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Advantage Australia by a slight margin after Khawaja wastes his chance

Related Story: Aussies dig in under lights on spirited first day in AdelaideRelated Story: Australia, England go toe to toe in second Test, as it happened

Facing off in Adelaide, Usman Khawaja had one thing in common with Joe Root and with the English bowling attack.

All three could have stamped their influence on the second Ashes Test from the first day, in conditions where they know how to prosper.

All threw the chance away by doing the opposite of what they know to be successful.

For Khawaja, he was returning to the scene where he had played his finest Test innings, that statement century a year ago against South Africa.

A day-night match, a lively pitch, and quality seamers had been the factors in a match-defining 145 across three days.

His Sheffield Shield work matched that standard — leading into this game he averaged 30 runs more against the pink ball than his career mark.

When I analysed that innings last summer, the key component was restraint.

The left-hander's pet shot is the cover-driven four. Against South Africa, he placed it in quarantine.

Knowing the moving ball risked an edge, his off-side work against the three fast bowlers totalled three singles and three twos.

His boundaries came from waiting for mistakes, at which point he pounced to score from glances, flicks, and pulls.

This year's innings started the same way, scoring his fours against short balls, while the off-side boundaries came from hitting with Moeen Ali's off-spin.

There was one exception, a back-foot force from Chris Woakes pitching short enough to obviate the danger of movement.

Straight after the dinner break, Khawaja didn't switch back on.

Usman Khawaja raises his bat after reaching a half-century as Steve Smith looks on at Adelaide Oval.

With his score on 53, he got a full angled ball from Jimmy Anderson and went through the line at it.

Away from his body, bat angled, the instinct he'd denied so well.

The ball decked a touch and that was enough to bring in gully.

Khawaja has never yet stamped his influence on an Ashes Test.

His 37 at the SCG back in 2010 may have filled several broadsheet pages, but that was due to commissioning oversight rather than significance. This was his chance.

When the laws of probability reclaimed Steve Smith without a century, Khawaja could have still been there to play the senior hand.

Instead he had exposed Pete Handscomb and Shaun Marsh in the evening session at 4 for 161.

That said, England had already blown a chance to stop Khawaja right at the start. The last couple of years have detected a vulnerability to spin, especially to straight balls that come on to the stumps.

In Galle in 2016, Khawaja was clean-bowled twice in the same day to off-breaks delivered from around the wicket at the leftie. At the Gabba last week, England tried the same trick and Moeen had him leg-before.

Supposed vulnerability can definitely be over-inflated. Batsmen make low scores between a third and half of the time. If you bring in an off-spinner every time a certain batsman arrives, sheer volume of opportunity will create dismissals to that bowling type.

But it's still something that might play on a batsman's mind. Get them nervous about continuing a possible trend, make them play differently.

Steve Smith walks alongside Stuart Broad as they share words on day one of the second Ashes Test.

When Khawaja came to the crease, Cameron Bancroft had just been run out, then David Warner was worked over by Stuart Broad deliveries that missed the edge and took the pad. It was a nervy time.

At the end of the over, no run was taken. Khawaja would have strike to start the next, and England could have brought anyone on to bowl to him.

A batsman with a brilliant record against the pink ball, aptitude against good seam bowling, and problems against spin. And instead of making him face his first ball against Moeen, England's captain chose Anderson.

It was a massively missed trick. Sure, it may not have worked, but the chance was there to create discomfort.

By the time Moeen did bowl to Khawaja, the latter had faced 32 balls, and it was the sixth ball of an over.

England's dropped catch with Khawaja on 44 was a more obvious waste, but didn't end up costing much.

Like a passive-aggressive family Christmas, with everyone one-upping each other with the size of presents, Usman soon gave back.

And all of this came after the poor start that Broad and Anderson had made to the day, influencing the other seamers.

All week, the talk had been about how conditions might suit England's bowlers with their skill at finding the edge.

Usman Khawaja departs after being dismissed by England bowler James Anderson for 53 runs.

England won the toss, sensed some juice in the pitch, chose to bowl on an overcast and windy day … and pitched it short.

Not bouncer-length, but back of a length. Angling in towards Australia's batsmen. Eliminating any chance of movement, failing to encourage the drive. Less than a third of deliveries in the opening spells were delivered full.

It was a bewildering waste of conditions, and a mistake that such an experienced pair has made on more than just this occasion.

Bowling first causes more controversy than it deserves, but there's still no point in doing it if you don't give yourself every chance.

In the end, England was kept in the contest by Warner cooking his opening partner and Khawaja's mistake at the crease. The bowling improved in the third session, but perversely Handscomb and Marsh survived.

Advantage Australia then, by a slight margin. But both sides actively declined methods that might have made that margin decisive.

It's not a case of hindsight when it is in front of your face all along.

External Link: Second Ashes Test scorecard

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