Khawaja to bolster struggling Lancashire
Usman Khawaja is set to depart from pre-season training with Queensland to provide desperately needed reinforcement for the fragile batting of Lancashire.
Having gambled on a top six largely homegrown apart from the 36-year-old Ashwell Prince following promotion to Division one and the retirement of Simon Katich, Lancashire have now called upon the services of another Australian left-hander in the form of Khawaja.
A frustrated Ashes tourists last year when his three Tests yielded a solitary half-century, Khawaja played well for Queensland during the southern summer, notably when coshing an unbeaten 182 to help his side to a memorable fourth-innings chase against South Australia.
However he was omitted from the three Australia A squads named for a top end series to be played in July and August, leaving him free to take up an English offer.
Lancashire will be grateful to have him, as after seven matches the club sits in relegation territory at eighth of nine teams, with only one outright win so far. The earlier idealistic reliance on youth, as outlined by Peter Moores following a loss to Nottinghamshire in April before he became England coach, has now given way to pragmatism.
"We want to give opportunities to our own," Moores said at the time. "We think that you don't really know how good they can be until they come up against top players. In the past, that has worked well for us and there were several players in our Championship winning side who emerged that way. Having said that, we reserve the right to bring in an overseas player, but it might be we go the whole season without one."
Earlier this week Mike Watkinson, the cricket director, admitted the initial plans had not worked. "Paul Horton and Ashwell Prince have been around and established for a while," he wrote in his Manchester Evening News column. "The other top order batsmen, we thought it was their time. But it hasn't quite been their time. We have had faith in a group of five or six players and we hoped three of them would establish themselves strongly and have a big impact on the season.
"We are nearly half-way through the campaign now and it hasn't really worked out that way. We don't have all season to play around with this. It is something we need to constantly monitor and see what the best balance is between success for the team and short-term outcomes, and development of those players who we have put a lot of faith into."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig