Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day

Khawaja piles on the pressure

While Rob Quiney sat and watched the rain in Brisbane, Usman Khawaja was emphatically pushing his Test case in Hobart

Brydon Coverdale at the Gabba

November 10, 2012

Comments: 56 | Text size: A | A

Usman Khawaja plays the ball through the off side, South Australia v Queensland, Sheffield Shield, October 26, 2012
After his century in difficult conditions, Usman Khawaja has moved to the top of the Sheffield Shield run-charts © Getty Images

On a day when little of consequence happened for Australia's Test squad at the Gabba, something of significant interest was unfolding 1800 kilometres away. On a treacherous, green seaming pitch at Bellerive Oval, Usman Khawaja's simmering start to the Sheffield Shield season suddenly began to boil. His timing may not have been perfect - a ton last week might have earned him a place in the Brisbane Test - but he has given Australia's debutant Rob Quiney reason to look over his shoulder.

Of course, Quiney is yet to bat for his country and can lock himself into the Test side by succeeding at the Gabba, and there is also the matter of Shane Watson's potential return from injury. But should Quiney fail on debut and Watson remain unavailable, Khawaja will at least have given the selectors something to ponder. He finished the county season with Derbyshire by scoring three consecutive half-centuries and his first few matches for Queensland have brought several more. Khawaja needs a sustained period of Sheffield Shield form, but the signs are positive.

The most impressive thing about his innings in Hobart was that it came in such difficult conditions. The Bellerive Oval wicket block has been relaid and Ricky Ponting spoke earlier this week about how difficult it has been to bat on. By all accounts, the pitch for the current match looked as much like a tennis court as it did a cricket wicket. Tasmania, the home side, survived only 25.1 overs on it and made 95. Khawaja batted for more than twice that long and was finally dismissed for 138.

Not that runs were the only thing Khawaja was told he needed when he was dropped from the Test side last December. The Australian management wanted Khawaja to show more in the field and more of an inclination to rotate the strike. Khawaja's 138 in Hobart contained 21 fours and only 13 singles. All the same, Australia's coach Mickey Arthur said he had been impressed with the progress Khawaja had made over the past year.

"A couple of the messages around Usman were intensity when he bats, ability to rotate strike, ability to get ones," Arthur said. "We thought Ussie had played really well and he had a good defensive game, and he could hit a four. His ability to get off strike was something that we were worried about just a little bit, and Ussie generally in the field.

"What I'm saying is no secret - Ussie knows that. I've been very pleased with his progress. He's come into the season, he's got runs and his runs today were gold-dust on by all accounts a very seamer-friendly Bellerive wicket."

It is not clear just how far away from the Test side Khawaja is at the moment. He was not picked for last weekend's Australia A game against South Africa and despite his consistent starts and fifties recently, his Hobart century was his first hundred in a first-class game in Australia since October 20 of last year. But his off-season move from New South Wales to Queensland has not been a bad one - he sits on top of the Shield run tally this season - and he remains as confident in his own abilities as ever.

"I think I was always ready to play Test cricket," Khawaja said after scoring 54 in each innings of last week's Sheffield Shield game at Allan Border Field. "I think I'm ready to play Test cricket now. But in saying that, there are a lot of other players who are doing well as well. To see guys like [Alex] Doolan score a lot of runs. He's played well this year. [Rob] Quiney has played quite well this year as well. There is a lot of competition out there."

The same thought might have run through Quiney's mind today.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Lees_Legends on (November 11, 2012, 6:19 GMT)

Moving to Queensland is a bad move because everyone knows being from QLD/WA/SA make you ineligible for the national side

Posted by pak311 on (November 11, 2012, 5:52 GMT)

Australian selectors have robbed Khawaja of two years of test cricket by prematurely dropping him while persisting with players like Marsh despite his continuous failure. After that they gave chances to 3-4 other players ahead of him and kept ignoring him despite his excellent form. They have come up with one excuse after another in order to justify keeping him out of the team - all those mostly irrelevant and highly ambitious standards seemingly only apply to Khawaja. I think selectors are just taking to the extreme and instead of giving him a go that he badly deserves, they are focussed on keeping him out!! Very unfortunate for Australian cricket!!

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 11, 2012, 5:17 GMT)

i think maybe what it is is that they are wanting and expecting usman to become a test match great throughout his career but why cant he develop his game to that standard while playing test cricket it is much quicker and more effective that way. i would say the same about mitch marsh

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 11, 2012, 5:13 GMT)

Mervo, i too am mind blown by the ridiculousness of the situation. batsmen are told to get runs fullstop, khawaja does this, they are told to have a very good technique, khawaja has this, now hes been told to rotate the strike and get more singles and not so many fours!? this isnt ODI cricket!

Posted by piyo_thanda_jiyo_thanda on (November 11, 2012, 3:19 GMT)

Just about an average guy who accumulates runs under favorable conditions. And chokes under pressure just like the Pakistanis. Aus has plenty of young talented guys. Just give this guy a pass and you will be fine.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (November 11, 2012, 2:22 GMT)

Wow almost 50 comments for a century in a shield game, just shows how much people talk about Khawaja's inclusion in the Aussie team. @Popcorn i like your comments but i would add that Khawaja has a complete game and can bat anywhree in the order(1-6), the key thing is to get him in, but in saying that with his technique he is best suited to batting at 1-4. @CricHorizon i echo all your comments. Alot of talk about getting him in the team and i don't think its too far away.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (November 11, 2012, 2:13 GMT)

@Mervo well said mate, the important thing is that Khawaja is working on this fedback though i agree with you that the feedback does not entirely make sense to me too given he is not weak in these areas, just need to watch the Ryobi and Big bash games to see this. @CricHorizon well said champ, Khawaja is all class and with him working on the feedback given to him by selectors(though a bit ambigious) he should come back strong. He is the best option for number 3 long term for Australia and innings like these where your technique comes out is showing that. With an innings like the one today he has jumped to the front of the queue and he deserves that. @RandyOz agree with you and I know you have been calling for this for a while.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 11, 2012, 1:58 GMT)

mick spry point taken. I would like to hear the development plans for other players though. what was the plan for cowan? he was siphoned into the team based on a purple patch. was there a plan for quiney too?

Posted by Mary_786 on (November 11, 2012, 1:49 GMT)

@Meety i take your point mate, out of most of the comments yours are backed on facts which is good @MickSpry I read Khawaja's comments after the game and he acknowledged that he is addressing the feedback given to him which is great attitude from him. @c3vzn Khawaja is averaging close to 50 in shield so please get your facts right and is the leading shield scorer this season. Its about getting runs in tough conditions and that's what he does. @CricHorizon i can understand your frustration with Khawaja's non selection and being given ambigious feedback when he is a good fielder and runs well between wickets but at the end of the day he scores runs and that's what matters. Plus he has the attitude to improve his game which is what the selectors are looking for and We have the future number 3 for Australia right here.

Posted by crh8971 on (November 11, 2012, 1:45 GMT)

It is really great to see Khawaja putting his name forward this season and the move to QLD seems to have been a good one for him. Whilst I think he is an outstanding prospect and will play a lot of test cricket for Australia those that are saying her should have been selected ahead of Quiney and Cowan are wrong. He let himself down in Shield cricket last year with an average of 28 from 9 innings.

Posted by KhanMitch on (November 11, 2012, 1:41 GMT)

@Stephen_Trill I am not of Indian background and I am supporting his move to the Aussie team. He is the leading shield scorer this year, has scored 5 half centuries and 2 big scores in tough conditions, i mean today he outscored Tasmania on his own. Time to give credit where its due mate and not put a player down because of his background. @ ChevChelios well said mate. As for the feedback given by Arthur, its a bit ambiguos but I heard Khawaja acknowledge that he will continue to work on the feedback given to him and that's great attitude.

Posted by   on (November 11, 2012, 0:26 GMT)

It is well known that the GABBA is a difficult pitch to bat on at sheild level although the test pitches of recent years are very different from the shild ones. Usman Khawaja move to QLD was a good one for him to develope his skills against the moving ball. His batting technique is very good he will develope and be back as a better international player. @CricHorizon I will correct you you are wrong. Micky Aurthur will have a development plan for all CA and fringe batsman to work on or his coaching skills are only parkland level. To even suggest he only has a plan for one player to develope is very very short sighted. Take the blinkers off mate

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 23:38 GMT)

Quiney must be odds on to be amongst the players to play in 3 tests or less.

Hughes and Khawaja both making cases for themselves (including the county season) to come back into the team.

Posted by c3vzn on (November 10, 2012, 23:28 GMT)

He shouldn't be in the team at moment. When he was first considered about 2-3 years ago his average was pushing 55, it's now down at 42 which shows how much form he lost. He needs to play this Shield season fully and score the most runs before being considered.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 23:24 GMT)

well said "he is a quality player and there are very few players of his quality and calibre in shield cricket right now." stephen terril, what planet you living on mate. he was shield player of the year in 2011, and over the last 3 years he is consistently averaging 40+ which makes him more 'in-form' and more 'consistent' than any other batsman you can name.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 23:21 GMT)

khawaja is an exciting prospect for australia. seemingly needing to meet a higher standard than other players, he has proven himself. wish quiney and cowan well, but how these fellas got a chance ahead of khawaja is difficult to fathom.

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (November 10, 2012, 22:40 GMT)

Few performances he got droped from Australian side were in South africa where none of Aussie batsman servived and they had defeat. I think he deserves a better chance and i am sure he will get. Beacause hussey and ponting wont be long in team and he is among one potential replacements.

Posted by xylo on (November 10, 2012, 22:25 GMT)

Good to see some quality players coming through. It is surprising to see his intent being questioned. Has anybody watch Ed Cowan bat?

Posted by Mervo on (November 10, 2012, 22:23 GMT)

I love it! Their major criticism now is that he cant hit singles .... seems that Don Bradman had the same problem. He just hogged the strike and hit fours, and what a failure he was. Spare us stupid selectors and commentators.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 22:16 GMT)

How many of the others have scored a century & half centuries like him?

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 22:14 GMT)

Khawaja is a much more solid batsman than Cowan, Quiney, Hughes and Warner. He should be part of Australian team and a must be part of it specially after Ponting retires.

Posted by Coolgye on (November 10, 2012, 21:34 GMT)

Ricky Ponting started at the No.6 spot. Usman Khwaja has knocked the doors by hitting a century at a pitch where Ponting failed to bat on. I think he should be given a chance to play for CA.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 21:11 GMT)

The guy makes a century once in about 20 innings and all his Pakistani and Indian supporters laud him as the "special one" and bamboozle this forum with saying he should be incepted into the Australian side. I think we need to see more constant form instead of a one off before one can decide if he truly deserves his chance Australian colours yet.

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 10, 2012, 19:26 GMT)

I am not sue he is number 3. He can't soak up pressure. He needs to bat number 5 for now.

Posted by jlw74 on (November 10, 2012, 19:06 GMT)

I think Kuwaja is still the most exciting prospect of non current 11 players in the country. If Quiney brings something to the table it will only place more pressure on Cowen given that Quiney is an opening batsman. Watson as good as he is is not a number 3 and better suited to 5. If Punter can score enough to justify his selection then he should finish his career at 6 ala Allan Border which does however place pressure on Mike Hussey. All this could be null and void if we win this test series against Sth Africa but a series defeat will once again mean questions will be asked about just who is best suited to take Australia forward.

Posted by jonesy.2 on (November 10, 2012, 18:49 GMT)

Front-Foot_Lunge its very good for one of our home players even though he was not born an aussie, its nice that you polish his game for us. he gets better game time in the uk even though it is CC div 2 batting. playing against better bowlers always improves your game. i think we could send a few more of our batters over to see if more can helped by god we need it. lol

Posted by Beertjie on (November 10, 2012, 16:59 GMT)

Agree with you @RandyOZ about giving him an extended run in the test team. In that case it's not bad to let him keep playing Shield, but he needs to be the next one in rather than wait a whole season or for someone to retire.

Posted by Front-Foot_lunge on (November 10, 2012, 15:13 GMT)

Khawaja's performance is hardly surprising for us over here in the UK who follow county cricket and saw him take Derbyshire to the Div2 title. He was head and shouiders above everyone on that side.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 14:59 GMT)

Also Australia must have a regular no.3. They are struggling to replace Ponting @3 I don't understand how they will replace in the 11.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 14:34 GMT)

there is general consensus that khawaja that should make his way into the team. while waiting he can keep piling on the pressure. i agree with jono makim on an "extended run of strong performances" except to point out that cowan did not meet this criteria, he had a 'purple patch' of a few games. khawaja's avg of 44 over 3 years of shield cricket is pretty consistent and extended enough i feel

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 10, 2012, 14:28 GMT)

Have been shouting his name for years. Selectors should've given him an extended run.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 13:55 GMT)

if warner or cowan fails in this test .perhaps quiney could open with one of themif he does well .khawaja come in at no .3. he is a quality player and there are very few players of his quality and calibre in shield cricket right now.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (November 10, 2012, 12:52 GMT)

A bloke makes one century in 12 months and all of a sudden he's in line for test selection? Australia seriously needs more batting depth.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 12:48 GMT)

@ Wix99. I think you hit the nail on the head. I think the selectors are looking for him to be the finished article before he is back in the Baggy Green, rightly so too. I don't think the musical chairs with Marsh, Khawaja, Hughes and co under the stewardship of Hilditch did any of them any favours at all. Now there seems to be a distinct call for an extended run of strong performances.

Posted by Meety on (November 10, 2012, 12:20 GMT)

@Macca_mat on (November 10 2012, 11:25 AM GMT) - thanks, the comments I made on the article - was that he was reeling off so many boundaries there was no need to run, although I was not serious!

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 12:16 GMT)

If history is anything to go on then Khawaja is following the well worn path of many of Australia's most successful batsman - they get chosen for the national side, get dropped and then work their way back into the Australian side a better player. On top of this, the change of state has freshened him up too. Very exciting

Posted by ChevChelios on (November 10, 2012, 11:57 GMT)

@Arrow011....Mate you must be kidding me if you are putting Steven 'Can't bat Can't bowl' Smith ahead of Khawaja. Test arena is not about being flashy and dashy. I agree he is a brilliant fieldsman, but Australia need a number 3, a batsman who can come in, drop the anchor, stay at the wicket, accumulate runs, build partnerships and put runs on the board. This is an attribute shown so far by quite a few state players like Joe Burns, Alex Doolan and above all Khawaja.

Posted by Mary_786 on (November 10, 2012, 11:25 GMT)

@Behind_the_bowlers_arms is correct, Khawaja has said in his post match interivew that he is working on the feedback given to him and players in the past have come back much stronger after being dropped. Khawaja is the same and I predict he will be our future number 3 as he comes back stronger. @Meety mate your comments are very informed, I especially enjoyed reading your analysis in the other article on how Khawaja is scoring a class above his counterparts, the only thing I would add to what you said is that you should watch Khawaja's running between the wickets in Ryobi games or Big Bash and you will see just how good he is now in picking singles and turning for 2s and 3s when avaialble.

Posted by wix99 on (November 10, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

There's no doubt that Khawaja is knocking on the door of Test selection. However, I think the selectors are waiting for him to beat down the door instead. A few more innings like the one today and he will certainly be doing that.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (November 10, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

Ive always said australia's best current batsman is born in pakistan

Posted by Meety on (November 10, 2012, 10:29 GMT)

@Jono Makim - well said. @ross_fleming on (November 10 2012, 09:48 AM GMT) -"... the most unluckiest player to be dropped..." actually I would say Brad Hodge was, with Martin Love a close 2nd! @ Rahul_Ashok on (November 10 2012, 09:55 AM GMT) - intensity for running between wickets is about looking to pick up a single for the batsmen at the other end or looking for a 2nd run. If you are resting on your bat when the other guy plays a stroke you are not going to win friends!

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 10:10 GMT)

food for thought, a quick look at cricinfo stats heralds the following, in terms of percentage of runs scored by 4s (the others mostly by 1s and 2s):

khawaja 50.8 clarke 44.7 quiney 47.7 warner 48.8 watson 53.3 ponting 45 amla 50.7 kallis 44.6 graeme smith 50.8 sangakkara 49.7 jayawardene 47.2

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (November 10, 2012, 10:05 GMT)

As said those sort of runs on that wicket are gold dust. Taking a step back after a Test debut has been the making of many batsmen since Bradman. Khawaja will be in the Test team sooner rather than later and hopefully we will see Burns & Doolan develop to join him as Ponting & Hussey wind down.

Posted by peeeeet on (November 10, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

@popcorn - Khawaja has only played 2 games at 6 for Australia, the rest were at 3. 6 is probably his best position for now if he was to come in, much in the way that Ponting started his career there, learnt how to handle test cricket, and then moved up to 3.

Posted by azzaman333 on (November 10, 2012, 9:56 GMT)

It's a good start, but IMO he should play a full season of shield cricket and really establish himself as a run making machine, and give Punter and Huss the option to retire knowing that the side will still be in safe hands. Bringing him back to tests too soon could be counter-productive.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (November 10, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

@CricHorizon I agree with you mate, intensity between wickets is so vague, Cowan doesn't rotate strike but he is doing very well. Selectors need to show fairness to their sub continent star batsman and not keep him out for ambigiuos reasons. The guy outscored the entire Tasmanian team today on a pitch where Bailey, Doolan, Cosgrove failed and Punter failed last week.

Posted by KhanMitch on (November 10, 2012, 9:48 GMT)

Khawaja was always the most unluckiest player to be dropped. Top scored against South Africa in a record 300 chase and then got run out for 40. Now he is leading the shield tally and scored a century on an absolute green deck today. His fielding has been good this year as seen in the Ryobi cup. Lets get him in the team and stop finding excuses to keep our first sub continent player out of the team.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 9:47 GMT)

the season is still early but remember what hussey, ponting and a lot of other great batsmen have said about the pitches this season. especially bellerive oval. to score so well and freely in the context of these bowler friendly pitches makes khwaja's runs all the more valuable and strengthens his case for selection.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 9:40 GMT)

Great to see Arthur come out with positive comments on the innings, the selectors have taken notice. looking forward to seeing Usman in the baggy green.

not playing in the Australia A game has actually allowed khawaja to showcase his talent. 54, 54, 138 now on seaming bowler fiendly dust bowls. highest score in each match.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 9:33 GMT)

@CricHorizon. I think it was quite clear in Ussies earlier outings with the baggy greens that he was just too passive with his batting. He would sit back and defend and defend and defend, allowing the bowlers to hone in on and maintain their areas. His strike rate of 39 bears that out. This puts pressure on his partner/s too. I'm sure if asked, Mickey would find a handful of things for all the young prospective batsmen to work on. Its not always a conspiracy you know, sometimes, perhaps most of the time, it is just straight out honest good advice.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2012, 9:18 GMT)

he is a good player will only succeed if the right opportunity is given

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 9:13 GMT)

in any case, khawaja is playing brilliantly on all accounts. scoring runs as well as intensity, fielding, running between wickets etc.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

correct me if i'm wrong but is khawaja the only player who mickey arthur has asked such vague things from. "intensity when he bats" is very vague and subjective. i mean does cowan have 'intensity'? does watson? maybe clarke does? very vague.

Posted by Arrow011 on (November 10, 2012, 9:03 GMT)

Khwaja is a failure in tests why even think of giving him another go, there are better players like Steven Smith who is a good bat + a live wire on field.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 10, 2012, 9:00 GMT)

very classy performance. now the leading run scorer in shield and the most worthy to be the "next cab off the rank" to use punter's phrase

Posted by popcorn on (November 10, 2012, 8:52 GMT)

Usman Khawaja has much better technique than Shaun Marsh or Phil Hughes or David Warner.He is ideally suited for the Number 3 or 4 position in Test Cricket. He only got one opportunity at No.3 - at the SCG against England when Ponting was injured. The rest of the opportunities in Test Cricket were at No.6. Hardly the time to build an innings.If David warner and ed Cowan are persisted witjh, and Shane Watson slots in at Number 4,Usman Khawaja should logically be at No.4 when Ricky Ponting retires.Or at number 3 if Shane Watson is moved to Number 4.The Top Order 1 to 6 is crucial. When Mike Hussey retires,please do not slot Usman Khawaja at Number 6.It will be doomsday for his career. I am hoping Rob Quinney will do well at the Gabba - we need good bench strength too.

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Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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