Usman Khawaja's slice of SCG Ashes history just made Australia's next selection decision easy

Usman Khawaja came to the crease with Australia 3-68 and he once again dug them out of some trouble. (Getty: Cameron Spencer)

What a joy Usman Khawaja is.

How else can you describe him? How many other cricketers can make you smile as much just by watching them?

On day four in Sydney, he delivered Australian cricket yet another gift, becoming just the third man in history to score a century in each innings of an SCG Test.

His first century on Thursday was rich with context, a celebration of what he has overcome and who he is and what Australian cricketers can be.

But this one, this scoring spree in the Saturday afternoon sun, was pure and simple fun, a carefree display of the most elegant batting from an athlete so comfortably in his flow state he hardly broke sweat.

It was Ussie's greatest hits from start to finish: The effortless cover driving, the grace of the pull shots, the unorthodox ease of the reverse sweeping. You could have watched these shots in silhouette and known instantly they were Khawaja's.

He and Cameron Green convened in a difficult period, with the match still in the balance. Jack Leach had just clean-bowled Steve Smith and had Australia's wobble turned into a collapse, England's path to victory would have been tantalisingly wide.

The pair navigated that tricky initial spell, safe in the knowledge that the old adage remains as true at Test level as it is in third grade: The time to cash in is after tea.

Usman Khawaja is just the third Australian man to score two centuries in the same Test this decade. (Getty: Cameron Spencer)

Khawaja found his accelerator and sped to his landmark century, before Green joined in for a valve-release of a 50 of his own.

England's position of promise had entirely evaporated, and their thoughts had no doubt already moved to the significant task of batting for about 100 overs to save the Test.

At that point, England wouldn't have been the only ones casting their minds to the future.

When Khawaja moved past his 50, the Australian selectors would have slumped a little in their chairs, suddenly hit with a nasty selection headache.

However, by the time Khawaja was celebrating his century — the entire SCG was chanting his name and the engraver was preparing to perform their version of a copy and paste — that headache was cured. The solution, though perhaps unpleasant, was now unavoidable.

Khawaja cannot in good conscience be dropped for the fifth Test in Hobart. If he was to be left out, the entire fabric of what selection for the national team means would be broken.

Travis Head will be available for selection, having been cleared of COVID-19.

Like Khawaja, but to an admittedly lesser extent, he took his chance with a fine century in the first Test in Brisbane. He is worthy of his spot in the middle order.

Cameron Green, right, and Usman Khawaja took the game away from England. (Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

Green's innings blew out his batting cobwebs, but what he offers as a bowling option is utterly essential for an Australian team looking to nurse their fast-bowling cartel through the series.

If Green was to miss out, he would need to be replaced by a player of similar bowling talent, though that discussion need no longer be had.

Steve Smith, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne are locks. So who does that leave?

Marcus Harris. A man who Australia had hoped to give the entire series to stake his claim, and whose position became more comfortable less through his own performances than by team results.

The argument in favour was there was no need to replace Harris and nobody glaringly obvious to replace him. Things have quite clearly now changed.

Usman Khawaja once again had to play an important role for Australia. (Getty: Mark Kolbe)

No longer a rookie at this level, Harris has played 14 Test matches now without a breakthrough. There has been no shortage of scrap and fight from the left-hander — the exact qualities that have made him so appealing to Justin Langer — but not enough runs.

The good news is Khawaja averages nearly 100 opening the batting at Test level and, in case you haven't noticed, he's in pretty good nick.

It also opens the door for Khawaja to lock down a position in Australia's team for the upcoming tour of Pakistan, a journey of some significance for a man who was born in that country but has never played a Test there.

Perhaps we are getting too far ahead of ourselves. There is still a Test to be won in Sydney, and thanks to a solid start from England's openers and a sketchy forecast for Sunday, it is far from a foregone conclusion.

Regardless of result, this will be remembered as Khawaja's Test. Here's to many more.


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