Burns, Khawaja boost Test hopes with tons
Cricket Australia XI 4 for 325 (Khawaja 111*, Burns 102) v New Zealand
Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja did their chances of a Test call-up no harm with unbeaten centuries on the first day of a non-first-class two-day fixture against the touring New Zealanders in Canberra. On a pitch that offered little for the attack, New Zealand's bowlers claimed only two wickets as the Cricket Australia XI finished the day at 4 for 325 - the other two wickets were batsmen retiring out.
Unusually for such a tour game, there is arguably more competition for Test spots from within the CA XI than the visiting side, as recent retirements and the cancellation of the Bangladesh tour has left Australia's selectors wondering about their best batting line-up. Burns, Khawaja, Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges were all hoping to impress against their Test opponents.
The match took on even greater significance after Burns, Khawaja and Bancroft all fell for single-figure scores against New Zealand in the Prime Minister's XI match on Friday. On Saturday, Bancroft moved along to 42 before he was caught behind off Doug Bracewell, but Burns and Khawaja made full use of the good batting conditions.
Burns struck 15 fours on his way to 102 from 155 deliveries, at which point he retired out to allow Adam Voges some further time in the middle. Having already managed 55 in the PM's XI game, Voges did not hog the opportunity in this match and also retired out once he had reached 33 from 53 deliveries, in turn allowing Shaun Marsh to spend some time at the crease.
However, Marsh was one of only two batsmen to fall to New Zealand's bowlers, caught at mid-on off the bowling of Mark Craig for 11. Mitchell Marsh finished unbeaten on 18 at the end of the day, alongside Khawaja on 111. Khawaja, captaining the CA XI, spent 168 balls at the crease and scored 20 boundaries, in the process making it all but certain that he will play in the first Test at the Gabba.
The number of positions up for grabs in Australia's Test team will depend on whether David Warner proves his fitness in his Sheffield Shield comeback from a fractured thumb, but at the very least there will need to be replacements for the retired Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers. The New Zealand Test side will feature a slightly different attack, though, with Tim Southee rested from this game after leading the team against the PM's XI.
"They're a very skilful group, they're well led by Brendon McCullum and they're always searching for ways to get you out," Burns told reporters after scoring his century. "To play against them and see the way they play the game, to find ways to counteract that and keep scoring with what they're coming at you with it's been really valuable experience today.
"They are constantly trying to get you out, and it's quite refreshing really, you need to not just find a way to not get out, but also to counteract and score, to knock them off those aggressive plans. I felt in control of the tempo of my innings, which for me in long-form cricket is a big thing."