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Pat Cummins suggests Usman Khawaja should retain his place for fifth Test

After twin tons, Khawaja could replace Harris as opener in Hobart

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Usman Khawaja plays the pull, Australia vs England, Men's Ashes, 4th Test, 4th day, Sydney, January 8, 2022

Usman Khawaja plays the pull  •  Getty Images

Australia captain Pat Cummins has indicated Usman Khawaja should retain his place for the final Ashes Test in Hobart after his stunning comeback with twin centuries at the SCG.
Cummins is not on the selection panel - which consists of George Bailey, Justin Langer and Tony Dodemaide - but called Khawaja someone who is in "total command of their game".
However, speaking after the second of his centuries on Saturday, Khawaja said he remained resigned to this being a one-off comeback with Travis Head, who made 152 in the opening Test in Brisbane, assured of a return after missing Sydney due to testing positive for Covid-19.
The only option remaining to the selectors is to drop Marcus Harris and install Khawaja as an opener. Harris has made 179 runs at 29.83 in the series which included a fighting half-century in tough conditions at the MCG but he twice gave away starts in Sydney.
"I'll preface it by saying I'm not a selector, but when someone comes out and hits twin hundreds, it's pretty hard to go past them for the week after," Cummins said. "So we'll work through that, the selectors will work through that the next few days. But when someone's running hot, has got a heap of experience like Uzzy, the way he plays is fantastic."
Khawaja has only opened in first-class cricket on three occasions in the last three years and in total in 24 of his 166 matches but does have two centuries in the role in Test cricket. His versatility was one of the key reasons behind him being the spare batter in the Ashes squad and he would have replaced David Warner in Adelaide if his damaged ribs had prevented him playing.
"Felt like he could replace any batter from one to six," Cummins said. "I know there's been question marks historically on him playing over in Asia but you see how well he's played spin recently - reverse sweeping, sweeping - he's just someone who's in total command of his game. That's why you love experience."
There may also be changes to the pace-bowling attack for the final Test with Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser in contention but whichever line-up Australia go with in Hobart, hosting its first Ashes Test after replacing Perth in the schedule, they will not be aiming for a whitewash after being thwarted by England's lower order.
It was the second year in a row they had not been able to take victory from a strong position at the SCG but Cummins believed he had got his calculations correct. Seven overs were lost to rain on the final day and Australia had 64 balls to claim the last two wickets after Jonny Bairstow fell.
"I wanted about three-and-a-half an over, though the wicket still wasn't playing too many tricks," he said. "I thought if they batted well 350 is pretty achievable. Thought 110 overs was enough time… but in the back of our mind we knew it could be a bit of a grind.
"I think this year compared to last year we have made some improvements, we probably stuck at some plans a little bit longer. When you are that far ahead of the game of course you want to win it but I thought England played well. I was really proud of how everyone went, got close just not close enough."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo