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Khawaja not the answer

Not looking good: Would-be No. 3 Usman Khawaja.

Not looking good: Would-be No. 3 Usman Khawaja. Photo: Getty Images

The writing was on the wall for Usman Khawaja with the submission of a single team sheet.

With his place in the Australian top order already under significant scrutiny only three matches into his trial in the troublesome No. 3 slot, his replacement there for a tour game by Phil Hughes was an ominous sign for the 26-year-old.

Coach Darren Lehmann said that careers would be on the line in the fifth Test at the Oval this week and he was not mucking about. Khawaja, as it turns out, may not even get there, if events at Northampton at the weekend are anything to go by.

Australia's stand-in captain there, Shane Watson, wanted nothing to do with questions about the batting order and its implications.

But the indications were not great for the struggling Khawaja, particularly when he lasted only eight balls at No. 6 against England Lions before being caught behind on four.

''I'm a ring-in captain so I have no idea, absolutely none,'' Watson said of the batting order.

''I'm the wrong person to ask that question. I have absolutely no idea. I'm told where we're all to bat and we moved on. I know not to interpret things. It might get me into trouble.''

In fairness Khawaja wasn't the only one not among the runs in a drawn practice match abbreviated by rain and bad light.

No batsmen passed 50, and Hughes wasn't overly convincing in a two-hour occupation in the middle that netted him 30.

But Australia is desperate to solve the puzzle that is its top six before the return Ashes in the home summer, and that may mean yet another change of personnel for a match that cannot affect the outcome of the series even if it can, with another defeat, confirm it as the worst-performing side to tour England.

''Khawaja had waited 18 months for his chance here, repeatedly on the fringe as a 12th man or standby batsman and just when he was set to play in India, he was stood down for failing to complete a team assignment in Mohali.''

When he was finally thrown in there was a neat and promising half-century that stood out amid the malaise at Lord's.

But the diabolical umpiring decision at Old Trafford that prompted Cricket Australia's chief executive, James Sutherland, to pen an immediate note to the International Cricket Council shoved his return to the side off the rails.

Australia is searching for a No. 3 to be the bedrock of its innings and right now Khawaja, with 46 runs in his past two Tests and an average of 19 for the series, is not it.

No one has been since Shaun Marsh reached three figures on debut against Sri Lanka in Pallekele in 2011 before going backwards fast.

Nine have been tried there in that time, Hughes, Watson, Ed Cowan even Michael Clarke among them. Hughes, with an average of 37.2 over seven matches, has been the best.

The fifth Test starts at the Oval on Wednesday.

22 comments

  • Let's play Agar at 3 for this test-he couldn't do any worse than the other pretenders.Anyone with a decent technique out there?

    Commenter
    Wal
    Date and time
    August 19, 2013, 8:06AM
    • Khawaja is one of our best young batsman, waugh, border, taylor all took time to develop into world class batsman and same goes for the likes of Khawaja, Smith who need games as they have only had 3 games this series. All the batsman failed in the warm up game except for Watson, the best thing about boof is that he gives the young batsman a real chance before dropping them and in that regards Smith, Khawaja and Warner will play the oval test and hopefully all 3 fire, in particular hoping Khawaja does well as we need him in the home ashes. Warner, Rogers, Khawaja, Watson, Clarke, Smith for me for Oval.

      Commenter
      Louie_E
      Date and time
      August 19, 2013, 8:41AM
    • Louie some fantastic comments mate, I big fan of Khawaja too

      Commenter
      Amith_S
      Date and time
      August 19, 2013, 9:01AM
    • Louie E, you are absolutely correct.

      Shame you are not a selector.

      Commenter
      Cricket Lover
      Location
      Sunshine Coast
      Date and time
      August 19, 2013, 9:42AM
    • Louie_E, the difference between Khawaja and Border, Waugh and Taylor is that they at least showed that they were up for the fight. Khawaja has shown nothing - ability or fight. It's time for the selectors to pick blokes who put value on their wicket. Khawaja is an example of what Australia DOESN'T need.

      Commenter
      Rick
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 19, 2013, 10:35AM
    • Fair point Wal! A top order of Agar, Starc and Pattinson could hardly do worse than the long list of left-hander turkeys currently a top of the order. If our Ashes line up back in Australia comprises more than two of Warner, Rogers, Khawaja, Cowan and Hughes then we are stuffed. These boys would be lucky to get a regular game for Zimbabwe or Bangladesh!

      Commenter
      Viv R
      Location
      Adelaide
      Date and time
      August 19, 2013, 12:34PM
  • Might be a good idea to actually pick the most likely, based on technique, and stick with them for a while.
    Not much point changing the batting order every game. Lehman's comment about getting a consistent top 6 once you get consistent performances seems a little back to front to me.
    Steve Waugh made the most sense when he pointed out his own failings early in his career, (26 tests before making a ton) but at the time the selectors chose a group they believed would eventually succeed and stuck with them.

    Commenter
    David
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    August 19, 2013, 8:21AM
    • Well said David, Khawaja deserves a fair crack at oval as does Smith and i am also confident they will smash it at the oval. its important the likes of Khawaja are given at least a full series as we have given to the younger players such as Hughes and Cowan as he is a geniune number 3 who can really develop in that position, we will only build world class batsman if we give these young guys a real run.Its interesting that except for Rogers all other batsman failed last game but we somehow pick on Khawaja again.

      Commenter
      Louie_E
      Date and time
      August 19, 2013, 8:42AM
  • Television stations paid big money for the broadcast rights to teh cricket and will want a decent return on their broadcast rights investment.
    Khawaja at 3 will help sell advertising by on-selling broadcast rights for a higher price to the sub-continent.
    Meanwhile cricketers like Mark Cosgrove (leading run scorer in the shield competition last year) can't and won't get selected because the marketing gurus will suggest behind closed doors that his appearance / weight are not conducive to marketing the products that will be advertised during the cricket. The undiscovered scandal in Australian cricket is the influence the marketing gurus have on team selection at the expense of the sport.
    I'm surprised a journalist hasn't investigated this. It's all about the dollars at the end of the day.

    Commenter
    This chicken is rubbery
    Location
    Gradurikeit
    Date and time
    August 19, 2013, 8:27AM
    • "@ this chicken is rubbery"..."it's all about the dollars at the end of the day ". Isn't EVERYTHING ???

      Commenter
      Mister Tee
      Location
      Mount Gambier SA
      Date and time
      August 19, 2013, 10:46AM

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