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Match Analysis

Anachronistic Khawaja's timely T20 arrival

Usman Khawaja's shot selection in the game's shortest format harkens back to the age of black and white. He is the side-parting and cowlick in a blond-tinged faux-hawk world

As the first Australia batsman from Pakistani stock, Usman Khawaja once seemed exotic in his nation's colours. His batting, though, is not that exotic in this Australia team.
David Warner has a wondrous switch-hit sweep over cover, a skyscraper lofted drive, and uses a bat almost as big as his mouth. Steven Smith lunges towards point in the second before he makes contact with the ball. And, as origin stories go, Glenn Maxwell has trumped Khawaja's, by being the first Australia player from outer space.
As the Big Bash League has bred a generation of batsmen playing Technicolor reverse-sweeps and paddle scoops, Khawaja's proper cricketing shots harken back to the age of black and white. He is the side-parting and cowlick in a blond-tinged faux-hawk world, the ferris wheel at the theme park.
His has been a southern summer of awakening. Pushed out of all Australia teams in mid-2013, Khawaja went away to put the cogs, the cranks and the levers of his ferris wheel in place. He made runs in Tests first, and then by January, he was flying through the Australian night in the format that perhaps seems least suited to his technique. He had only four innings in the Big Bash, but struck 345 runs at a rate of 163.50.
The Khawaja at the Chinnaswamy on Monday evening brought resolve and calm to Australia's chase. The first boundary was a sublime lofted straight drive, the bat as slow as Bangalore at rush hour, the ball flying hurriedly out of the middle. While Shane Watson, then Warner, basically bullied balls to the boundary, Khawaja caressed through cover point and midwicket. The prettiest of his shots was an advancing flick off Shakib Al Hasan in the fifth over, wrists producing the power.
Of the diminishing clan of stylists in world cricket, Khawaja might just have the most endearing quirks to his game. That lofted six was struck cleanly, but his back leg went jerking back as the ball flew off. The cuts were placed exquisitely, but the force of hitting them twice sent the batsman a little off balance. Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson are men of straight lines and perfect angles, but Khawaja has the off-kilter flourishes that bring his batting to life.
The 58 off 45 balls was an important innings for him personally - it was his first half-century in T20 internationals, coming in his fifth match since T20I debut against India in January. If his confidence grows as a result of the innings, then it may have been an important one for his team as well. The top order's fragility against spin appeared a major weakness before the tournament. Khawaja's teammate's believe his game is uniquely well-adapted to slow bowling.
"I don't know how the dressing room feels but I know how I feel when I see Usman batting," said legspinner Adam Zampa, who has in recent months been a victim of Khawaja's aggressive charges in the Big Bash, and of his even more aggressive buttock squeezes. "I unfortunately had to see him bat this way in the Big Bash. Some of the plans I had set when I bowled to him - they didn't really work. When he's facing spin out there at the moment I'm feeling pretty confident in his ability, that's for sure."
After he departed in the 14th over, Australia lost a little of the poise Khawaja had instilled in the innings. Four more wickets went down for 33 runs, and the chase got tighter than it had to. Khawaja also seemed the only batsman even slightly comfortable with Mustafizur Rahman's cutters. Maxwell hit two sixes off Mustafizur's final over, but those were off the bowler's seam up balls.
Having been rattled in the hills at Dharamsala, the Australia side now in the south appeared a team who could go on to make a serious title challenge. The established T20 batsmen may fire yet, but the first points came courtesy of a little grace, amid the guns.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando