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Sydney: Usman Khawaja’s stunning return to Test cricket continued Saturday with a blistering century in Australia’s second innings on day four which led the hosts to 265-6 declared and set England an unlikely 388 runs to win the fourth Ashes Test.

Openers Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed then survived a nervous 11 overs in fading light to get England safely to stumps at 29 without loss.

Khawaja, who scored 137 in the first innings in his first appearance since the 2019 Ashes series in England, headlined another dominant day for Australia with an unbeaten 101 off 138 balls as part of a 179-run partnership with Cameron Green.

The 35-year-old scored his first fifty off 86 balls, but then accelerated his scoring rate by playing some extravagant strokes and brought up his hundred just 45 balls later with a two off Dawid Malan.

It was just the third time that twin centuries have been made at the Sydney Cricket Ground with former Australia captain Ricky Ponting the last man to score two centuries in an SCG Test – 2006 vs South Africa.

Khawaja is playing this Test only because of Travis Head testing positive for Covid-19 ahead of the match, but has surely put in an undeniable claim to be retained for the fifth Test in Hobart after back-to-back centuries.

Green (74) made a welcome contribution for Australia, which had sunk to 86-4 earlier in the day, with his second half-century in his eighth Test. The record successful fourth innings chase at the SCG is 288 runs, which was achieved by Ponting’s Australia in the same 2006 test against South Africa.

While it’s highly unlikely England will defy SCG history and chase down a near 400-run target, Crawley (22 not out) and Haseeb (eight not out) helped give England a glimmer of hope that it may yet save the game and achieve its best result so far in the series.

Earlier, Spinner Jack Leach took four wickets for England, including taking Green and Alex Carey off the final two balls of Australia’s innings, in what was his best bowling performance of the series.

Leach (4-84) also took Marcus Harris (27) and then got the prize wicket of Steve Smith for 23, bowling the star batsman with a delivery that kept low of the SCG pitch to reduce Australia to a potentially vulnerable 86-4.

Mark Wood, who has troubled all of Australia’s batsmen with his pace this series, got the wickets of Warner (3) and Labuschagne (29), both caught behind by Ollie Pope, who had replaced injured wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

Resuming Saturday at 258-7, England could only muster another 36 runs as Nathan Lyon, then Scott Boland quickly mopped up the lower order to establish a first-innings lead of 122 runs.

Brief Scores: Australia 416/8d & 265/6d in 68.5 overs (Usman Khawaja 101, Cameron green 74; Jack Leach 4/84) vs England 294 & 30/0 in 11 overs.
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