Steve Smith passed yet more batting milestones and joined Usman Khawaja in making another Sydney Cricket Ground century as Australia piled on the runs to be 394-3 at tea on the second day of the final cricket test against South Africa.
After Khawaja raised his third consecutive SCG hundred before lunch Thursday and then pushed past 150 runs, Smith made an imperious century to join former Australia opening batter Matt Hayden on 30 test centuries. Only Ricky Ponting (41) and Steve Waugh (32) have more among Australian men’s test players.
Smith made 104 and shared an epic 209-run partnership with Khawaja to have the hosts in a commanding position on a pitch expected to offer increasing assistance to spin bowlers as the match progresses.
At tea, Khawaja is unbeaten on 172 from 335 balls, closing in on his top score of 174, with Travis Head 17 not out. Khawaja was given a life on 119 when he offered a sharp shin-height chance which Anrich Nortje missed after appearing to not pick up the ball in flight from Khawaja’s powerful cut shot off Kagiso Rabada.
It was Smith’s fourth century at his home ground and came from 190 balls, with 11 boundaries and two sixes with the former captain receiving a prolonged standing ovation from the SCG crowd.
Next over Smith chipped a simple return catch to Keshav Maharaj (1-108) in what the only blemish in an otherwise flawless four-hour innings.
On the way to his latest ton Smith passed Hayden (8,625 runs) and Michael Clarke (8,643) for career runs and is now the fourth-highest Australian test run scorer with 8,647 runs, behind Ponting (13,378), Allan Border (11,174) and Waugh (10,927). Smith averages over 60 runs an innings across his 92 tests.
After twin centuries in a triumphant return to test cricket against England last year, Khawaja completed a chanceless hundred off 206 balls, with nine boundaries as he and Smith serenely accumulated runs after resuming the day at 147-2.
The 36-year-old brought up his latest personal milestone shortly before lunch with a quickly taken two runs off Rabada and celebrated his 13th test hundred enthusiastically by raising his bat and then dancing his customary little jig to the delight of his former home SCG crowd who chanted “Uzzie” in appreciation.
Khawaja made 137 and 101 not out against England in the test here last year to firmly re-establish himself in Australia’s batting lineup after being dropped during the 2019 Ashes series.
Shortly after play commenced Wednesday, Australia team management advised that batter Matt Renshaw — in the team for the injured Cameron Green — had reported feeling unwell shortly before the match and had subsequently returned a positive test for coronavirus but would still take part in the match.
Renshaw, in his first test since 2018, has been separated from the remainder of his teammates and moved into another changing room at the SCG. He is expected to bat at No.6.
International Cricket Council regulations state Renshaw can continue to play in the match as long he feels well enough, with the option for a like-for-like substitute if he is unable to play.
Australia has already won the series after two crushing defeats in the first two tests at Brisbane and Melbourne.
A win for Australia in this third test would confirm its place in the world test championship final to be played at Lord’s in England in June this year.