Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 1st day

Composed Khawaja conquers debut nerves

Usman Khawaja's start in Test cricket was stylish and breathtaking, a 24-year-old with enough faith in his game to express himself so beautifully, so quickly

Peter English at the SCG

January 3, 2011

Comments: 50 | Text size: A | A

Usman Khawaja's parents, Tariq and Fauzia, watch his first Test innings, Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2011
Usman Khawaja's parents, Tariq and Fauzia, watch his first Test innings © Getty Images

On a day of nerves at the SCG hardly any were felt by Usman Khawaja, the debutant who strode like a veteran. The ground's regulars were collectively so nervous that the stands could have shuddered as well when he walked out straight after lunch. If Khawaja sensed that he didn't belong at Test level the feeling lasted a delivery.

A push for two to midwicket from his first ball, a composed start in itself, was followed by the most convincing statement that he was a young man made for a spot in Australia's top six. Khawaja has come in for Ricky Ponting and like his predecessor, who in his long-lasting prime delivered regular early punches, the newcomer leaned back and pulled his second delivery for four.

It was stylish and breathtaking, a 24-year-old with enough faith in his game to express himself so beautifully, so quickly. Chris Tremeltt is not express but he briefly seemed like a medium pacer as Khawaja forced himself back to pull and swivel, his bat appearing to move quickest when he dropped it after contact and it fell by his side. He didn't bother to run and tried not to admire the shot too much. Sensibly, and equally as importantly, he left his next ball outside off stump.

The pattern was repeated during his assured 37 as he surged forward and then slowed down, exhibiting the type of thoughtful top-order batting which modern players raised on Twenty20 struggle to understand. Khawaja hasn't turned out in a lot of short-form cricket and it shows. While Phillip Hughes and Steven Smith carry ungainly techniques and unstable temperaments, Khawaja has already worked on mastering his with a baggy green as the ultimate reward. A pull so early from Hughes and Smith would have looked irresponsible, but from Khawaja it was perfectly in tune.

So while his mother Fauzia clenched her hands together and struggled to watch, and his father Tariq was too tense to move, their son was free of tension. "I was most emotional when I got my baggy green in the morning [from Mark Taylor]," he said. "After I got that I calmed down a little." He even lay in the dressing room and tried to sleep for 20 minutes during lunch.

With a flick off his toes to square leg for four and a cut for two off Tremlett, he raced to 15 off eight balls. On the radio Kerry O'Keeffe tried to remember the name of Australia's old No.3. "Was it Rod Ponting," he wondered.

There was a danger the fireball would burn out quickly but Khawaja, who is Australia's first Muslim Test representative, is not one to get carried away. He played out a maiden from Tremlett to regain a five-day tempo in an act of patience that was as instructive as his early rush. Here was a debutant ready for the elevation, not one promoted ahead of time.

Of course Khawaja, who moved from Islamabad when he was three, is more than a cricketer. He thinks being born in Pakistan and playing for Australia is more significant than his religion, "which is quite personal to me". "You can make something out of anything," he said of his history-making heritage. "You can say Michael Beer is the first person to stick his tongue out 24/7 to play for Australia."

It may be that Khawaja holds this key spot in the order even if Ponting holds off retirement and returns from his finger surgery in Australia's next series against Sri Lanka in August. If he does, the early signs were extremely encouraging.

When England readjusted, taking out the short leg and aiming for outside off stump, the task became tougher for Khawaja. There were a couple of edges, but he used soft hands to take pace off the ball and they dropped short of the slips. Mostly he stood tall, offering a wide bat to defuse the sideways movement. There was strength in his defence and attack.

There was plenty to concern Khawaja, with the side lapsing after a solid start, and the cloudy, often rainy, conditions adding extra danger. He didn't fluster and waited for balls to steer through gully, get off strike with a single, or leave. Tim Bresnan delivered one short and Khawaja stepped back and pulled it before he aimed a loose drive behind point in the air. Both times after finding the boundary he left the next delivery.

Showers were about to arrive when Khawaja was faced with the challenge of Graeme Swann's offspin. Having deflected so many hazards, he decided on a sweep and the top edge lobbed to fine leg. As he reached the dressing room the players headed off for a rain break that brought an early end to play, increasing the costliness of his first real mistake.

Australia finished at 4 for 134 and Khawaja was sad to finish so soon. "You never want to get out, especially the last ball of the day," he said. "It's unfortunate, I would have loved to have been 37 not out."

He received a text on the eve of the game from Michael Clarke telling him to enjoy the most special day of his life. "As soon as I was out there it felt like the best thing ever," Khawaja said. "I was out there playing for Australia and the crowd was right behind me."

Often a batsman posts a score in the 30s and it means nothing. On a miserable day Khawaja showed enough in 122 minutes for Australian fans to be excited about the future. There is much for him to learn, but already there is so much to like.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2011, 4:41 GMT)

@biggus, couldnt agree more... really proud moment for his mom...

Posted by   on (January 4, 2011, 19:12 GMT)

@ BlackArcher& Abhishek Asthana: Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Hashim Amla, Ravi Bopara First 2 players belongs to a 7th or 8th ranked team, Ravi Bopara is not even in the team right now and i am extreamly sorry that they are no ETC thats it :-). Players like Usman Khawaja, Imran Tahir, Sajjid Mehmood, Nasir Hussain (The Great English Captain), and many more are still representing their country's team.

Posted by big_cheese on (January 4, 2011, 15:11 GMT)

@hulk777 - I agree that Punter hasn't been in terrific form in the last two years which is why his average is dropped. I also agree that he got immense help from his fellow batsman. There is no denying that he also had the best of the bowlers on his team who would take care of the opposition when Aussies bowled first. Still, if you want to bat like the way he did 'WHEN HE WAS IN PEAK FORM', it's gotta take some serious talent & skill. Again, do I like him personally? Hell no... Do (read did) I admire his batting abilities? As an outsider (a non-Aussie), I envy his dominating skills. So, before we even compare Khwaja to Punter, we gotta give this kid a few more opportunities. One more point, every batsman reaches peak form and stays there for a while. But, reaching peak form and staying there for so long and demolishing the opponents is just incredible stuff from the punter. It is just a coincidence that he had the best guys on his team - when he hit the peak.

Posted by boeman on (January 4, 2011, 7:03 GMT)

This is a massive step by Cricket Oz and Oz as a whole.... I am sure there were many non Oz supporters urging this kid on yesterday. I was one of them. God speed and may this be the birth of a new star.

Posted by   on (January 4, 2011, 6:45 GMT)

@blackarcher and abhishek asthana. the difference between khawaja and the players you mentioned is that khawaja was born in Pakistan. Hashim Amla, Chanderpaul and others you mentioned were born in their respective countries. YES!! we are always PROUD of our fellow pakistani's achievements!!

Posted by hulk777 on (January 4, 2011, 5:48 GMT)

@big_cheese, Did you really mean "he dominated the cricket world in a way that no one in my lifetime ". You cant call it dominating when coming to crease after Hayden and Langer had demoralized the bowling and score runs against a tired team. How many runs he has scored in last 2 years when he came to crease almost in first 1hr. Why is his average in last 2 years 30 odd compared to his high average when every one in the team was having a ball. You have to define dominating before using it. Sorry, he was only as good his team. Give few examples where he batted his team out of a hopeless situation to win a game. You can go over your life time to provide those examples.

Posted by Biggus on (January 4, 2011, 5:33 GMT)

@karn-I am afraid you've misunderstood me. I was not referring to his selection but his being 'welcomed' by the Australian public, which of course does have a great deal to do with our inherent nature. To be honest, I thought that was pretty obvious from my comment. Anyway, Cheers!

Posted by AjaySridharan on (January 4, 2011, 4:35 GMT)

I liked the look of this kid for sure and would be thrilled to see him blossom into a great batsman. But it is too early to sing praises. I thought only India did that...but as Harsha Bhogle said, behavior patterns of those low on confidence seems to be similar across cultures! Australia seems so desperate for a hero!

Posted by Bo_Diddly on (January 4, 2011, 2:59 GMT)

The most important fact about Usman is that he broke a barrier ! Australia has been the one country with no players that have sub-continental roots. That has been broken and Australian cricket has finally grown up ! All this reaction that is you are seeing is largely motivated by that.

Posted by satanswish on (January 4, 2011, 2:58 GMT)

Khawaja looked very promising in during his stay on the wicket yesterday. This youngster need to be given opportunity he deserves. Ricky must retire IMMEDIATELY.

Posted by swaroopjammula on (January 4, 2011, 2:50 GMT)

@Saim Aziz :sorry mate i forgot nasser hussain who has been the england captain.his home town is chennai,ravi rampaul.monty panesar

Posted by swaroopjammula on (January 4, 2011, 2:42 GMT)

@Saim Aziz :shivnarine chanderpaul,ravi bopara,hashim amla,ramnaresh sarwan all these have an Indian origin.my frnd tell me one more name from pakistan who played for other countries.you say sachin is not a team man.what is the definition of a team man?doesn't he run hard for others runs.doesn't he catch well or does he quarrel with other players?we dont any information regarding that.if u know u could help us on that.come on man he,s been in cricket for 2 decades and he doesn't even have a single remark in his career.

Posted by OW-ZAAT on (January 3, 2011, 22:44 GMT)

Ah I'm going to hold on my assessment of young Khawaja simply because I have not yet seen enough of him at this level to be precise. Certainly his curiculum vitae seems to be impressive, but let's give him a chance to establish his game before we gush. For instance, I'd like to see him operate against a good spinner. Oh and quit writing off the punter. It was not long ago that the very fans in India were calling for the mighty Sachin's head because he had dropped his form. I've also seen the great Jacques Kallis written off. What are these fellows doing currently? scoring tons of runs and enjoying it. They're just too good. Ricky Ponting is that class of player. He will be back with plenty.

Posted by PlayingItStraight on (January 3, 2011, 22:07 GMT)

Let's not get too carried away ... it was a solid debut that showed promise, however he did hit a few shots in the air at a catchable height, in particular the square drive that split gully and point. His technique was impressive, choosing the right deliveries to leave and to defend, but he needs to learn to hit more balls along the carpet before he's truly set and got his eye in. I'm looking forward to watching him play more test cricket for Australia (preferably batting at number 3), but let's not place too much expectation on a young player.

Posted by gogoldengreens on (January 3, 2011, 21:45 GMT)

Usman looks like number 3 for the long haul... He looked nice and relaxed composed Very good with soft hands letting the ball drop down from edges... To fit Ponting back in the team at say 5 or 6 - he will brain attacks from there - Drop Clarke he will come back hungry after a holiday same as last time he was dropped - Drop Clarke from all limited overs cricket permanently same way that Justin Langer was never considered for it.

Posted by MRNASIR on (January 3, 2011, 21:14 GMT)

@BlackArcher it is not what you think it's a great achievement by usman k. i would say pakistanies are cricket lover, and their own team has not been able to produce much, so they need some thing to cheer. in fact to play for aus is not a small thing, we are appreciating usman's achievement, nothing wrong with it. something to cheer, and we want every pakistani star to shine anywhere in the world just like usman and tahir please don't mind if anyone said which you did not like, indians are great player and they are good enough to give their ppl always somthing to cheer. thanks

Posted by landl47 on (January 3, 2011, 21:08 GMT)

@KCastan: yes, you must have been reading a different article. This one had phrases like 'the debutant who strode like a veteran', 'stylish and breathtaking' and 'the most convincing statement that he was a young man made for a spot in Australia's top six'. He looks a good young player, but those phrases are way over the top for someone who made 37 and got out to a bad shot.

Posted by big_cheese on (January 3, 2011, 21:05 GMT)

Guys, I tell you what... when it comes to haters of Punter, I would be among the first ones. However, there's no denying that when he dominated, he dominated the cricket world in a way that no one in my lifetime (33 yrs) no other batsman did. Hats off to Punter. Truthfully, in a larger perspective, World of Cricket needs competitors like Punter. Has he been a good captain? Has he been an honest captain? That is not my point. Has he been terrific when he was in form? Hell yeah...

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 20:29 GMT)

Kudos to BlackArcher! Was going to say the exact same thing.

Posted by siddhartha57 on (January 3, 2011, 20:15 GMT)

So scoring a 37 on debut makes him great, then what about all those players who scored a century on their debut ( they must be legends ), common guys wait for a few more matches before you call him great....... I am pretty sure he is not going to last more than 10 test matches..........

Posted by BlackArcher on (January 3, 2011, 19:43 GMT)

So Pakistani blokes are taking credit for the fact that Usman Khawaja was born in Islamabad ?! So maybe India should take credit for Hashim Amla's parents being from India and not Pakistan as Saim Aziz wrongly believed him to be. By the way, there have been multiple guys of Indian descent who have played for different teams- maybe Saim Aziz needs to be reminded of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Hashim Amla, Ravi Bopara, etc. Just one innings by Khawaja and the Pakistanis starved of any achievement recently gloat as if it was by a Pakistani and not an Aussie. How typical !

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 19:28 GMT)

Debut. And an article. Thats Ashes for you.

Posted by KCastan on (January 3, 2011, 19:13 GMT)

I must be readinga different article. Peter English did not say that he was genuine quality or anything of the sort. All he said was this Khawaja looks promising. He showed good tempermeant and technique - in short he look like a test player of the future. There will be ups and downs as he adjusts, but in the long run we have found someone who can handle the first drop position.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 18:49 GMT)

love it! go for it UK...wishing you Godspeed! DUAIN Javed Zaidi USA

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 18:49 GMT)

The cricket world is going to see of this guy more often. He is here to stay. Good luck fella. Hope you have what it takes to fill in for the great Ricky Ponting. I see his temperament on board needed for a future Oz team captain. Time will tell though!

Posted by On_me_head_son on (January 3, 2011, 18:47 GMT)

I agree with @Biggus. I am a Pakistani living in England & have played club cricket with and against Australians. They most definitely play their sport hard but then that is why they have managed to stay on top for so long. It is wrong to judge on the few comments of some of the people on here. If somebody is saying it is too early to start hailing Usman as the 'next Ponting' then they are merely talking sense as far as I'm concerned. Ricky Ponting will always be an 'all time great' but to reach that status he performed pretty consistently for his country. As for Usman being the first muslim to play for Australia.It's got nothing to do with racicm or prejudice so all you guys quit with that storyline....PLEASE! Usman has said so himself, he is PROUD to be wearing the baggy green & at least if he performs to warrant his place in the side he will be treated way better by CA than let's say a certain cricket board. GOOD LUCK Usie.

Posted by Legster on (January 3, 2011, 18:46 GMT)

his technique against the quicks looks decent, very compact, he was very fidgety against Swann, though.

Posted by rohanblue on (January 3, 2011, 18:36 GMT)

khwaja is future superstar....

Posted by FinchAtticus on (January 3, 2011, 18:27 GMT)

Back in 99, teenage gals wrote such stuff about bollywood dude hrithik roshan. Peter english seems to be smitten by this guy. Relax. He is took his first step and has miles to go. I am sure he will receive his due. Australia was the only team not to have players with subcontinental-roots and that barrier seems to be broken. historic day for sure.

Posted by skepticaloptimist on (January 3, 2011, 18:24 GMT)

@Biggus: I agree that there was no doubt about the fact that Khwaja will get a go at international level. Not because the friendly nature of the Aussies, but their sheer professionalism.

Posted by Sri999 on (January 3, 2011, 17:20 GMT)

People who call Australia a racist country, what do you say. This bloke made runs in domestic cricket, performed consistently and was given his due chance at the top level. Fair game.

Posted by asadkum on (January 3, 2011, 17:16 GMT)

Mohammad Asad from USA ............................................................... Not a bad one...... in rain & rainclouds weather !!!!!!!! Looks like confident in initial innings ......... Hope for the best in future...................

Posted by streetblader on (January 3, 2011, 17:09 GMT)

Damn, if I didn't know better, I would assume from the lavish praise heaped on him that he made a century on his debut...

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 16:52 GMT)

@Varun Phadke : Sir why i've never seen any Indian Player playing in any top teams of the world like Pakistani Players do for England, SouthAfrica and now Australia??? Even in their counties??? I think batting pitches in India have made them bigger names. Yes Tendulker is a Great player individualy, he is not a team man.

Posted by mits6 on (January 3, 2011, 16:29 GMT)

@ Ellis , I agree .Now what matters is which country he represents . It should not matter where he born , where do his parents born , which religion ,which colour etc .half english team comprises of saffers , do it decreases importance of ashes win (waiting) by england ? Nooooo

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 16:08 GMT)

well done usman.....really mature innings by him......did really well to shut ponting out forever

Posted by kriskingle on (January 3, 2011, 15:59 GMT)

Are we really so starved of genuine quality that even seasoned reprters start eulogising every half decent debut performance? Is the test of quality in cricket not one of longevity? OR are these journalists so desperate and pressurised by their editors that they always tried to be the first to report a new talent? Whatever happened to cautious optimism?

Posted by Biggus on (January 3, 2011, 15:29 GMT)

@Salih Panjwani-There was never any doubt that we would welcome him mate. Some people talk a lot of rubbish about Australia and Australians. You'd hardly find a more easy going or friendly lot than us, it's just that we play our sports hard. When he was dismissed and the crowd rose and clapped I felt so happy for Mrs Khawaja. How proud must she have been to see tens of thousands of people applauding 'her little boy'? In these days of over-commercialisation of the game I thought it added a nice 'human' touch. Good luck to the little fellow!

Posted by landl47 on (January 3, 2011, 15:13 GMT)

Let's not go overboard. Khawaja looks like a promising player, but from this article and the comments you'd think he'd made a century, not 37. It didn't take the English bowlers very long to figure him out and dry up his scoring strokes, and on a pitch with a little more life he'd have been out caught in the slips. Eventually he went for an ill-judged sweep in Swann's first over to him and was out for a score which looks good against Australia's previous #3 but not when compared to England's #3. I hope he has a good career in test cricket, but it's way too soon to hale him as the next great Australian batsman.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 13:51 GMT)

ya ca never think there ar loyal to the foolish adamant underserving and mad captain RICKY POINTING. they compare him to tendulkar who is dammly better than him he is dam fool and will remain a fool

thandulkars the best best

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 13:33 GMT)

The pleasing thing is that he has been welcome all over in Australia, he will have to prove a lot in future especially the No. 03 which was occupied by Ponting, one of the best of current era.

Posted by Ellis on (January 3, 2011, 12:56 GMT)

Why is it so important for journalists and pseudo ones like Peter English to keep repeating that Usman Khawaja is the first muslim to play for Australia? What has his cricketing ability got to do with his religion? As he himself has said, you can make something of anything. His religion is personal to him. He is young, bright, promising and Australian. That is the story. Quit the veiled attempts to portray him as " different".

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 12:53 GMT)

Yes i agree with the writer! his defense unlike Pointing's fidgety defense was stolid and composed! Even the great Richie Benaud was impressed by this young lad!

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 12:51 GMT)

He is a player to look out.. .. it was really a treat to watch him play his first test.. he was simply awesome..

Posted by Itchy on (January 3, 2011, 12:48 GMT)

I was at the ground and watched his whole innings - looked far more calm and composed than any other batsman. Pity he did not look over the Trumper stand at the oncoming rainclouds as we could tell that rain was about to fall any minute!

Suggest he be retained at no. 3 when Ponting comes back and Michael Beer gets dropped (subject to what he shows in the rest of the test). Smith then plays as the spin option but will need some work over the coming months and years to get him up to standard.

Posted by Marcio on (January 3, 2011, 12:46 GMT)

He's a very good prospect who needs to be nurtured. The team managers have really screwed up with their treatment of players, and the way they have failed to nurture them. Phillip Hughes comes to mind. I am not of the opinion that he needs a classic technique to be a successful opener. he has already shown that he can take the best attacks apart. Now it's about improving on what he has. Being brought into the team when out of form was not such a good idea, especially given that the net two guys - Ponting and Clarke, were already hopelessly out of form. But rewarding mediocrity seems to be what these selectors are all about. Thus the selection of Clarke as captain - it's logical! Having said that, a win is coming sooner than most expect.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 12:34 GMT)

Shrii, they wont drop him mate.... he will stay.... he is the future... CA would be mad to drop him

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 12:07 GMT)

This, folks, is true Pakistani talent. I hope he does well for Australia in the future, the Aussies really need it! And I still believe Ricky Ponting should come back to the team, maybe even as number four.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 11:44 GMT)

Well constructed 37 is just enough for a debutant.He watched the ball pretty well and handled things in a calm manner. That's what you want from a solid middle order player. He can go through an excellent learning curve. Not all greats scored tons on their debuts, and many who did that could not maintain the flow. I'm quite contented with what he did.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2011, 11:23 GMT)

usman played well he deserved half century and more than that now ca will drop usman when ponting comes back from surgery.......

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