Sydney: Usman Khawaja hit a mammoth 171 and Shaun Marsh was approaching his sixth test century as Australia eased 133 runs ahead of England on 479 for four after the third day of the fifth Ashes clash on Saturday.
Khawaja shared a stand of 188 with captain Steve Smith, who was dismissed just before lunch, and another of 101 with Marsh, who just missed out on his second hundred of the series in the over before stumps.
Marsh will resume on 98 on day four with his brother Mitchell, who was 63 not out, as they look to bat the tourists out of the match and set up an opportunity for their bowlers to secure a win that would give Australia a 4-0 series triumph.
The Marsh brothers combined for 104 in the final session and punished England with a flurry of boundaries in the last hour as the bowlers tired after a long day`s slog in bright sunshine at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
It was Khawaja
s sure hand, though, that guided Australia past Englands tally of 346 after Mooen Ali (1-125) had stunned a packed house by moving the apparently unmoveable when he dismissed Smith caught and bowled for 83.
Smith had already scored three centuries, two of them unbeaten and one a double, in the series and although denied a fourth, walked off his home ground having amassed 687 runs at an average of 137.4 over the five tests.
Khawaja had an lbw scare in the following over but was reprieved when TV pictures showed Mason Crane had bowled a no ball and he otherwise looked assured as he calmly totted up the runs in the face of some tight English bowling.
A fine stroke-player but considered suspect against spin bowling, Khawaja has had a stop-start career in the baggy green since making his debut at the SCG in the corresponding Ashes clash eight years ago.
He wasted no time in knocking off the nine runs he needed to secure his first hundred against England at the start of the day, cutting Moeen for two before soaking up the ovation from a crowd largely clad in pink in support of former fast bowler Glenn McGrath`s cancer charity.
Spinner Moeen was again bowling when he reached the 150 mark, two consecutive fours to get over the mark a rare flourish in a 381-ball innings that contained 18 of them along with a solitary six.
England captain Joe Root came closest to a breakthrough in the second session when Shaun Marsh, on 22, was given out caught behind only for the decision to be reversed when TV pictures showed a big gap between ball and bat.
It was debutant leg-spinner Crane who finally ended the 31-year-old`s time out in the middle to claim his first test victim, beating the bat to leave Khawaja stranded and Jonny Bairstow with a simple stumping.
Crane, 20, attracted the ire of the crowd with his habit of pulling out of his run-up but kept his head up despite finishing with figures of 1-125.
It was a very good day on the decision review system for Australia with Mitchell Marsh also reversing a late lbw decision after the snicko revealed an inside edge.
Australia won back the Ashes with victories in the first three matches in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth with the fourth test in Melbourne finishing in a draw last week.
Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns
Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.
“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.
“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”
“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.
The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.
Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.
Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.
Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.
Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.
“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.
“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.
Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect
London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.
Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.
Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.
While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.
It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.
While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.
“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.
“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”
The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.
Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto
London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.
The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.
“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.
“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”
Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”
Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.