this series and also the first in a day-night Test to turn the spotlight on hosts and help his team build a solid platform in the 3rd Test.

After missing out on his century at WACA by 3 runs and then following it by another valuable fifty at Hobart, Khawaja, with his sturdy unconquered knock of 138, had managed to keep the naysayers away from him at least, if not the whole Australian team which was under fire for surrendering meekly in the previous games.

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Faf du Plessis’ declaration, with South Africa 9 down for 259 was being termed smart and confident move by many, considering the quality of his fast bowling attack and the sort of performances they produced in the series so far. But, what transpired on day two at the Adelaide Oval simply made Faf’s decision look naïve and making a few wonder that perhaps Du Plessis should have added whatever amount of runs that were possible for the last wicket.

Usman Khawaja not only reached a special personal milestone by tea on day two but also put Australia in firm control of the match for the first time in the series. There was no sudden collapse, except the last two wickets that fell late in the day and the hosts cruised along in comfortably past South Africa’s first inning total and ended with 48 runs lead with four wickets in hand. The situation would have more in favour of the batting side had Nic Maddinson and Mathew Wade to lost their wickets in the last session.

The day began on a shaky note as debutant Matt Renshaw and David Warner were removed cheaply by Kyle Abbott. But, Khawaja once set began to accumulate runs pretty easily with the help of skipper Steve Smith (59) and Peter Handscomb (54). Australia’s revival and also Khawaja’s knock revolved around the trio. At first, it was Smith with Khawaja adding 137 runs for the 3rd wicket to take Australia from 37/2 to 174/3. Handscomb later joined the left-hander and added another 99 for the 4th wicket to take Australia past South Africa’s first innings total before getting bowled by Abbott.

The Proteas bowling attack could not affect the Aussies much today. Smith looked in his natural rhythm and faced no issues. He used his feet against spinners and rotated the strike pretty well. Talking about Handscomb, who skippers Australia A. He was beaming with confidence and thrived nicely, smashing a hattrick of boundaries off Philander to bring up his fifty.

In the last session, South Africa had something to rejoice after Rabada and Philander took one wicket each to bring Proteas back in the game to some extent. Maddinson was clean bowled for a 12 ball duck by Rabada while in the next over Philander snapped his first after 24 overs of hard work by forcing Wade to nick one behind to De Kock. A collapse looked like a possibility but Mitchell Starc (16*) played till the stumps. Khawaja too remained unbeaten and will be the man to watch out for on day three. With the lead not so huge, Khawaja’s combination with the tail-enders will matter a lot for the hosts.

Brief Scores: 

South Africa: 259/9d (Faf du Plessis 118; Josh Hazlewood 4/68)

Australia: 307/6 (Usman Khawaja 138; Kyle Abbott 3/58)

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