Shattered Khawaja out of Adelaide, Hobart
Australia will need to reshuffle their batting order for at least the next two Test matches after Usman Khawaja was formally ruled out of both the Adelaide and Hobart Tests, a blow that has left the 28-year-old batsman "shattered".
Khawaja's re-injured left hamstring was found to have sustained a "moderate strain" when chasing a ball on the second evening of the second Test against New Zealand in Perth. He admitted the setback was all the more galling for the fact it followed two hundreds that had secured his spot in the side.
"It probably makes it worse in a way, because I feel so good. I think that's why I was so disappointed yesterday," he said. "Coming into the match it felt tight. I knew it was touch and go. I felt like it could've gone in this match, but at the same time I've had my hammy feel like that and I've got through before.
"I just really wanted to get through this game because I knew we had a 10-day break after it. To score two hundreds, you always feel good, so it was really disappointing when it happened because I guess I'd just started enjoying Test cricket. Hopefully I can be right and come back soon."
The hamstring trouble can be seen as a distant aftershock from the serious knee injury and surgery that ruled him out of last summer. Since returning to cricket for Australia A in the winter, Khawaja has built up his workload steadily, but the exertions of the past two weeks took their toll on a hot Perth afternoon.
"I think the physio and the doctors are pretty adamant that if I take my time and do my rehab quite well and nip it in the bud I can always try and come back pretty early," he said. "But there's a chance if I do that it might happen again."
"I've got to do everything possible that, hopefully, when I do come back playing again that I'm 100% and feeling really good, that I've got enough rehab plus enough workload in my legs to be able to handle Test cricket, to be able to handle back-to-back games. My workload over the past three weeks has been pretty huge, probably the biggest it has been since I've been back [from knee surgery]. It's been tough…and a bad result in the end."
Shaun Marsh and Cameron Bancroft are expected to be frontrunners to step in for Khawaja, with the captain Steven Smith also likely to consider moving back up to No. 3 after batting at No. 4 over the past two Tests.
Whoever is chosen will face the adjustment of batting in the top order during the day/night third Test against New Zealand in Adelaide, before returning to the traditional format in the first Test against the West Indies.
Khawaja meanwhile will hope to regain fitness in time for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, and has not given up hope of overturning the medical staff estimates by pressing for inclusion in Hobart.
"I got a scan this morning and it was pretty good, good news. I woke up and the hamstring feels pretty good, better than what I expected to be honest," he said. "I might even have a really tiny little trot tomorrow if I can."
"When I found out the news I think most of the support staff and everything else were saying Boxing Day, if everything goes to plan, I'll be flying by then. I'd like to play the first Test against the West Inides…but at the same time I've got to assess how well my hamstring pulls up, how I'm recovering, how things are going."
"I need to nip it in the bud and make sure that I'm not trying to come back too early and it happens again, because that's good for no-one."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig