Khawaja now world’s best batter while Green’s ton puts rival nations on notice as Aussies grind India into dust
Usman Khawaja’s classy 180 and Cameron Green’s maiden Test ton have propelled Australia to a dominant position after two days of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series finale.
Khawaja can lay claim to being the world’s best Test batter after his superb innings, the third-highest score by an Australian in India, as the tourists romped to 480, their highest score of the series by some distance – the 263 from the first innings at Delhi in the second match.
They had 10 overs at the home side late in the final session with India making their way to 36 without incident, apart from a ball being lost in the sheets covering the seats in the final over after a Shubman Gill six down the ground.
Khawaja has scored the most Test runs since the start of last year with 1608 from 16 matches at 69.91 to be well clear of the next best runscorer, England’s Joe Root who has amassed 1417 at 52.48 from 17 matches.
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The 36-year-old opener is well clear of Australian teammates Marnus Labuschagne (1217 at 50.7) and Steve Smith (1115 at 53.09), who are at the top of the ICC rankings.
Khawaja is ninth but will surely rise higher when the next rankings are released.
With Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson not dominating in the past 12 months as they’ve done in recent years, Khawaja certainly stands alongside Root, Labuschagne, Smith and Pakistan’s Babar Azam as the leading batters in Test cricket.
He and Green put on 208 for the fifth wicket, just falling short of the record stand by an Aussie pair in India set by Kim Hughes and Allan Border, who tallied 222 in Chennai in 1979.
Green’s breakthrough innings is bad news for the rest of world cricket. The young all-rounder had not reached triple figures in his first 19 Tests but now that he has that monkey off his back, he is set to follow the path of Steve Waugh, who became a prolific century-maker after taking more than three years to reach his first ton.
The 23-year-old West Australian resumed on 49 not out and drove down the ground with power and precision, showing few nerves as he progressed through the 90s before bringing up his milestone with a boundary to backward point.
He ended up with 18 fours from his 170-ball knock, falling to a feather on the glove as he tried to sweep Ravichandran Ashwin, who toiled hard for nearly 48 overs in taking 6-91.
Green made his debut against India in 2020 but after missing three Tests due to a broken finger, his return has not only restored balance to the Australian line-up with a genuine all-rounder at No.6, his career progression is repaying the selection panel’s long-term investment in his ability.
“With Uzzy, he’s an experienced head who’s played Test cricket for more than 10 years now,” Green said. “He’s so valuable for guys like myself and a few of the young guys in the team the way he goes about it.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can off him, and, luckily enough, there are a lot of guys in the change rooms like that.”
After Alex Carey continued his batting slump with a wild slog to depart for a duck and Mitchell Starc followed soon after for six, Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy showed some rarely seen tailend resistance from Australia on this tour.
Khawaja was initially judged not out to an LBW decision to Axar Patel but was sent on his way 20 runs short of what would have been a maiden Test double-century after the wet weather ruined his chances when Australia declared when he was on 195 in the rain-interrupted Sydney match in January against South Africa.
Lyon lasted 96 balls for his 34 while Murphy managed to not fall cheaply for the first time this series as he powered to 41 before he was one of Ashwin’s victims.
Australia are in the box seat to claim a second straight win over India to square the series 2-2 even though the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was retained by the home side after the second Test in Delhi.
At the very least, they are unlikely to lose from this position. With the pitch not playing many tricks, particularly compared to the three raging turners that were rolled out for the previous three matches, India could dig in to force a draw.
A draw for the four-match contest would be the first time India have not won a home series since going down 2-1 to England in 2012. They have won their past 15 series on home soil.
Khawaja’s purple patch in the twilight of his career raises the opposite question to his childhood pal and regular opening partner, David Warner.
While many are calling for Warner to retire or be dropped after his lengthy form slump, Khawaja is in the best form of his career at an age when many top-line players have retired or are fading away.
He is the leading run-scorer for the series with 333 at 47.57 in extremely trying conditions for batters, more than 100 clear of second-placed Rohit Sharma.
Dean Jones, with his legendary 210 in the Tied Test of 1986, and Matthew Hayden’s 203 in the memorable 2001 series, are the only two Australians who have scored more in an innings in India.
For a player who supposedly had a weakness against spin bowling earlier in his career, Khawaja now has four centuries in Asia, which is only bettered by Border’s six and five each to Smith and Ricky Ponting.