|| AFP ||
Usman Khawaja scored a heartwarming century on his return from the cricketing wilderness to lift Australia into a powerful position in the fourth Ashes Test against England in Sydney on Thursday.
Khawaja paid tribute to his Pakistani heritage as he drew a line under years of heartbreak following his sacking during the 2019 Ashes tour of England, posting 137 in his team's 416 for eight declared.
And the century has him in line to return to the country of his birth with the Australian touring side in March, 30 months after seeming to have played his final Test.
"I have been living the Australian dream. My parents came over here from Pakistan to give our family a better life," Khawaja said.
"To come all the way out here and I am representing Australia in our national sport, it's something which I absolutely love doing.
"I've gone through a lot of hard times, broken down a lot of barriers to get to where I am right now and I think it's something that people can relate to that and they can see it.
"And the love I received out here today it was something special; something I will never forget."
The elegant 35-year-old left-hander, who notched 171 against England in the last Sydney Ashes Test in 2018, produced another stylish knock Thursday.
"Hundreds don't come every day and it's a pretty tough wicket. I was just trying to bat, and grind away. It was a lot of fun," he said.
"It was beautiful."
But his ninth Test century may not be enough to secure a spot for the final Hobart Test later this month, with Brisbane centurion Travis Head expected to be available for selection.
"I have obviously come into the side for Travis Head -- he's had Covid, unfortunately. I am very grateful for another opportunity," he said.
Meanwhile Stuart Broad, who emphatically showed what England had missed when he was passed over for the Brisbane and Melbourne Tests by taking five for 101, said he was keen to play on and was inspired by his fast-bowling partner Jimmy Anderson.
"I've still got a burning desire to play the sport," the 35-year-old paceman said.
"While the fire burns you should play because nothing replicates it in life. Nothing can bring you the satisfaction, the pain, the highs and the lows. They are quite addictive.
"Jimmy has been an inspiration for me. I see how much drive he's still got at 39; how much energy he puts into not just the match days but the training and the skill development."