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Ton-up Khawaja keeps England at bay in Ashes opener

Opener Usman Khawaja raced away in delight and threw his bat high in the air after scoring his first test century in England as Australia made 311-5 on day two of the Ashes at Edgbaston on Saturday.

Australia’s deficit was down to 82 runs after Khawaja revived Australia’s fortunes with an unbeaten 126. He had excellent support in consecutive half-century partnerships with Travis Head (50), Cameron Green (38) and Alex Carey (52 not out).

One more strong session from Khawaja and Carey on Sunday, when showers are expected, will give Australia a clear advantage for the first time in the match, while a quick wicket for England would expose a long tail.

The Australians will have enjoyed the day more than England, which rued three big missed chances. Jonny Bairstow missed a stumping when he fumbled the second delivery to Green by Moeen Ali. Bairstow then dropped a catch after Carey edged Joe Root. Moments later, Khawaja was bowled on 112 by Stuart Broad but was called back because of a no-ball.

“It was a great ball. I felt like I had slid,” Broad said of the no-ball. “I probably bowled more no-balls than I did in my career. I’ve not bowled as many as that (six) in a day.”

Khawaja’s 15th test hundred helped to turn things round. He anchored the innings with style and occasional aggression, hitting 14 fours and two sixes. He celebrated extravagantly after raising his 100 off 199 balls.

“He’s given us the dab, the shuffle, now the bat throw,” Head said. “It’s a huge weight off his shoulders. The first thing people talk about is hundreds overseas. Once he got off the mark, it was his day.”

The 36-year-old Khawaja said he was extra motivated by comments from the crowd.

“I genuinely do not read the media but when I’m getting sprayed (taunted) by the crowd as I’m walking out there today and as I’m going to nets being told that I can’t score runs in England … I guess it was just a bit more emotional than normal,” he said.

“(The celebration) was a combination of having three Ashes tours in England and being dropped in two of them. Not that I have a point to prove, but it’s nice to go out there and score runs for Australia and just to show everyone that the last 10 years hasn’t been a fluke.”

Coming out of lunch on 78-3, Australia dug in. Khawaja and Travis Head started it by pairing up for 81 runs.

Khawaja and Head, the third-ranked test batter, sprayed the ball above, between and around England’s fielders to give the hosts a taste of their own ‘Bazball’ medicine. Head plundered Moeen Ali in particular, though the England spinner had the last say by ending the partnership.

Khawaja and Head took Australia to 148, increasing the run rate by around a run an over until Head advanced once too often against Ali to send the ball to Zak Crawley at midwicket.

Playing on his home ground, Ali finished the day with figures of 2-124 from 29 overs — including being hit for six five times, twice by Khawaja. But he went into the match knowing England captain Ben Stokes was happy to back a bowler always on the attack even if he’s expensive.

Between Khawaja, Head and Green, Australia made 110-1 in the middle session.

Green should have gone soon after tea but Bairstow fluffed the stumping chance and Green made 38 in a stand of 72 with Khawaja before Ali got him with a delivery that spun back sharply.

Thanks to the England let-offs, Khawaja got his century, Carey his sixth half-century and Australia compiled 123-1 in the last session, including 14 overs of the new ball.

Australia raised its run rate to 3.3 an over. That’s not ‘Bazball,’ but Australia found it a happy compromise.

“We had to stay calm,” Head said.

The morning was not good for Australia in overcast, bowler-friendly conditions.

David Warner dragged on, giving his wicket to Broad for the 15th time. Labuschagne went next ball for a golden duck and Steve Smith denied Broad a hat trick.

“He shocked me a little with how much he moved,” Broad said of Smith. “I was disappointed not to get my third test hat trick.”

England started with three maiden overs, two bowled by Broad and one by James Anderson. The slow start to the second day may have contributed to Warner’s impatience.

The breeze died down, the sun came out and Smith — who scored 144 and 142 at Edgbaston in the 2019 Ashes series — started to look settled.

After his declaration on day one, Stokes surprised again when he gave part-time bowler Harry Brook one over of tight but unthreatening medium pace. Stokes also answered a big unknown coming into the test — would he bowl? — shortly before lunch.

Stokes trapped Smith leg before on 16 close to lunch just when Australia seemed to be recovering. Stokes looked tired but comfortable with 1-33 in seven overs, though he and Broad shared a dozen no-balls between them.