Khawaja recalled to Australia’s squad for 1st Ashes test
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Usman Khawaja has been recalled to Australia’s 15-man test squad and could get a shot at England in the Ashes.
The 34-year-old left-hander hasn’t played for Australia since being dropped during the 2019 Ashes series, but has been in run-scoring form for Queensland in domestic cricket and could rival Travis Head for a batting spot in the middle order.
The Ashes series starts Dec. 8 on Khawaja’s home ground at the Gabba. Australia will play an internal trial at another Brisbane venue from Dec. 1-3, leaving enough time for members of victorious Twenty20 World Cup squad to undergo a 14-day quarantine under COVID-19 pandemic protocols.
“I love batting at the Gabba — I scored a lot of runs there,” Khawaja said. “It’s a ground that’s very dear to me ... (scored) my first first-class hundred there, my first test hundred there.”
Australia selector George Bailey said Khawaja, who averages almost 41 per innings and has eight centuries in 44 test matches, had been in “great touch” in the Sheffield Shield.
“He brings a calm, consistent and experienced component to the batting lineup and is a proven run-scorer at test level,” Bailey said. “He also has the ability to bat across a range of positions.”
Marcus Harris is likely to remain David Warner’s opening partner, with Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith at Nos. 3 and 4 in a squad led by wicketkeeper Tim Paine. Victorian opener Will Pucovski was unavailable because of concussion symptoms.
Khawaja said selection wasn’t entirely “real clear cut” at this stage.
“Marcus Harris is probably the front-line opener. Probably an opportunity (for me) in the middle order,” he said. “Obviously if I play or not will depend on which way the selectors go.
“I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone. I won’t be able to play cricket forever, so I’m enjoying playing at every level. My mindset won’t change.”
Khawaja averages 30 in 12 tests against England, but that improves to 43.44 in six Ashes tests on home soil.
The pace trio of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will be backed up by Jhye Richardson and uncapped Michael Neser, while legspinner Mitchell Swepson has been included as well as veteran offspinner Nathan Lyon.
Mitch Marsh, the star of Australia’s eight-wicket win over New Zealand in the T20 World Cup final on Sunday in Dubai, missed out as an allrounder in the test squad, with selectors sticking with Cameron Green.
But Marsh has been included in an A squad, giving him the chance to prove his test credentials in the trial match early next month.
Khawaja was playing domestic first-class cricket while Australia’s limited-overs squad was winning the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, not long after being written off as a title contender.
“Unbelievable win. What a tournament for Australia,” he said. “That’s how fickle sport is. A couple of months ago, everyone is after you. Then you go out and win the World Cup and you’re a hero.
“It’s a great way to emphasize how quickly things can change in sport. That’s why I always try to stay in the present.”
Australia test squad: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (captain), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Jhye Richardson, Michael Neser, Mitchell Swepson.
Australia A: Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Nic Maddinson, Mitch Marsh, Matthew Renshaw, Mark Steketee, Bryce Street.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports