Men's Ashes 2021-22
Khawaja to open in Hobart as Boland firms to play
Australia captain Pat Cummins confirms Australia will make a change at the top of the order but the make-up of the bowling attack remains unclear
Louis Cameron in Hobart
13 January 2022, 08:19 PM AEST
Usman Khawaja's irresistible form has seen him hold his place for the Vodafone Ashes finale in Hobart but his promotion up the order has come at the expense of opener Marcus Harris.
Pat Cummins today confirmed Travis Head would reclaim the No.5 position he was forced to vacate for the Sydney Test after contracting COVID-19 and being forced into isolation in Melbourne following Australia's series victory.
Khawaja's twin hundreds in his remarkable return to Test cricket last week after a two-and-a-half-year absence has seen Harris squeezed out of the XI to face England at Blundstone Arena in the series' second-day-night contest.
Praised by Cummins for his Test-high 76 in the low-scoring third Test at the MCG, Harris has nonetheless been axed after making 179 runs at 29.83 for the series and now with no centuries to show from 14 Tests.
While Australia are yet to decide on the make-up of their bowling unit for Hobart, Scott Boland is firming to hold his place in the side after a successful fitness test on Thursday.
Boland suffered a rib injury in Sydney but bowled without pain in the Blundstone Arena nets on match eve under the watchful eyes of assistant coach Andrew McDonald and physiotherapist David Beakley on Thursday afternoon.
"Scotty's ribs are the only factor," Cummins told reporters. "He'll give that a go, if he's not in then Jhye and Michael Neser are both fit. We'll work that out this arvo.
"Jhye coming off a five-for in the pink ball (means) he's probably the next one (in) but we'll have that conversation when we need to.
"It's a pretty tight turnaround between Tests. We think he (Boland) should be right but he'll just have another bowl in the nets."
Jhye Richardson is pushing for a return to the side following his impressive pink-ball effort in Adelaide where he took a final-day five-wicket haul, while Michael Neser (who made his debut in Adelaide) is also in the mix.
Australia will make a final call on Friday morning.
Cummins emphasised that Australia's decision to change their opening combination had more to do with Khawaja's stunning Test return than Harris' form.
The Test skipper insisted the left-hander remained in Australia's selection plans for the upcoming Pakistan tour.
And Cummins acknowledged the decision to open Khawaja with a fellow 35-year-old David Warner posed obvious problems for succession planning.
"I think he knew it was coming," Cummins said of Harris. "The message to 'Harry' is that we think he's going really well, it's tough on him.
"It's not too often that someone comes in and gets two hundreds in the same game. I thought Marcus has been really good, he's been growing with each game. He was a huge part of why we won that MCG Test.
"He's certainly part of the future, we'll keep investing him.
"Uzzie and Davey have earnt their spots to open the batting but the reality is they're both 35 years old.
"While that doesn't mean anything in the short term, there will be a day when we need to some more openers.
"This is more of a case of someone demanding a spot rather than Marcus losing his spot due to form."
Vodafone Men's Ashes
Australia: 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
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Sam Billings, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
First Test: Australia won by nine wickets
Second Test: Australia won by 275 runs
Third Test: Australia won by an innings and 14 runs
Fourth Test: Match drawn
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Blundstone Arena