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Has Usman Khawaja played his last Test?

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Expert
3rd September, 2019
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Since 1 January 2017, Usman Khawaja has averaged 34.8 across 39 Test innings. That is not the required level of performance for a man in the top order.

The question is now whether he can force his way back into the side. It may not be any easy task as he closes in on 33 years of age.

Khawaja’s axing sees Marnus Labuschagne moved up one to number three to accommodate the return of Steve Smith.

It is a position that Labuschagne occupied during his prolific stint with Glamorgan pre-Ashes. When he departed to join the Aussie squad, he had compiled five centuries and amassed 1114 runs at 65.5 – the first batsman to reach 1000 first-class runs this English summer.

His form has shown no sign of abating since his recall midway through the Lord’s Test. His 59, 74 and 80 have seen him top-score in each innings he has played.

Labuschagne’s technique and mindset indicate he could well succeed at number three and therein lies a major issue for Khawaja in his quest to recapture a spot in the side.

It will have to be as an opener, as he is unlikely to be recalled at either five or six.

Usman Khawaja

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

It was between Khawaja and opener Marcus Harris to suffer the axe for Old Trafford. Given Harris had been given just the one Test to show his wares, it would have been a tough call to drop him again.

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David Warner rediscovered some form in the first innings at Headingley, with a patient 61, but was out for a duck in the second. The selectors have maintained the faith in a man with a career average of 46.7 and 21 centuries.

They will be hoping he can recapture some of his former glory in the next two Tests ahead of series on home soil this summer, where he averages 59.6.

In a limited sample size, Khawaja has proved effective at the top of the order, with seven innings for two centuries and an average of 96.8.

However, to earn a recall as an opener he would likely need to open for his state of Queensland, where the incumbents are Joe Burns and Matthew Renshaw.

Burns was unlucky to miss out on the Ashes squad, having amassed 180 against Sri Lanka at Canberra at the end of last summer in what was his last Test innings. In all, he has four centuries and an average of 40.1.

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Any display of form at the start of the Sheffield Shield season should see him firm as the next cab off the rank to fill an opening position should there be a vacancy. That prospect makes Khawaja’s return even more problematic.

Renshaw had a lean season last summer, with nine Shield matches producing an average of 21.9 and a highest score of 89.

But he on the radar as a long-term Test opener and is still likely to be in the Bulls line-up at the start of the summer. If he is, it is a question of where he will bat.

Will Khawaja, as skipper, opt to open and drop Renshaw down the order? When Labuschagne is in the line-up, that would potentially be a demotion to number four.

There is much for Khawaja to ponder as he endeavours to recapture his place and every likelihood he has played his last Test innings for Australia.

On song, he has been a stylish and productive player.

But at his age, and given the make-up of the team and who is waiting in the wings, a return to the top flight may be beyond him.