Usman Khawaja said his marathon, match-saving 302-ball 141 in the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai was the toughest innings he has ever played, and a stuff of dreams.
Khawaja battled hard for 524 minutes in the fourth innings, helping Australia save the game from an unlikely situation on the final day.
“That was as tough as any innings as I’ve played. I was drenched. I came off the field with sweat through my shirt. My shirt was drenched and my pants were drenched. That took it out of me a fair bit. I’ve never had an innings like that,” said Khawaja after the game.
Chasing 462, Australia started the final day on 136 for 3, with Khawaja on 50. His brilliance, along with Travis Head’s 72 and Tim Paine’s unbeaten 61, took Australia to 362 for 8 by the end of the day.
Khawaja had made an impressive 85 in the first innings as well and said the key to success was to take the challenge as any other occasion.
“I was just batting like it was any other innings,“ he said. "I wasn’t worried about whether it was the fourth innings or whether we were trying to save a match at any stage. It was more of a mindset thing to make sure we stayed positive.”
“I knew that if I went away from batting normally, I was more likely to get out in those conditions. Especially being a left-hander, with Yasir Shah bowling into the rough, and Bilal (Asif) had some rough, too, I knew I had to bat as I would in any situation.”
Khawaja entered the game with doubts over his ability in these conditions, having averaged less than 15 in nine previous innings in Asia. The latest century, though, was an extension of recent improvement as the batsman had also made a century for Australia A in India last month.
“It was mostly about getting a hundred for Australia on the last day of a match, trying to save a game. A lot of work goes into playing cricket at the highest level. I work as hard as anyone. I have worked my backside off for the past 10 years in first-class cricket, day in, day out,” he said.
“People think, because of my relaxed nature, that’s not that case, and that I’ve been gifted to be able to get to where I am, but that’s not the case at all. There is no secret to success, it is all about hard work. I was grateful to be out there playing for Australia and getting a hundred.”
Talking about the effort that went into the knock, Khawaja said the heat was difficult to handle but he ‘enjoyed’ battling it out for his country.
“I was just asking for god to get the sun down so we could get some shade. We got in the change rooms and felt good again after I got in there and then it got a bit cooler,“ he said.
“I just love batting and I was just enjoying batting out there and enjoying getting a few partnerships with the boys and playing cricket for Australia. It’s what you dream to do.”