Khawaja has the goods to step up
Darren Lehmann, right, backs Usman Khawaja to make the Test team. Photo: Colleen Petch
Usman Khawaja failed twice at Manuka Oval this week, but Queensland coach Darren Lehmann backed the stylish left-hander to be considered as Ricky Ponting's long-term replacement in the Test team.
Khawaja was dismissed for eight on Thursday in the second innings in the Sheffield Shield match in Canberra, to go with a second-ball duck in the first dig, both coming lbw to former Australian paceman Doug Bollinger.
Twenty-five-year-old Khawaja played the last of his six Test matches almost a year ago in Hobart - coincidentally the venue where Australia's next series against Sri Lanka begins on December 14.
Along with Khawaja, Lehmann believed those in contention included South Australia's Phil Hughes, Tasmania's Alex Doolan and Victorian Rob Quiney, who was dropped after low scores in the first two Tests against South Africa.
''I think he's in the best six in the country, but that's my personal opinion,'' Lehmann said. ''I'm pretty confident in the way he's playing.
''Obviously, he's missed out here. He got a decent ball first innings against Doug and probably misjudged it today, but he's in good form. Hughes is making runs, you've got Doolan down in Tassie … there's some decent players around.''
Going into this week's match at Manuka, Khawaja had scored 430 runs at 47.78 in the Sheffield Shield, with one century and three half-centuries.
Hughes has made 516 runs at 51.60 for his adopted state of South Australia this shield season, while Tasmanian top-order batsman Doolan tops the first-class runscorers' list this season with 570 runs at 81.43, including 161 not out against the touring South Africans for Australia A.
Lehmann was a teammate of Ponting's for many years in the Australian team and was surprised to hear the country's leading runscorer in Test cricket call stumps on his illustrious career.
''He's had a magnificent career and has been a great player, one of our greatest so, hopefully, he goes out with a bang in Perth and gets a hundred,'' Lehmann said.
''The good thing is he's going to come back and help Hobart Hurricanes and Tasmania out for the rest of the year, so that's a good experience for not only their side but the players who play against him to see how he goes about it.
''I hope he enjoys the rest of the international play.''