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.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
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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