Usman Khawaja's flamboyant hundred paves the way for more headaches ahead of Ashes

Aayushman Vishwanathan

Khawaja saved face by stroking a century in the 2nd innings of the 2nd Test against Sri Lanka

It was an overcast and a frosty along with a breezy morning at the country's tenth Test venue, Manuka Oval in the capital city. Having won the coin toss finally, Australia's chirpy captain Tim Paine sent his team to bat first on a pitch which looked a belter to put runs on the board. What looked like a pitch which had runs piled up on it, was starting to show the demons early on with a hint of swing produced by an inexperienced Sri Lankan attack.

Marcus Harris and Marnus Labuschagne could still be in the frame for a prolonged career after their non-success in Canberra, given their ages and continuous improvement towards the game. However, the man of the moment is Usman Khawaja whose eighth Test hundred may have just bought him tickets to play the Ashes, who could have been shown the doorway out like Shaun Marsh.

The Pakistan-born cricketer could have also just bought for himself a new lease of life for his career. It may not have been the perfect way to get off the mark, having barely clipped an attempted yorker, jamming into the leg stump. The rusty beginning may have also settled his nerves after his shoulders looked crestfallen when he dropped a regulation catch off Niroshan Dickwella.

Australia held the upper hand this time around unlike the time when they stood at the receiving end against India after they conceded a massive amount of lead on a couple of occasions.

Needing their batsmen to step up to save face wasn't the necessity but for Khawaja, the century was much more than anything. It was the release of his febrile mental block, which arose from his brother being captured a couple of times on charges that he framed a co-worker in a fake scenario.

The lion's roar, when he reached his hundred was a testament of a hard-fought battle that he was brawling with. It has come to a close momentarily, having a patch of fortune in it but has it finally ended? Nah, it has barely begun. Khawaja would still be carrying the weight of expectations when the duo of Smith and Warner return as the current Ashes holders look to retain the urn on the soil where they haven't won since 2001.

The Queenslander walked out to bat in the first innings, with Australia two down and looking set for another shattering collapse. With a forgettable Test series against India, this was potentially the veteran's last shot before Australia play their next game in the longest format in August.

Khawaja, who had bootstrapped Australia in the scorching heat at Dubai in 2018 single-handedly gave the nation a new identity after the backlash that followed in the wake of the ball-tampering fiasco, was in a crusade.

Usman Khawaja was hugely tipped to outscore Virat Kohli in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and was slated to be the mainstay of the crumbling and a depleted batting line-up. However, the left-hander's career from then had been spiraling downwards.

Will Khawaja be a part of Australia's Ashes squad?

On Friday, Vishwa Fernando, who was playing his second Test, tempted Khawaja to make a half-hearted attempt at an out-swinger, very similar to the first ball he faced. The so-called half-hearted attempt along with no footwork and throwing one hand summed up his struggles the whole summer. The agony inflicted by Bumrah, Sharma, and Shami will hold a much greater relevance in the history of the esteemed cricket nation for years that follow along.

Kurtis Patterson has had a prosperous start to his career, with Pucovski not falling far behind, having made it to the squad. Labuschagne and Head's developing skills and the return of the former number one Test batsman Steve Smith and David Warner could only mean that Khawaja may face some competition for the most important spot in the batting line-up for the Ashes series.

But, are still the batting problems getting fixed? Hardly. There are plenty of uncertainties looming despite Australia's strong showing in the ongoing Test series.