Bulls on parade: Test race adds to top-order squeeze
Usman Khawaja's push to win back his Test spot adds another layer of intrigue to a Queensland side stacked with top-order options
8 May 2020, 03:23 PM AEST
Incumbent Test opener Joe Burns says there's never been any competitive tension between his top-order teammates at Queensland as Bulls skipper Usman Khawaja looks to fight his way back into Australia's Test side as an opener this summer.
Queensland have no shortage of top-order batting options at their disposal, with Test incumbents Burns and Marnus Labuschagne, former Test duo Khawaja and Matthew Renshaw and rookie opener Bryce Street all preferring to bat in the top three.
Khawaja has batted the majority of his Test career at No.3 but given David Warner, Steve Smith and Labuschagne have a stranglehold on three of the top four spots in Australia's Test side, selector Trevor Hohns has indicated the clearest path back into Test calculations would be as an opener, a position currently occupied by Burns.
The battle for Test spots will be an intriguing sub-plot to the start of the domestic season at the Bulls, but Burns says personal goals have never won out over team success with Queensland.
"I don't think we've ever thought about it like we're competing with each other for spots in higher teams," he said.
"For us it's just about going out there trying to make runs to win games for Queensland and we really enjoy the challenge of working together.
"It's a great benefit to be able to train day-in day-out together and talk about the game, learn about the game together and have success together."
Last week, Hohns backed Khawaja to return to Australia's Test team in the future, and the left-hander showed he is up for the challenge by declaring, "without sounding arrogant, I still feel like I'm one of the top six batsmen in the country".
Despite building his reputation at No.3, the left-hander averages almost 97 in five Tests as an opener, including a match-saving century against Pakistan in Dubai in 2018.
With Burns, Street and Renshaw all considered genuine openers, and Labuschagne currently Australia's incumbent Test No.3, it's yet to be seen where Khawaja will bat himself this domestic season.
"In terms of the batting order, it will be up to Uzzie as captain," Burns said.
"Last year we finished the season with myself and Streety opening, Marnus at three, Usman at four, and we were doing quite well with that batting order.
"It will be (about) who's available and what we think will be the best team to win games on the day."
Burns has shown himself to be as good as his word when it comes to enjoying his teammates' success; when he was dropped from Australia's Test side in 2016 and replaced by Renshaw, he posted his support of his younger teammate and remarked "watch out world".
Burns averaged 32 from five Tests last summer, including a score of 97 against Pakistan, before returning to the Marsh Sheffield Shield with scores of 135 and 93 before the season was brought to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He averaged 51.50 for the season at Shield level, compared to 18.36 for Khawaja.
"We're quite happy with Joe," Hohns said last week after the right-hander was recalled to Australia’s contract list.
"His form wasn't great but it was OK, he and David Warner seemed to have formed quite a good opening combination (in the Test side)."