Khawaja responds to Heads tone with flaming fifty



Just when it looked like Travis Head had done enough to secure an Ashes seat, Usman Khawaja shot back to give voters more to think about.

Faced against Australia’s vacant number five position, Head and Khawaja faced off in this week’s Sheffield Shield match between South Australia and Queensland.

Both men failed at first, but with Bulls captain Khawaja selflessly enforcing the follow-up, his opposing captain hit a timely 101 of 149 balls Thursday to poke his nose in front.

As Queensland only needed 87 for the win, it looked like Khawaja would not have another real chance to push his demands for a Test recall until an Ashes inter-squad match from 1-3. December.

But when he got to 2/16, Khawaja knocked undefeated 52 out of just 36 balls – hitting 10 fours – to guide his team home.

It remains to be seen how much weight voters place on the duo’s performance.

Chief pick George Bailey said when the 15-man Ashes squad was announced last week that they were “pretty close to where we’ll land” by choosing a number five dough.

“We lean towards one of them, but the whole purpose of naming a team is to have a team there. So we want to work through it much closer to the start of the first test,” Bailey said.

Australia will at least know that whoever gets the nod has a good nod.

Former Test captain Ricky Ponting said when the team was announced that he thought Khawaja would likely be thrown back in the middle order.

“I was actually a bit surprised that they named the two (Khawaja and Head),” he told cricket.com.au.

“If they have not made a decision about it yet, I’m not sure how much clearer it will be over the next period.

“I am excited about Khawaja. I have recorded a few times that even when he was left out, I still felt like he was in Australia’s top six batteries.

“Just reading between the lines, it would seem strange to go back to someone like him and not play him.”

Meanwhile, established Aussie number three, Marnus Labuschagne, also enjoyed a strong hit-out, the Queenslander posted 110 on a difficult Karen Rolton Oval course before scoring 28 not out in the second grave.

Weather permitting, Australia’s Ashes group will play in the intra-squad match, which also features members of the Australia A-list, at Redlands next week.

While it may be considered a bat-off between Head and Khawaja, new Test captain Pat Cummins said last week that “I would not look too much at that game”, describing it as “pretty casual”.

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