Usman Khawaja
Australian batsman Usman Khawaja believes the SCG pitch is getting back to its traditional best. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • cricket

Khawaja puts a positive spin on condition of SCG wicket


January 5, 2024

Usman Khawaja insists the SCG wicket is back to its “perfect” old self, shutting down any criticism of the Sydney pitch for the third Test against Pakistan.

Bad light and rain halted Australia’s push for a first-innings lead at the SCG on Thursday, with only 46 overs possible on day two.

That has left Australia 2-116 in reply to Pakistan’s first-innings 313.

The SCG issue has faced repeated scrutiny in recent years, with wickets falling at a slower rate than at any ground in the world over the past decade.

Despite considerable work on the wicket square and relaying of the bulli soil early last year, concerns were again raised on day one of this Test when some balls showed signs of staying low.

But Khawaja, who debuted in first-class cricket for NSW in 2008, said it felt as if the SCG was back to its old self.

“This is as close to an SCG pitch that I grew up playing on,” he said.

“It used to be once the new ball lost its shine after 10 overs it was quite a slow wicket and it spun a bit, balls stayed low. That’s what we want.

“That’s the SCG we grew up playing (on).”

Khawaja is a firm believer that each of the major grounds in Australia should have their own characteristics, with the SCG once renowned for spin.

In recent years that reputation couldn’t have been further from the truth, with spinners going for more runs per wicket in Sydney than at any other regular Australian Test ground in the past five years.

Pakistan's Salman Ali Agha
Pakistan’s Salman Ali Agha managed to get turn and bounce out of the SCG wicket against Australia.

There were signs of change on the opening two days of this Test at least, with Salman Ali Agha getting a ball to grip and bounce to dismiss David Warner on Thursday.

“That’s what we love about Australia, all the wickets aren’t the same,” Khawaja said.

“If this was Perth or the Gabba, then you’d be like ‘there’s something not right here’.

“But this is the SCG. I think it’s a really good wicket out there, a perfect SCG wicket out there.

“If we keep getting play on it, I expect it to deteriorate, it’s already taking turn. I think it’s a very good wicket.”

HARDEST PITCHES FOR WICKETS IN PAST DECADE:

SCG, Australia: 80.2 balls per wicket

WACA, Australia: 75.7 balls per wicket

Rawalpindi, Pakistan: 73.3 balls per wicket

Dubai, UAE: 72.9 balls per wicket

Queens Sports Club, Zimbabwe: 71.2 balls per wicket

* Minimum three Tests