Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne

Bird, Khawaja in squad for Boxing Day Test

ESPNcricinfo staff

December 18, 2012

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Usman Khawaja pulls during his half-century, South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 4th day, November 20, 2011
Usman Khawaja could make his return to Test cricket on Boxing Day © AFP
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Jackson Bird, the Tasmania fast bowler, could make his Test debut at the MCG on Boxing Day after being included in Australia's squad as a replacement for the injured Ben Hilfenhaus. Usman Khawaja has also been named in the 13-man group as the Australians wait on the fitness of captain Michael Clarke, who retired hurt during the Australia's second innings in Hobart with a hamstring injury.

Clarke is hopeful he will be fit for the second Test against Sri Lanka but Khawaja will come into contention if Clarke takes longer than expected to recover from the problem. The rest of Australia's squad remains the same, with Mitchell Johnson retained after being named 12th man for the Hobart Test.

"It's not too bad. I've got a bit of time leading up to the Boxing Day Test, I'll be having plenty of treatment but I'll be confident I'll be right for Boxing Day," Clarke said. "I'm always going to be positive because I know I'm in great hands with Alex [Kountouris], I know how good a physio he is, I know how good my physio is in Sydney over the next few days.

"They'll communicate and I'm really confident with eight days turnaround, I'll be giving myself every opportunity to be right. Mickey and the selectors will give me as much time as required leading into the game. My preparation will be a bit different in the lead up to this Test match but I've done a fair bit of batting so I'm confident if I can do everything in my power, I'll be right for Boxing Day.

"It's a strain, to what level I don't know, the scans were pretty positive and I'm in really good hands."

The national selector John Inverarity said that Khawaja had earned the right to return to the national team after scoring in testing conditions in the Sheffield Shield so far this summer, notably making runs on a Gabba green-top against South Australia at the start of the season, then compiling a century on a treacherous Hobart surface against Tasmania. Inverarity also confirmed Shane Watson would lead the team if Clarke was unfit.

"Usman turns 26 today, just one week younger than Jackson Bird, and he has been in good form this season. He has played especially well on occasions when conditions for batting have been very difficult," Inverarity said.

"If Michael is not able to take his place in the side then Shane Watson will captain the team. Shane acquitted himself well when he deputised for Michael in the ODI series in the Caribbean earlier this year in March."

Inverarity's panel will need to decide on their preferred attack for Melbourne, with Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle having bowled the side to victory at Bellerive Oval. Johnson and Bird are likely to be battling for one position.

Bird, 26, burst on to the first-class scene last summer with 53 Sheffield Shield wickets at an average of 16 in his debut season, topping the tournament tally. He has followed that strongly this season with 27 victims at 20.55 and is again on top of the Shield wicket list.

"We'll pick the best attack to take 20 wickets, if it's two left-armers, it's two left armers," Clarke said. "Jackson is the leading wicket-taker in first-class cricket this year so that was certainly the main factor in us bringing him into the squad."

Squad David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (capt), Michael Hussey, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird, Nathan Lyon.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 20, 2012, 14:27 GMT)

@Micky Panda Cowan is averaging 33 after 11 tests, that doesn't sound good but he has looked gritty from what i have seen, give him the Sri Lanka series before we make calls to drop him.

Posted by   on (December 20, 2012, 14:17 GMT)

@Micky.Panda, Cowan is averaging 41 so far this season, not good enough?

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (December 20, 2012, 13:15 GMT)

@Hyclass interesting to think about our future leaders, Khawaja recently captained the Chairman's X1 so he is seen as one of those leaders. Warner would also be a good leader, he seems to have a very aggressive cricketing mind similar to Warne and Clarke.

Posted by hycIass on (December 20, 2012, 13:04 GMT)

What we need is another 'pup' not another "Clarke", a youngster who has done well at shield and is ready to take the next step and Khawja is that man, its good to see the selectors realise this. Long term i see that the likes of Warner, Khawaja, Cowan or Hughes will take the captaincy once Clarke retires as the best captain we have had after Border.

Posted by Micky.Panda on (December 20, 2012, 9:19 GMT)

The team needs more batting depth. If Clarke and Hussey both fail, its game over right now. I would suggest: Either Rogers or Doolan in place of Cowan, Henriques in as alrounder possibly in place of Watto till he finds some form, give Cutting (I like talls) a go as has been consistent for a long time and bats quite reasonably. If pitch not ideally suited to a spinner bring in O'keefe as all round spinner in place of Lyon, then then the team can bat virtually to number 11 Siddle. This also gives plenty of bowling options, but leave out a pure batsman if Watto still in the side. I don't think can keep both Cowan and Watto right now. Neither is getting enough runs.

Posted by AKS286 on (December 20, 2012, 8:13 GMT)

khawaja is the best domestic test batsman & lyon is the international spinner for Oz this shows how much quality in CA. hauritz is the victim of clarke's senior axing policy. Oz will now understand the ignorance & how previous was LOVE, Maher, blewett, de vinuto, hodge, law, elliot, WK campbell, hopes due to no rotation policy these players faded. after the legacy of warne Oz have lyon their best spinner. look at the downfall of quality.

Posted by Narbavi on (December 20, 2012, 5:26 GMT)

@Test-is-the-best: But isn't it different to what it is now? i mean the teams played rarely and there was no odi cricket as well in the 60's and early 70's, its not the same thing now, teams play often, and 16 years ago srilanka even managed to win a world title, they have taken a lot of time, ok but in any case that doesn't mean that they can talk trash about us, need to look after their own team in the first place

Posted by jimbond on (December 20, 2012, 4:11 GMT)

Khwaja as of now seems to be vastly overrated. It is difficult to understand the support he gets on these pages- given his limited achievements. Even if he is there as a backup, I hope he doesnt play. Granted that the Australian first class level is tougher than in other countries; still a first class average of 43 and a test average of 29 does not indicate greatness.

Posted by ozwriter on (December 20, 2012, 0:25 GMT)

Jono Makim, Rahul_ashok, ross_fleming are right. khawaja has not only scored runs but runs in the most difficult conditions when everyone around him is collapsing. reminds me of his match winning and series levelling innings in south africa. class like khawaja always make their way back into the team. and good timing too, 4 openers in the top 4 is not ideal, and should any of the top 3 fail then khawaja would be well placed to step in at 3.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (December 19, 2012, 23:38 GMT)

@Jono Makim well said champ. I also mentioned this earlier in my post that not only has he scored on pitches which frankly were made for only fast bowling but also improved on what was asked of him(i.e fielding and running). Credit must go to boof. @AKS286 i can't remember RossFleming comparing Lyon to Warne so lets not add fact to fiction, agree with Ross that Khawaja has improved on what was asked of him and deserves his opportunity which i am sure you are acknowledging as well.

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