SYDNEY, Jan 6, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – England claimed Steve Smith’s prized wicket after Usman Khawaja hit his maiden Ashes Test century as Australia tightened the screws on the tourists in the final Sydney Test on Saturday.
Just when a fourth century of the series was beckoning, Moeen Ali caught and bowled the Australia skipper for 83 nearing lunch on the third day.
Smith, who looked untroubled batting patiently through the morning session, left the field shaking his head after batting for 253 minutes and facing 158 balls.
There was drama in the final over when Khawaja on 132 survived a review for leg before wicket but only after debutant leg-spinner Mason Crane had been found to have over-stepped for a no-ball.
At lunch, Australia were 277 for three and trailing the tourists by 69 runs with Khawaja unbeaten on 132 and Shaun Marsh not out two.
England skipper Joe Root had been at his wits’ end trying to find a way to get Smith’s coveted wicket.
Root opened the day with seven fielders crowding the off-side with Smith facing 523-wicket paceman James Anderson, but with no reward.
Smith has been the difference between the two sides in the series with three centuries, including a Test best 239 in Perth.
He batted out the entire last day to secure a draw in the fourth Melbourne Test with an unbeaten 102.
Smith has now amassed 687 runs in the series at an average of 137.40.
The Australia skipper averages 63.75 in Test cricket, second only to the legendary Don Bradman’s pinnacle 99.94.
Khawaja raised his maiden Ashes Test century with a cut for two off Ali 30 minutes into the day.
It was the Pakistan-born Khawaja’s sixth Test hundred and first in Sydney and came at a time when some critics were calling for his sacking despite scoring two half-centuries earlier in the series.
Khawaja answered his detractors with a composed knock, reaching triple figures off 222 balls in 385 minutes.
But he had a massive let-off in the last over of the session when a review found that Crane had no-balled and to rub further salt into England’s wounds, the ball tracker was projected to have hit Khawaja’s stumps.