Khawaja waits on 195 as rain washes out day three at the SCG
Usman Khawaja remains stuck on 195 not out, leaving Pat Cummins with a potentially tricky declaration call
Australia 475 for 4 (Khawaja 195*, Smith 104, Nortje 2-55) vs South Africa
Rain might have thwarted Usman Khawaja's bid for a maiden Test double-century, while Australia's push for a series sweep over South Africa has been made harder after day three was washed out at the SCG.
Khawaja remains stuck on his highest Test score of 195, while Matt Renshaw is 5 not out in his first Test match since 2018 having tested positive for Covid-19 before play on day one.
Heavy downpours lashed Sydney and negated any chance of play to continue a run of rain-affected matches at the traditional SCG New Year's Test. Forty-nine overs were lost to rain and bad light on the opening two days.
There are 196 overs remaining in the Test and Sydney's forecast is better for Saturday with only a small amount of rain tipped before sunny conditions on Sunday.
Captain Pat Cummins will need to ponder overnight whether to declare before Khawaja has a chance to reach his double ton. Australia are keen on moving the match forward in their bid for a clean sweep of the series and to book a spot in the World Test Championship final in June.
"Think it would be pretty harsh to bowl straightaway, don't think that will happen," Khawaja said. "Will be interesting to see how the game pans out from here, there's a few options but with only two days remaining it narrows those options for us. Time is enemy at this stage. You've got to decide how you will use that time. A result is very unlikely, let's be honest, but it's still possible so try to do best you can."
South Africa's batting coach, Justin Sammons, was unsure what they would do. "Think if Khawaja wasn't on 190-odd then I'd say they'd declare straightaway but it depends on how they see that situation," he said. "I'd imagine they'll let him go out there and try to get that double and then declare. But they could say team first, in there straightaway."
Australia's formidable innings was built on a 209-run second-wicket partnership between Khawaja and Steven Smith. It was their 10th century partnership from just 33 innings and highest stand overtaking their 188 against England at the SCG in 2018.
Having moved past Sir Don Bradman on the career Test century list with his 30th ton, Smith fell for 104 while Marnus Labschagne and Travis Head contributed half-centuries.
A beleaguered South Africa have been out of answers as the spotlight shines on under-pressure captain Dean Elgar, who has seemingly been reactionary and conservative with his tactics.
Other than quick Anrich Nortje, who took the only two wickets to fall on day one, South Africa's attack has failed to penetrate with spearhead Kagiso Rabada particularly struggling. He has 1 for 119 from 28 overs to continue his underwhelming series.
South Africa need an unlikely victory to keep alive their slim chances of making the World Test Championship final although rain might help them avoid a series whitewash.
Sydney's forecast is better for Saturday with only a small amount of rain tipped before sunny conditions on Sunday.
The third day of the SCG Test is dedicated to Australia great Glenn McGrath's late wife, Jane, who died of breast cancer in 2008. But the traditional pre-match ceremony, which includes pink cap presentations to both teams, was moved to day four because of the weather.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth