Khawaja out to prove Test skills among stars
NSW batsman Brad Haddin hits one over the infield during Sunday's Ryobi Cup clash with Victoria. Photo: Getty Images
Australia's forgotten batsman Usman Khawaja will have the perfect opportunity to press his claims for a Test recall in next week's star-studded Sheffield Shield match in Canberra.
Khawaja is one of as many as 11 internationals who will be on display for the four-day game between Queensland and NSW from November 27-30, followed by a Ryobi Cup limited-overs clash on December 2.
The 25-year-old was tossed into the Test wilderness almost a year ago, but an impressive start to the domestic season with his new state, including 138 and 78 on a seaming Blundstone Arena green top in Queensland's emphatic Sheffield Shield victory against Tasmania earlier this month, has put the stylish left-hander back in the mix.
While the conditions on the usually batsman-friendly Manuka Oval pitch are going to be more conducive to a lengthy innings, Khawaja will have to contend with a high-class Blues bowling attack laden with international experience.
Veteran Doug Bollinger (12 Tests, 39 one-day internationals and two T20s) and rising star Josh Hazlewood (one ODI) headline the Blues' pace attack, and could be joined by left-armer Mitchell Starc (four Tests, 11 ODIs and eight T20s) if he is overlooked for the final South African Tests.
Khawaja won't be the only one hoping to send the national selectors a wake-up call.
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (43 Tests, 92 ODIs and 25 T20s) will return to his old stomping ground having made centuries in his past two first-class games since giving way to the younger Matthew Wade.
The 35-year-old Queanbeyan product will be joined in the Blues line-up by emerging all-rounder Moises Henriques (two ODIs and one T20), left-arm orthodox spinner Steve O'Keefe (seven T20s) and hard-hitting batsman Steve Smith (five Tests, 32 ODIs and 20 T20s), while Queensland trio Peter Forrest (15 ODIs), off-spinner Nathan Hauritz (17 Tests, 58 ODIs and 3 T20s) and James Hopes (84 ODIs and 12 T20s) have all played at the highest level.
Cricket ACT chief executive Mark Vergano said the quality of the players on show boded well for Canberra's unprecedented summer of cricket, which concludes with the inaugural visit of the Australian team for a one-day international against the West Indies in February.
''The standout at the moment is Moises Henriques,'' Vergano said.
''He's taken the T20 and the one-day formats by the scruff of the neck.
''Steve Smith has been in strong form with the bat, Josh Hazlewood is the next cab off the rank in the Test team and on the other side Usman Khawaja is in red-hot form in the Shield matches.
''All of this builds not only for this summer, but there's an Ashes touring series next year which all players want to be a part of.''
This is the second year as part of a three-year deal with the ACT government that NSW has transferred a Sheffield Shield and a Ryobi Cup match to Canberra.
NSW will take on the Bulls at the Gabba in a one-day match on Wednesday.