Khawaja fires back at 'bizarre' criticism
Australia's No.3 points to the natural grind of Test cricket in response to suggestions he was lacking intent
AAP & cricket.com.au
30 December 2017, 01:27 PM AEST
Usman Khawaja has dismissed criticism of his Ashes batting form as 'bizarre' and defended the legitimacy of a diving catch that left him with a mouthful of MCG turf.
Khawaja is among Australia's most dangerous batsmen at home, having scored almost 1100 runs at 77.5 over the past two summers.
But he has largely failed to cash in during the Ashes, posting 162 runs at 27 from the first four Tests.
He was twice beaten by reverse-swing on a flat MCG wicket during the fourth Test, nicking to Stuart Broad in the first innings and Jimmy Anderson in the second.
Former Test wicketkeeper Ian Healy said Khawaja "looked a bit lazy" during the first dig, where he scored 17 from 65 balls, with fellow Nine commentator Shane Warne suggesting the left-hander lacked intent.
" At times there he's made some wonderful hundreds, but the downside to him is I think he lacks a bit of intensity, lacks a bit of energy, and he's not busy enough," Warne said.
"We know he's got the talent, it's more his body language and his intensity when he comes to the crease. Have a presence, he's lacking that at the moment.
"Maybe it's just his form his down, but for me he's lacking some serious presence as a No.3.
"We know he's a good player but this is not good enough. He needs to be better than that.
"He can't just stand there, block the ball and not have anything else happening. For me he's got to be a bit more busy."
Khawaja on Saturday laughed off suggestions he was out of form, noting that he had made fifties in Adelaide and Perth.
"It's a bit bizarre to me," he told ABC Grandstand. "It's Test match cricket – sometimes you're not going to score at a free-flowing rate. It doesn't mean my intent wasn't there.
"I did find it a bit interesting though, day one on a slow wicket, that I was getting criticised but that's Test cricket."
Khawaja is certain to face further scrutiny if he can't produce a big score in the fifth Test in Sydney.
Australia will play four Tests in South Africa starting in March with Glenn Maxwell, Peter Handscomb and Joe Burns among the batsmen waiting in the wings.
Khawaja wouldn't be drawn on his chances of selection but shed some light on his scrambling catch to dismiss Stuart Broad on day three.
Broad was given out in a decision upheld by the third umpire, although it was unclear from replays whether the ball scraped the turf after bobbling out of Khawaja's hands.
"My face was about a foot into the dirt of the MCG," Khawaja joked. "I don't think I've ever purposely cheated in cricket before or tried to (falsely claim) a catch. I'm pretty strong on that sort of thing.
"I felt like I caught it and I was the first person to go up to the umpires and say, 'you might want to have a look because I didn't actually see it go in, but I'm confident that I felt it roll straight up my chest and go into my hand'."
2017-18 International Fixtures
Magellan Ashes Series
Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.
England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard
Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard
Third Test Australia won by an innings and 41 runs. Scorecard
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets
Gillette ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets
Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets
Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. 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