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The curious case of Usman Khawaja

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Roar Rookie
16th August, 2019
32
1066 Reads

As I am penning this piece, Australia find themselves stranded at 4/75, with Matthew Wade trying to settle in and advance the rescue act with Steve Smith.

With the murky overhead conditions, the 35-over old cherry is still nibbling around as the hosts look to further overhaul their visitors and secure a handsome first-innings lead.

Two successive wickets of Usman Khawaja and Travis Head has put Australia on the back foot and a lot of work needs to be carried out from here. In this piece, however, we are going to divert our whole attention to Australia’s No.3 and his, so far, promising-yet-woeful performance in the Ashes.

Each time Khawaja has come out to bat in this series, he has looked comfortable at the crease with some definite feet movement and avoiding to fish a country mile outside off-stump.

His technique has been compact and he has played some delightful strokes through the course of his three innings. Each time he did the hard yards of facing the sparkling red ball after the early dismissal of one of the openers and each time he would settle in a bit, only to get out some overs later after looking quite solid at the crease.

Despite the lack of technical frailties and a jumbled mind, Khawaja is yet to convert his stable starts into something significant. To me, he is lacking the conviction he had while battling it out in the dusty troughs of Dubai and amassing runs at Canberra a few months later. He hasn’t shown the sort of authority we are used to seeing.

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Although he did play a couple of imposing back-foot square cuts earlier today, it’s the overall approach and the stance that he needs to mend.

A few overs before his dismissal, Khawaja shoulder-armed to a number of deliveries from Chris Woakes that went up the slope. One of these deliveries jagged into him from a length and whizzed past the top of off.

Khawaja must have seen the replays on the big screens it would have made him a bit wary of leaving the ball from that length. You compare that delivery to his wicket ball and there is a realisation that the two bowls were almost pitched on a similar line and length.

The one he got out on nipped across him and, with the tight leave earlier in the back of his mind, Khawaja decided to put bat on it so as not to shoulder-arm and hear the death rattle from behind. But he poked at it a bit too much as the ball kissed the outside part of his blade and was safely gobbled up by Bairstow behind the stumps.

Then he strolled back to the dressing room after promising a lot with a nice-looking start.

For me, Khawaja needs to be demoted to No.4 where he should be best suited given his uncertain technique against the moving ball and the fact that he plays spin really well.

This should allow him more freedom to go about things and really make a case for himself to score bigger and spend greater time out in the middle. He, indeed, is a class act but he needs to put up prolonged shows of his elegance rather than showing mere glimpses of it.