Khawaja fires back at critics after Ashes century
USMAN Khawaja has hit back at fair-weather critics who only label him "lazy" when it suits, as Shane Warne declared the Australian's hundred at the SCG should guarantee he plays in all conditions this year.
Axed repeatedly in the sub-continent, Khawaja smoked a spellbinding 171 against England's spinners at his spiritual home ground in Sydney, before the Marsh brothers, Shaun (98 not out) and Mitchell (63no), turned the screws with a milestone 100-run family partnership.
Raised in the shadows of the SCG in an overcrowded apartment block when he first moved from Pakistan as a child, Khawaja celebrated his maiden Ashes and SCG ton in emotional fashion, as he paid tribute to mother, Fozia and girlfriend, Rachel, for supporting him through tough times.
The past few months have been among Khawaja's most challenging, as he dealt with being benched for India, dropped after just one Test in Bangladesh and then facing old blame over his body language this series, as he struggled with two 50s but no big bonanza like he's produced in past summers.
Khawaja has set himself up nicely to fight fire with fire against South Africa's sizzling pace attack in March as Australia went to stumps in complete command at 4-479 and 157 runs in front.
Later this year Australia heads to the UAE to play Pakistan in two Test matches and it remains to be seen how much stock selectors will put in yesterday's taming of England's spinners when the time comes.
Khawaja said at the start of the summer he believes being chopped and changed in the sub-continent was negatively impacting his ability to get into stride and he hopes his big Ashes day out has proven critics wrong and shown selectors what he's made of.
"It's disappointing to hear because when I am scoring runs I'm elegant, and when I'm not I'm lazy," said Khawaja.
"I can't seem to win when things aren't going well. I've had that my whole career. It's not like I'm going out there and not trying.
"Sometimes the game feels really simple and easy and other times it's a grind. That's the way it's.
"I've had a lot of good innings at the SCG when I used to play here (for NSW) on similar turning wickets.
"I love to play for Australia in every Test match … obviously it hasn't gone that way over the last year but all I can do is go out and score runs … and not look too far ahead."
Former Test great Mike Hussey has led the charge in calling on selectors to either pick Khawaja in all conditions or not at all, adamant that the left-hander's exile last year in turning conditions was a major factor in his inconsistent start to the Ashes summer.
Warne, the master spinner himself, believes it's time to back Khawaja all over the world in the lynchpin role of No.3, not just when the ball is coming on.
"The most impressive thing here was his aggressoin against spin. (When things aren't going well) he looks to survive and can be not busy enough but today he had positive intent right from ball one and dominated," said Warne on Nine.
"Let him play in India and everywhere and he'll learn to play against those guys."
To which Australian captain Steve Smith responded: "Fair call."
Khawaja was always embarrassed by the huge reaction to him making 37 on debut against England at the SCG back in 2011.
Yesterday he produced a moment that was truly worth savouring.
"It's awesome. The SCG was where I grew up playing cricket for NSW and an Ashes century is something I wanted for a long time and hadn't been able to achieve. So it's really satisfying," he said.
"It's elation. You don't get to celebrate Test centuries too much unless you're Steve Smith so you've got to enjoy them when they come.
"My mum and Rachel were sitting in a little box section. My mum wearing a pink hijab.
"My mum always supported me. She's someone I could lean on through all the good and bad times and Rachel is exactly the same. I knew they were up there and I was paying tribute to them."
Australia are cantering towards landslide victory in the fifth Test after the Marsh brothers Shaun and Mitchell picked up from where Khawaja left off and drove the home side to an almost unstoppable position at stumps on day three.
Temperatures are expected to soar past 40 degrees in Sydney on Sunday but by the time it's Australia's turn to return to the field, England may already be cooked.
Debutant Mason Crane came into the match carrying favour as a former NSW player, but the spinner quickly turned himself into enemy No.1 as he remonstrated with umpires over a front foot no-ball call that botched his first wicket, before repeatedly baulking at his delivery stride, much to the ire of the crowd.
Crane and fellow spinner Moeen Ali got the key scalps of Khawaja and Steve Smith (83) respectively, but overall they were punished on the scoreboard.
The 20-year-old leg-spinner Crane has figures of 1-135 and Moeen's aren't much better at 1-125.
Shaun and Mitchell Marsh never thought they were going to play in this series, let alone together, and in just their fourth ever partnership at Test level the much-maligned pair fired from all cylinders to put on a potentially match-sealing stand - their first century-partnership.