Khawaja hits century as Australia finally get in the groove


Australia shook off their recent malaises with the bat as Usman Khawaja's unbeaten 138 guided them to a first-innings lead in the third Test with South Africa.

Proteas captain Faf du Plessis scored a fine unbeaten 118 on day one at the Adelaide Oval, but Khawaja produced another superb knock, with the pink ball and pitch seemingly a more favourable combination for batters than they were here a year ago in the first day/night Test.

That is not to say that Khawaja's runs came easily. 

Captain Steve Smith (59) and debutant Peter Handscomb (54) also proved useful partners for the left-hander, but Kyle Abbott kept the hosts in check with a superb bowling display, returning figures of 3-38 from 25 overs, including 11 maidens.

Australia ended Friday's action 307-6, with a lead of 48, as they look to end the series - which they have already lost - on a high.

The fight shown will enthuse anyone involved with Australian cricket after their meek efforts in Hobart last time out, with the spectre of their first-innings 85 all out firmly put to rest, despite Matt Renshaw (10) and David Warner (11) falling to Abbott in the first session.

Smith and Khawaja looked at home together, the captain pulling a Kagiso Rabada (1-61) bouncer for six when he was just on three.

Khawaja also showed good touch, bringing up his fifty with consecutive boundaries, but the partnership ought to have been broken shortly after it reached three figures as Hashim Amla - in the midst of a slump with the bat - dropped Smith at slip off JP Duminy's bowling.

The union was broken at 137 runs after Khawaja failed to shout over his captain, whose senseless attempt at a run ended his stay at the crease.

But Khawaja went on, bringing up his side's first hundred of the series when spinner Tabraiz Shamsi dropped wide, offering up a juicy four ball that was lashed through point.

After Renshaw's scrappy effort at the top of the order, Handscomb easily looked the most accomplished of the newcomers in Australia's first six, scoring 54 before Abbott got one to jag in on him off the seam. Their fellow debutant Nic Maddinson played nervily at 11 deliveries before Rabada sent him back without scoring.

Matt Wade (4) came and went as the hosts lost three wickets inside eight overs, but Mitchell Starc (16 not out) and Khawaja allayed fears over any possible collapse to leave the hosts in buoyant mood.