SL Board XI v Australians, Colombo, 2nd day

Khawaja converts form into runs

Daniel Brettig at P Sara Oval

August 26, 2011

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Usman Khawaja plays off the back foot, Sri Lanka Board XI v Australians, Colombo, 2nd day, August 26, 2011
Usman Khawaja gave the Australian selectors something to think about with a stylish century © AFP
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Usman Khawaja cobbled together only 52 runs from four innings on Australia A's recent tour of Zimbabwe yet said he never felt out of form. He proved his own notion correct on day two of the Australians' tour match against Sri Lanka Board XI in Colombo, stroking an attractive and intelligent 101 (retired) in conditions Khawaja admitted were almost entirely foreign to him.

The innings gave Khawaja a grand chance of earning selection for the first Test at Galle, where he is likely to encounter a pitch not dissimilar to that at the P Sara Oval.

"I never felt like I was out of form because I was hitting the ball pretty well," Khawaja said. "But I was probably a bit underdone just having time in the middle and just to get out there and feel the conditions. It's a bit different in Sri Lanka. The wicket there is a lot different to what we get back home, so it was just fun to be out there.

"The wicket out there is a day-two wicket and it feels more like a day-four wicket back home; somewhere like the SCG or Adelaide. It's quite dead out there, surprising for a day-two wicket, and it was tough work at times because the ball sort of lost its air and trying to create power with the old ball just became some tough work."

Accompanied for much of his century by the opener Phil Hughes, Khawaja showed plenty of class, and will have the tour selectors pondering their options for the Galle Test. Khawaja, of course, did not want to look too far ahead.

"I think when you're out there that's probably far from your mind, you're concentrating on the ball coming down," he said. "Those things aren't in my control and I can just go out there and score runs. That's all I'm supposed to do as a batsman, just take some catches and make some run outs.

"I'd bat anywhere for the Australian team, but it all depends what's best for the team. I'm happy to bat anywhere from opener, all the way down to the middle and the No. 6 spot is the only one that's available. So if I'm lucky enough to get that spot … my first two hundreds for NSW were batting at six, I've done work there too."

Much is made of the subcontinental flourishes in Khawaja's technique, his wrists and hands allowing him to play the ball late and find gaps. But in environmental knowledge terms, Khawaja is very much a product of Australian surfaces, forcing a change in approach in his first innings of "red ball cricket" in Sri Lanka.

"I've never seen rough on day two like that before," Khawaja said. "Literally I was playing out there like it was a day-four wicket, batting in the second inning. That was the mindset we had out there because it was tough work out there. A lot of the guys mentioned how in patches you cannot score many then suddenly put 20 on in the space of two or three overs. So on the subcontinent from what I've heard, that's just how it is.

"Plans change, usually in Australia day two you don't have as much variable bounce and you can be a bit more confident in your strokeplay and a lot more fluent. But me and Hughesy [Phil Hughes] were playing our first red ball cricket in Sri Lanka conditions and we wanted to make sure we gave ourselves the best chance of getting runs. I think the hard yards need to be done early."

Hard yards in a physical sense also, but a pleasing element of Khawaja's innings is he did not appear to tire in considerable heat and humidity. For this he thanked the Australian coaching and fitness staff, who have put the tourists through plenty of torturous sessions thus far.

"To be honest 'Alfie' [Justin] Langer and some of the other guys just nailed us by the time we got here, so out there was a breeze compared to what they had for us," Khawaja said. "So I think we're quite used to it now."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Sadip on (August 27, 2011, 10:36 GMT)

Australia should look towards future and with the up coming series of South Africa, New Zealand, India etc. few players like Shaun Marsh, Phil Huges, Usman Khawaja, Cullam Farguson, Peter Siddle should be given more exposure. I still think Nathan Hauritz is the best spinner and should be considered as a regular player in the team. Australia should also look for some other Wicket-Keeper Batsman rather than sticking with Brad Haddin. Time for Hussey Brothers & Brad Haddin to retire. Also Australia have given more than enough exposure to Steve Smith and as on date he haven't shown any performance so that he could be included in a team. However, few more chances should be given to Cameron White - looking at the possibility of his brutal batting power. Guys like Marsh, Huges, Khawaja, Farguson should be included in all the formats of cricket i.d. T20, ODI & Tests.

Posted by   on (August 27, 2011, 9:13 GMT)

lets face it this summer we will see some new blood in the test team. O'keefe has to get his chance, Copeland will cement his spot by then, Paine will be the keeper. Marsh is a good solid player and i think he is someone who can do a job if there is an injury or something, like smudgeon i am more excited about mitch marsh and how he can develop. his bowling looks pretty good and is a wonderful striker of the ball, hopefully he can develop into a wonderful cricketer. Im excited for Australian cricket, from where we r i can see us rising back up the ladder again. My team for this 1st test is. Watson, Hughes, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Khawaja, Haddin, Johnson, Harris, Copeland, Lyon but this summer my team is Watson, Hughes, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Khawaja, Paine, O'keefe, Johnson, Harris, Copeland. I think we could see a retirement at the end of this summer, maybe a ponting or hussey which would open a spot for someone like Chris Lynn

Posted by ygkd on (August 27, 2011, 8:09 GMT)

Agree with Behind_the_bowlers_arm about bringing in Paine too, but why wait till later? He should be there now. Haddin's had a good run, but Paine is the future.

Posted by ygkd on (August 27, 2011, 8:05 GMT)

Khawaja will add some diversity to the team and should be picked. So too Copeland. If not now, when?

Posted by smudgeon on (August 27, 2011, 6:31 GMT)

Definitely Khawaja over Marsh. It's time for Australia to pick a group of young batsmen and give them extended chances. Khawaja clearly has the desire, technique, and patience to be an excellent test batsman. Hughes seems to have come back with a strong desire to prove the doubters wrong, after being almost lost to test cricket. Marsh I see as a solid ODI performer (I'm more excited to see what the other Marsh brother develops in to), who could be a good middle-order player once a spot opens up. But there's a lot of good younger batsmen in domestic circles who will probably have moved ahead of Marsh by then.

Posted by hyclass on (August 27, 2011, 1:55 GMT)

At some point,batsmen must be answerable for their form.Its a strong theme of the Argus Review with good reason.Its all very well to mitigate Marshes form,but his 70 contained one easy dropped catch on 8 at slip off a spinner,2 catchable edges through slip off pace and one caught behind off a spinner.His 2 contained one dropped catch at gully and a bowled off pace.His 12 was edged to the keeper off a spinner.He made 4 & 0 in T20I,his supposed strength.Do people with regard for Australia honestly see him as our next test batsman?Ive pointed out for some time at least 25 batsmen in australian 1st class cricket with better averages.A number of them bowl and keep wickets as well.Its manifestly unfair to those who do perform,David Hussey,Khawaja,Lynn,McDonald and Cosgrove.Ponting has recently expressed his contempt for batsmen with mid 30s averages being picked.He can mean only Marsh.Records are a recognition of effort and results over time.Marshes career record is accurate at this time.

Posted by Wozza-CY on (August 26, 2011, 23:53 GMT)

Khawaja is the incumbent in the test team and deserves his place in front his competition. Where they bat him is anyones guess but I feel no 6 is a spot for him to learn his trade behind Ponting, Clarke & Hussey. Despite both having a huge ashes series last summer, I'd say Mussey & Haddin are feeling a bit of pressure at the moment. Given the fluidity of the oz cricket currently, the powers that be will want stability in the squad for this tour & for SA. But a lean couple of tours will put them both under serious pressure for a home summer. I hope they DO reward Khawaja & Copeland for performances over the last two years to fulfill the recommendations of the Argus review. This will put all aspiring cricketers around oz on notice that the pathway is now open for those who achieve over a long period. It will make it a cracking summer domestically for oz.

Posted by katandthat3 on (August 26, 2011, 22:52 GMT)

Great knock by Usman, disappointed for Marshy and good to see Hughesy do well. I know a lot of people love their stats on here which are important but I think form is important too. It's very well saying a player has a bigger average but it doesn't matter if they are totally out of form. Happened to Hughes last Ashes, now he is back in the runs he deserves his chance. Khawaja has probably jumped Marsh for the first test (depends whether the selectors see value in Marsh facing more of the test attack in his 70 or Khawaja hitting a chanceless ton). That's why they call it an average , high and low the problem being lately that the majority of the batting order struggled at the same time, you need at least 4 out of the 6 making good scores each innings. Soon, they will be both in the side because they are both classy players, hopefully Hussey and Haddin can get it together otherwise they might be feeling the heat a lot sooner. Clarke would be good at 4 on these tracks but better 5 in SA.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (August 26, 2011, 22:46 GMT)

Marsh must have a few relatives that blog on this site. He is not ahead of Usman. Marsh failed in this game and Usman retired at 100. Marsh has already got his runs on tour. He usually gets one big score in a series and then that's it. He peaked with his 70 in the 4th ODI and now will not top it by a long shot. Usman for me.....and I'm not from NSW.

Posted by sifter132 on (August 26, 2011, 21:00 GMT)

Usman played the last Test, and showed promise, I'm not sure why Shaun Marsh is suddenly the favourite for the #6 spot. On the basis of that 70 in the ODIs?? The fact that he might be suited more for #6 than Usman? I don't really see it. In fact I would say of the 3 guys, HUGHES is most suited for #6 - he's the guy who suffers most with the bounce of the new ball and he's the one who seems to use his feet against spin the best of the 3. I'd have Watson and Usman opening, Hughes at #6.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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