With Australia facing seemingly insurmountable odds to save the first Test in Dubai, Khawaja dug in at the crease for eight hours and 44 minutes to score his first century in Asia and help steer Australia to a valiant draw.
Khawaja faced 302 balls for his 141, grinding out the second-longest knock ever in the fourth innings of a Test.
The 31-year-old gazed to the sky and appeared to be overcome with relief as wife Rachel cried in the stands after he brought up his century shortly after lunch.
Khawaja has faced heavy scrutiny over his record in Asian conditions, while his elegant batting style has also fuelled an unfair perception of laziness.
“People think because of my relaxed nature … that I’ve been gifted to be able to get to where I am,” he said.
“But it’s not the case at all.
“I’ve worked my absolute backside off for the last 10 years and really worked as hard as I can in different conditions like this and in England and other places.
“People overlook that sort of stuff. You don’t get to play at the highest level without putting in the hard yards.”
Chasing a world-record 462 to win, the tourists survived 140 overs in Dubai – an unprecedented effort to save a game for Australia.
Khawaja also scored a determined 85 in the first innings, combining with Aaron Finch for a 137-run opening partnership.
All up, Khawaja spent almost 13 hours at the crease with temperatures in the high 30s.
“That first innings was as tough as any innings I’ve played,” he said.
“I came off the field with sweat through my shirt. My shirt was drenched and pants were drenched. That took it out of me a fair bit.
“I was feeling pretty good for most of it until we got to the second session with one hour left before tea, then I was withering.
“I was just asking for God to get the sun down so we could get some shade.”
Concerns about Khawaja’s ability to handle turning tracks meant he was overlooked during last year’s Test series in India and dropped after one Test in Bangladesh.
The Queensland batsman has also had to battle critics closer to home despite averaging almost 60 in Australia.
Former Test wicketkeeper Ian Healy branded him “lazy” during last year’s Ashes – a label that Khawaja showed to be folly with his magnificent effort in Dubai which was lauded by Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed.
“I have seen one of the best innings in Test cricket, especially in the fourth innings,” Sarfraz said.
“The way he batted, he took Australia to the draw. He batted very well, he played most of his shots, even the reverse-sweep, so his was a brilliant knock.”
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