The Roar
The Roar



FLEM’S VERDICT: A great ton but Usman will probably get dropped, and we have to stick by Green

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6th January, 2022
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Usman Khawaja has made some great hundreds for Australia and this was one of the best.

He’s a unique kind of player – when you look at his record, it’s strange that he hasn’t played more Tests, particularly with such a strong resume in Australia, averaging 53 here before his 137 on day two of the fourth Ashes Test against England at the SCG.

Despite his average on home soil now up to 55.3, I don’t think he will get a start in the next Test in Hobart when it gets underway next Friday.

I think the selectors have played their hand in trying to find a younger opener and No.5 in Marcus Harris and Travis Head. With his ton at the Gabba, Head’s enhanced his reputation and Harris, although his last few digs have been good, he’s still got to get that big score to really cement his spot.

Cameron Green’s missed out with the bat again on day two. He’s playing his hands way too far in front of his front pad with hard hands. Out of him and Khawaja, you would have thought he was the one who hadn’t played for a month.

His confidence is low and there’s no doubt he’d be working hard on his game but he got dropped with a similar type ball. The plan that’s working with Green is the one you’d use in 90-plus per cent of games in Australia from grade cricket to Test level – bowl a tight corridor on off stump.

I feel like he’s not putting pressure back on the bowlers. When Usman plays the ball with soft hands, it feels to the bowler like being hit for four – I’m not even hurrying this guy, but Green seems to be hurrying himself.

But we’re winning this Ashes series, he’s the future and we want to get games into him at Test level and Usman might be unlucky again, however he’s certainly booked his spot on the next couple of tours that are coming up to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It’d be great to see him play in Pakistan being born there.


Khawaja is like Shaun Marsh and David Gower in that they’re very graceful batters, never rushed in their movements. They’re so easy on the eye, I almost forgot what it was like to watch him bat like that at Test level.

His innings was really important, particularly his partnership with Steve Smith. If England knocked Uzzy over early, who knows what might have happened.

It was emotional from the moment he walked out there and it was just a cracking innings. He didn’t rush when he wasn’t scoring quickly early, he toughed it out. And then there were some exquisite pull shots off the quicks and some great square drives and when the spinners came on, he smashed them around.

In a series where the bowlers have dominated, it was a pure Test hundred, only the third one in this Ashes.

He’s got versatility in that he can open and score tons in the middle order. It was a knock for the ages, a sublime hundred.


As for England, I think there’s some chinks in Joe Root’s captaincy with Jack Leach. He took the onus at the Gabba for not giving him too much protection but at the MCG and here in Sydney he’s giving him too much with his defensive fields.

And he’s bowling him at the worst stages. When Stuart Broad gets wickets with the new ball they needed to bowl Australia out. Early in the day he then goes to Leach, it needed to be Ben Stokes, and then when Stokes does finally come on, Leach stays on. And then Stokes is just used for a bouncer barrage and it leads to an injury. If you’re going to try that tactic it needs to be Mark Wood and only for a few overs.

Leach was like a part-timer today, you might as well not have him in the team because he doesn’t build any pressure. Chris Woakes doesn’t get many wickets in Australia but he’d be a better option next Test and he’s a much better option with the bat. Root looks as threatening with his offies and he’s taken more wickets as well.

You only get a few chances each Test and Root missed that big time with his bowling changes.

And I might just add a little warning for Steve Smith as well – don’t start umpiring. When he started going off in the morning session because there was a bit of rain about before the umpires had told him to do so was not a good look.

You’ve got to leave it to the umpires and I think Paul Reiffel might have given him a bit of a bollocking there as well.

We know he’s eccentric but you’ve got to make sure you’re focusing and channelling your energy on the right things because it was another innings where he batted really well but didn’t make a hundred.

He seems to be getting a lot of starts but not going on to get big scores. A few years ago when he’d get into the 60s you’d pretty much pencil him in to make that 160.


As for actual form he can’t bat too much better than that but he’s still only got the one hundred since the 2019 Ashes and that can start to build on your mind.

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