Usman Khawaja’s scintillating stroke play might have been compared with great Brian Lara last year, but his disciplined century resembled Sachin Tendulkar’s memorable hundred against Australia at the SCG in 2004.
Tendulkar in that innings shelved the cover drive off the fast bowlers for the duration of innings. Similarly Khawaja resisted at playing anything through the offside throughout day two of the South African pace trio of Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander.
To state the fact, Khawaja made only five out of his 135 runs on the offside from the quicks. Those five runs were courtesy of couple of defensive pushes and one drive off the front foot from a yorker-length ball from Philander.
It was innings of mind over manner, stubbornness and consciousness. It was pre-planned and perfectly executed. It was masterful Test match batting with the highest level of mental application.
Khawaja had been caught in the cordon in his two previous innings so he choose to not to dangle his bat or attempt to score through the offside.
The strategy worked as he made the South Africa bowl into his hips and his pads. There lengths became shorter and it allowed him to work the ball with his majestic wrists through the on-side.
In fact while he was patient outside off-stump he was ruthless on anything that was at his body as he conjured up 71 runs through the leg-side.
In his innings there was also a sense of game awareness as he changed gears at the right time.
After having reached 18 in 76 balls, the South African bowlers started to bowl in his zone and he capitalised by scoring 33 in his next 39 balls to reach in half-century.
Soon, he had lost his skipper to terrible mix-up but he didn’t go into his shell as he felt it was right time to cash in as Faf Du Plessis decided to bowl Shamsi for an extended spell from 56th to the 66th over.
In that time space, Khawaja went to his 100, going from 70 to 100 in space of 27 balls.
Test cricket is all about sieging the right moment to attack and Khawaja knew it was period he had to bat with freedom. As the South African took the new ball he went back into shell, protected his stumps, shelved the flowing drives and accumulated through the leg-side.
Add to it all, he remained unbeaten at stumps on 138 with still a healthy strike rate of 48, not bad for a guy who barely scored a run on the offside from the three South African men.