Marsh Sheffield Shield 2019-20
Khawaja, Head stumble in race for Test spots
Test players have day to forget with the bat but Marnus Labuschagne rides to Queensland's rescue after dramatic Gabba collapse
20 October 2019, 12:49 PM AEST
Time is running out for Usman Khawaja to push for a Test recall, with the Queensland skipper again failing in their Marsh Sheffield Shield clash with South Australia at the Gabba.
The stage was set for Khawaja to state his case ahead of the upcoming Domain Test series against Pakistan when he arrived at the crease late on Sunday, the Bulls cruising at 1-47 and chasing 150 for victory.
However, the elegant left-hander was caught behind for a golden duck to add to a first innings dig of just two, as Queensland lost a remarkable five wickets for seven runs in 15 balls.
Khawaja may have cause to feel hard done by, the ball appearing to have come off the thigh pad on its way through to Redbacks 'keeper Alex Carey.
It follows a controversial decision in the first round of the Shield when Khawaja was given out leg before to Harry Conway with a decision that looked to have been going over the top.
Here's the dismissal of Usman Khawaja - out or not out? #SheffieldShield #QLDvNSW pic.twitter.com/8Leusmw3pV— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) October 10, 2019
"He didn't have the rub of the green in both innings, which is unfortunate given the circumstances but we all know what a great player he is," coach Wade Seccombe told AAP.
"There is no doubt he is going to score runs at the next level again.
"Uzzie is (mentally) strong, he is the leader of our group, the life of our dressing room so there are no concerns there - he just didn't get the chocolates this game."
Test batsman Marnus Labuschagne helped Queensland remain on course for an outright Shield win over the Redbacks despite the dramatic batting collapse.
At stumps on day three, the Bulls were 5-102 chasing 150 for victory with Labuschagne not out 33.
He shared an unbeaten 48-run stand with 'keeper Jimmy Peirson (22 not out) after the Redbacks ripped through the hosts' top order.
Seccombe hailed Labuschagne's new-found maturity since returning from the Ashes series as the difference after the Redbacks threatened to pull off a boilover.
"His game is definitely tighter than when he left us (for the Ashes) and that is what we are seeing," he told AAP.
"It wasn't the script we were hoping there at one stage but we have 50 runs to get and hopefully we get that relatively comfortably.
"But we shouldn't get those wobbles at all. We just have to be better dealing with the pressure."
The Bulls appeared to be cruising to victory when ex-Test openers Matt Renshaw (24) and Joe Burns (22) romped to 0-47 in 12 overs.
Then all hell broke loose.
Remarkably five wickets fell in 15 balls in the final session to leave the Bulls reeling at 5-54 as Nick Winter (3-23) and debutant Wes Agar (2-41) ran amok.
But Labuschagne helped steady the ship in his 48-ball knock that featured three boundaries, no doubt impressing national selectors before next month's Test series against Pakistan.
Khawaja was overlooked for the final two Ashes Tests in England after making just 122 runs at 20.3 in six innings.
However, experts had backed him for a recall in the opening Test against Pakistan starting at the Gabba on November 21 thanks to his stunning Baggy Green form on home soil.
While his career batting average sits at 40.66 from 44 Tests, Khawaja averages 52.97 in Australia where he has struck six of his eight centuries.
But he appears behind the eight ball as selectors mull their first Test outfit after his underwhelming Shield return at the Gabba.
Test vice-captain Travis Head is also under pressure after he too squandered another chance to impress, again falling cheaply for South Australia.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) October 20, 2019
After a 25-ball first innings duck, he did himself no favours when caught off a loose drive for 12 in the Redbacks' second dig.
Only late hitting from tailender Chadd Sayers (42) saved blushes for South Australia who were finally dismissed for 192, setting the hosts the victory target of 150.
Head had been battling for a Baggy Green return since his surprise omission from the final Ashes Test and the door appeared ajar after chief selector Trevor Hohns admitted spots were "up for grabs".
Adding to his chances, allrounder Mitchell Marsh – who replaced him in the final Ashes Test – broke his hand punching a wall in frustration following his Shield dismissal batting for Western Australia against Tasmania.
Another Test threat, NSW left-hander Kurtis Patterson, is meanwhile battling a quad complaint.
Head has impressed in the Baggy Green, averaging 42.70 in the first 12 games for his country.
Yet after his latest setback he finds himself fighting for a nod along with a host of contenders including Will Pucovski.
The Victorian young gun has already hit a timely 64 in his first dig in Victoria's current Shield clash with WA in Perth.
Elsewhere, Ashes Test squad member Michael Neser backed up his impressive 5-56 first innings haul for Queensland by snaring 2-37 in the Redback's second innings on Sunday.
Bulls quick Cameron Gannon (3-41) at one stage took two scalps in five balls as South Australia lost 4-21 to be reeling at 9-131.
However a free-wheeling 42 from 32 balls from Sayers – including eight fours – helped the visitors to at least post a competitive target.
Sayers fell shy of only his second first class half century, ending a 61-run final wicket stand with Wes Agar (20 not out).
Queensland debutants Xavier Bartlett and Bryce Street combine to dismiss Jake Weatherald. Two in the over for Barltett and the Bulls are on fire. Watch LIVE: https://t.co/w3LC6dFUZG #SheffieldShield #QLDvSA pic.twitter.com/QSDgLyySVW— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) October 20, 2019
Debutant Bulls quick Xavier Bartlett impressed with 3-33, at one stage taking two wickets in three balls including Jake Lehmann for a duck.
The Redbacks had mopped up the tail to dismiss Queensland for 264 in their first innings.
Resuming on day three at 7-242, Queensland lost Bryce Street for 53 after the debutant failed to add to his overnight score while Cameron Gannon went for a duck.
Agar (4-30) and Winter (4-81) were the pick of the Redbacks bowlers in the first innings.
South Australia XI: Jake Weatherald, Henry Hunt, Jake Lehmann, Travis Head (c), Tom Cooper, Alex Carey (wk), Tom Andrews, Cameron Valente, Nick Winter, Chadd Sayers, Wes Agar
Queensland XI: Matthew Renshaw, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja (c), Marnus Labuschagne, Charlie Hemphrey, Bryce Street, Jimmy Peirson (wk), Michael Neser, Cameron Gannon, Mark Steketee, Xavier Bartlett