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Relaxed Khawaja rediscovers his touch

Date

Lee Gaskin

Queensland batsman Usman Khawaja trains at Manuka Oval.

Queensland batsman Usman Khawaja trains at Manuka Oval. Photo: Colleen Petch

Queensland batsman Usman Khawaja is keen for a big score in Canberra this week to keep his name near the top of the Australian selectors' list.

Khawaja is coming off a maiden century for his adopted state and is high up in the pecking order to be the replacement in the Test team for under-fire veteran Ricky Ponting.

The stylish left-hander will take on his former state in a Sheffield Shield match at Manuka Oval, starting on Tuesday.

Khawaja said a change in surroundings this season had helped him become more relaxed after his axing from the Test team last year.

''I had a lot of voices in my head at the end of last year when I got dropped,'' Khawaja said.

''Now I've got a bit more clarity, I'm having fun and it's all seeming to come together.

''I just wanted to get that first century [138 against Tasmania on a tough Bellerive pitch earlier this month]. It was tough to feel like a full-blown Queenslander, but it's getting better.''

NSW paceman Josh Hazlewood, who was set to play in the Manuka match before being called into the Australian squad on Monday night, expects Khawaja to come out swinging against his former state.

''[Khawaja] has done quite well against us this year,'' Hazlewood said.

''We find guys that go to other states do well against us, I think they're a bit more determined.

''Obviously he's faced us a lot in the nets as well so he'll be another danger man this week.''

The Blues desperately need the six points after winning one of their three games to start the season, while the Bulls are equal first alongside Victoria.

Batsmen are again expected to dominate on what is tipped to be a flat deck, however showers are predicted on the opening day.

 

SHEFFIELD SHIELD

NSW v Queensland at Manuka Oval from Tuesday to Friday. Play starts at 10.30am each day, tickets at the gate.

NSW: Stephen O’Keefe (c), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, David Dawson, Brad Haddin, Moises Henriques, Scott Henry, Josh Lalor, Nic Maddinson, Peter Nevill, Steve Smith, Adam Zampa.

QUEENSLAND: Chris Hartley (c), Cameron Boyce, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Luke Feldman, Peter Forrest, Cameron Gannon, Nathan Hauritz, Usman Khawaja, Michael Neser, Nathan Reardon, Wade Townsend.

 

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