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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Defiant Usman Khawaja hits ton as Australia hold off Pakistan for draw in Dubai

Left-hander leads rearguard as touring side bat through final day to save game, as two sides now head to Abu Dhabi for next week’s final Test all-square

Australia's top-order batsman batsman Usman Khawaja scored the seventh century of his Test career against Pakistan in Dubai on Thursday. Getty Images
Australia's top-order batsman batsman Usman Khawaja scored the seventh century of his Test career against Pakistan in Dubai on Thursday. Getty Images

As new eras go, this was a decent way to start. At the end of it, the hero of the hour and the team captain each sat next to each other sipping cans of diet cola.

Tim Paine set out his plans, hatched in the final overs as he and tail-ender Nathan Lyon staved off both Pakistan bowlers and fraying nerves, for the evening to toast his side’s effort.

It was, he said, due to involve ordering a pizza to the team-room at their hotel, and watching episodes of The Inbetweeners, the UK sitcom.

There was no visible larrikin celebrating. No sandpaper, or mea culpas, or crocodile tears. And the only cross words there had been were not with opposition or officials, but rather those in the book of puzzles which Jon Holland, the spin-bowler and No 11 batsman, had spent the best part of the final two days trying to complete.

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Read more:

Abbas demolishes Australia's top-order to put Pakistan on course for Dubai Test victory

Day 3: Bilal Asif electrifies in the Dubai Test as Pakistan claim advantage over Australia

Day 2: Haris Sohail makes most of good fortune as Pakistan build lead against Australia

Day 1: Mohammed Hafeez marks Test return with century for Pakistan against Australia

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No. This was a day when wearing white kit with the Australia logo emblazoned on it was something to be proud of again. It has not taken long.

In the scorebook, it was only a draw. Yet it was anything but “only”. Fittingly, Paine, the captain, was at the crease with the match was officially salvaged.

With a ball to go, and two wickets still to take, his opposite number Sarfraz Ahmed shook his hand, and congratulated him on a job well done.

“We know that, to become a good team, we first have to become hard to beat,” Paine said. “That is one of the things [Justin Langer, the new coach] has spoken to us about.”

o deny Pakistan a victory after giving up a 280-run deficit on first-innings, and having to bat for four-and-a-half sessions to save the game, was extraordinary.

Their 139.5 overs was the most an Australian side have faced in the fourth innings of a Test in 47 years.

It was underpinned by one of the most heroic innings in Australian Test history, the 141 made by Usman Khawaja.

By the end of it, the left-hander, who was supposedly only filling in as an opener for this game, had a list of achievements that ranged from remarkable to random.

His eight hour, 44 minute occupation of the crease was the second longest by anyone in the fourth innings of a Test, after Michael Atherton’s marathon in Johannesburg in 1995. And he also became the first Pakistan-born player to score a Test century against Pakistan.

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“You try to make good days into great days,” Khawaja said. “All I was trying to do was make a good day last as long as possible. “You can come out the next game and get two ducks. That is just cricket.”

When Khawaja went to three figures, his wife shed a tear in the seats where the players families were stationed. The batsman, too, said he felt emotional.

“It was mostly about getting a hundred for Australia on the last day of a match, trying to save a game,” Khawaja said.

“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.

“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.

“I have worked as hard as I can in conditions like this, and in England, and other places. That sort of thing gets overlooked. You don’t get to play at the top level without putting in the hard yards.

“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.”