Khawaja gets Ashes backing but not Wade | cricket.com.au

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Khawaja gets Ashes backing but not Wade

Australia coach says wicketkeeper and allrounder spots up for grabs in early Sheffield Shield rounds but Usman Khawaja all set to return to Australia's XI

Australia coach Darren Lehmann has given axed batsman Usman Khawaja a resounding vote of confidence for the Magellan Ashes, all but confirming the left-hander will return to the Test XI for the first Test against England.

But the No.6 and wicketkeeping positions remain up for grabs according to Lehmann, meaning Australia have no better idea of the precise make-up of their top- and middle-order for the series-opener at the Gabba than they did before their Qantas Tour of Bangladesh.

The tourists notched a series-levelling seven-wicket victory in the second Test in Chittagong on Thursday, their last outing in the Baggy Green before the summer, making up for a humbling first Test defeat in Dhaka.

Australia level series with seven-wicket win


Khawaja, who was recalled for the first Test after being overlooked on the preceding tour of India, failed in both innings in Dhaka and was promptly dropped as selectors replaced him with allrounder Hilton Cartwright in Chittagong.

While his record on the subcontinent remains a concern (117 runs at 14.62 in five Tests in Asia), his dominant form on home soil (four tons in 10 Tests, average of 77.50) will almost certainly see him slot back into the No.3 spot. 

"I would think Usman would play the first Test match," said Lehmann, who noted fellow selectors Trevor Hohns and Greg Chappell have an equal say in picking the side.

"For the make-up of the side we changed it here, but we think he’s a pretty special player and obviously he’s got a really good record in Australia."

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There are no such guarantees for wicketkeeper Matthew Wade or allrounders Cartwright and Glenn Maxwell.

Australia openly flirted with the possibility of dumping Wade in Chittagong and handing the gloves to part-time 'keeper Peter Handscomb, before deciding to stick with the incumbent.

While Lehmann lauded Wade's work behind the pegs in the second Test, both he and captain Steve Smith have stressed the Tasmanian's recent form with the bat – which saw him fail to reach double-digits in three hits in Bangladesh – hasn't been up to scratch.

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"I think Matty knows himself … he came out to a few of the guys the other day and said he needed more runs," Smith said on Thursday.

"He's open and honest about that. He'll go back and play (Sheffield) Shield cricket and hopefully get a few big scores and 'keep really well and keep putting his name up.

"We really love him around the Australian team, he provides a lot out on the field for us, great energy and good chat which is something that we need.

Lehmann addresses Ashes prospects

"He provides a lot there but hopefully he can continue to improve and put some performances on the board back home and keep putting his name back there."

Lehmann did not rule out Handscomb being considered for the 'keeping spot in future, but believes Australia made the right call in not handing the Victorian the extra responsibility in the second Test.

Handscomb fights on in oppressive heat


"One thing we do know is Pete doesn’t survive too well under a helmet all day, does he?" joked Lehamnn, a reference to Handscomb's struggles that saw him pushed to the point of exhaustion while batting on day two after fielding at short leg for most of 113.2 overs in Bangladesh’s first dig.

"(But) we look at all scenarios. We look at the best XI that’s going to perform for the game.

"So for us, it was the right call. Matthew was great this game. End of the day, we love having the best keeper all the time."

The three JLT Sheffield Shield rounds before the first Test at the Gabba loom as the major deciding factor for the make-up of Australia’s XI.

After a breakthrough century in Ranchi on Australia's trip to India earlier this year, Maxwell has the inside running for the No.6 spot but the selection panel's preference in recent years for a seam-bowling allrounder may count against him.

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While Lehmann tentatively suggested Maxwell remains the most likely option for No.6, strong performances in the early Shield rounds could vault Cartwright (who made 18 in his only innings in Chittagong) or any number of others into calculations.

"We’ll certainly be looking at that position," Lehmann said.

"Anyone can jump out of the pack in the three Shield games and (come into) what we think the best make-up is for that first Test.

"Glenn is there at the moment (but) like everyone else, he’ll have to perform."

The Sheffield Shield will again be streamed live and free on cricket.com.au and the CA Live app, with the first round to be played from October 26 under lights at the WACA, the Gabba and the Adelaide Oval, where the West End Redbacks will host a NSW Blues side brimming with Australia Test players.

Further Shield rounds will be played from November 4 and November 13 ahead of the first Magellan Ashes Test at the Gabba from November 23.


 

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series


First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets


Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets


Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets


Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets


Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets


ODI Series v England


First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets


Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets


Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets


Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets


Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF


Prime Minister's XI


PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets


T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series


First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets


Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets


Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets


Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14


Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16


Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18


Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21