Australia skipper Pat Cummins on Thursday (January 13) confirmed that Usman Khawaja will open the batting for Australia in the fifth Ashes Test against England, slated to be held in Hobart from January 14.
Khawaja was included in the playing XI for the fourth Test after Travis Head tested positive for COVID-19 and the southpaw grabbed the opportunity with both hands, hitting centuries in both innings (137* and 101) at SCG to mark his return in the longest format after more than two years.
With Head reclaiming the No. 5 spot for the Hobart Test, the hosts have decided to drop opener Marcus Harris to accommodate Khawaja in the line-up. While Harris scored 76 in the low-scoring Boxing Day Test match at MCG, he has made a modest 179 runs at 29.83 in the four games.
“I think he knew was it was coming,” Cummins told reporters. “The message to Harry is we think he is going really well. It’s really tough on him. It’s not too often someone comes in and hits two hundreds in the same game. But I thought Marcus has been really good I think he’s been growing with each game he was a huge part in how we won that MCG Test with a crucial innings. So he’s certainly part of the future. We’ll keep investing in him. I think he’s been going really well.”
“Really confident with Uzzy opening. He’s a class player. He can bat anywhere in the order. Even at the start of the summer when he was part of the squad, from the selectors’ point of view and being his captain, I felt like he could bat anywhere from one to six so he’ll slot straight into one, everyone else stays where they are. Travis Head really owned that No. 5 spots the first few games.”
Australia are yet to take a call on their bowling attack for the fifth Test, with paceman Scott Boland under an injury cloud.
Jhye Richardson, who bagged a five-wicket innings haul in the second Test in Adelaide, might return to the side if Boland gets ruled out.
“We think he [Boland] should be right. I don’t think he’ll be getting injections down here. I think he’ll just have a bowl and judge if he feels a bit better than he did a few days ago. He bowled 30-40 overs after he did the injury which gives us a lot of confidence he can get through it. Just speaking to him he says it’s an injury that he’s confident doesn’t get worse with heaps of bowling. It’s just a lot of pain. So hopefully he can manage that. He said he’ll have a bowl. He’s played enough. He’ll be honest,” Cummins said.
Having won the first three Tests, Australia have already clinched the Ashes. The fourth Test in Sydney ended in a dramatic draw and the hosts will now look to finish the series on a high in Hobart.
Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner