Sydney - Usman Khawaja lit up an overcast first day of the fifth Ashes Test on Monday with a stunning opening salvo which helped Australia to 111-2 when rain forced an early tea break at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Pakistan-born lefthander, the first Muslim to play for Australia, had made 26 not out when the rain started falling with Michael Clarke, in his first innings as test captain, alongside him on four not out.
While England have already secured the Ashes, Australia could square the series with victory and the hosts had guarded their wickets with great tenacity.
Khawaja came in straight after a lunch break precipitated by the fall of opener Phillip Hughes, who had wasted a good morning's work with a sloppy shot to be caught at slip by Paul Collingwood off the bowling of Chris Tremlett.
The 24-year-old Khawaja, the first Australian to debut at number three since Justin Langer in 1993, had been forced to wait for his chance but grasped it with both hands when it came courtesy of an injury to captain Ricky Ponting.
In a clear statement of intent, he sent the first ball he faced racing away for two runs before summoning up a beautiful pull shot at chest height to dispatch the second for four.
Eight balls into his Test career, he had made 15 runs and although he then settled into the more conservative pace of his team-mates, the SCG was buzzing.
Opener Shane Watson had epitomised the conservative approach, waiting 89 deliveries for his first boundary and taking more than three hours to put on 45 before Tim Bresnan had him caught in the slips by England skipper Andrew Strauss.
Strauss, who kept faith with the team that retained the Ashes with an innings and 157 run victory in Melbourne last week, had urged his bowlers to put the Australians under pressure.
Tremlett, James Anderson and Tim Bresnan were, however, unable to get much swing going despite a reasonably grassy track with overcast skies overhead.
Clarke, replacing the injured Ponting as skipper, started well by winning the toss and bucked the tradition of doling out the baggy green caps himself.
Khawaja received his from former captain and test opener Mark Taylor, while Shane Warne did the honours for the other debutant, his fellow spinner and former club mate Michael Beer.