Match Analysis

Usman Khawaja: 205 balls, one boundary

If crease occupation turns itself into a substantial innings, Khawaja's method is not a problem, but, so far this series, the tactic hasn't translated into runs

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
In a batting line-up without Steven Smith and David Warner, Usman Khawaja was billed as Australia's leading light heading into the series against India.
The outcome of the first three innings in the opening two Tests has been somewhat different, with Khawaja rendered scoreless for long periods. Perhaps his truncated build-up, following a knee injury that required surgery, has played a part in him not being in top form, but the upshot is that Australia's innings have stalled when he has been at the crease.
In Adelaide, he made 28 off 125 balls and 8 off 42, and on the opening day in Perth, he collected only 5 off 38 balls. By the end of the first innings at the Perth Stadium, it felt as though he was playing himself out of nick. India have bowled very well at him, but he has not been able to find a release shot - even to rotate the strike. In the 205 balls faced, he has managed a solitary boundary; to jog your memory, it was a tickle down the leg side against Jasprit Bumrah in Adelaide.
The pressure has told in his last two dismissals: in the second innings in Adelaide, he carved a lofted drive to deep cover and, in Perth, edged a cut against a ball that probably wasn't quite wide enough for the shot.
In the first Test, R Ashwin claimed his wicket both times but the pressure has also been created by the quicks in both Tests so far, specifically the around-the-wicket line which he has not been able to counter, at least from a position of scoring runs. His inability to find a way around it also brought his downfall against Umesh Yadav today.
It could stem back to the 2017-18 Ashes. While he had a reasonably successful series, England's quicks employed the around-the-wicket tactic repeatedly, to some success. Of Khawaja's five dismissals to pace, four came when right-arm quicks were angling it into his body from around the stumps, and he averaged just 25.00 when targeted from that angle.
In this series, he has faced 121 deliveries from around the wicket by the quicks and made just 15 runs. Some players, such as Adam Gilchrist when England's quicks troubled him with the same line in the 2005 Ashes, would try to hit their way out, but Khawaja's attempts had been largely about survival until he slashed at Umesh. As per ESPNcricinfo's logs, his shot intent is defensive 78% of the time, as compared to just 65% when faced from over the stumps.
There was a stark contrast with how Travis Head played on the opening day in Perth. He took a notably attacking option and scored 34 off 47 balls delivered to him from around the wicket, before slashing to third man attempting another boundary.
If crease occupation eventually turns itself into a substantial innings, Khawaja's method does not have to be a major problem, but so far this series, the tactic hasn't translated into runs. It will be fascinating to watch what he does through the rest of the matches to try and put the pressure back on the bowlers.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo