Cricket legend Mark Taylor says fans – and selectors – should be wary of putting too much stock in Usman Khawaja‘s latest impressive Sheffield Shield innings.
Khawaja followed centuries in back-to-back Shield matches with a gritty 70 runs off 188 balls against Western Australia on Wednesday.
While that score alone doesn’t look super important, it came in a team total of 129 all-out, against a quality pace bowling attack and on a green Gabba wicket that was reminiscent of a pitch in England or New Zealand.
The first Ashes Test is due to kick off at the Gabba on December 8.
Queensland skipper Khawaja has plenty of experience on the wicket and England’s pace spearhead of James Anderson and Stuart Broad would relish a juicy green top that offered them the chance to move the Kookaburra ball like a Dukes back home.
While Taylor says Khawaja’s latest innings “certainly won’t hurt” his chances of a Test recall, he warned it will be a different Gabba that’s presented to the players in a month’s time.
“Bear in mind, I’ve seen enough Gabba pitches over the years to realise when the Test match comes around you generally get a pretty good surface,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports.
“The Shield pitches you get at the Gabba often have no resemblance to the Test pitch a few weeks later.
“I think Uzzie has shown, as he has in the past, that he can make runs in tough conditions. There’s no doubt he is throwing his hat back in the ring.
“I think it’s going to be a very tough decision when it comes to that middle order, that No.5 position for Australia.”
Khawaja peels off Sheffield Shield ton
Australia needs to fill two spots in its XI for the first Test – an opening batsman and a middle-order.
Khawaja can fill either spot.
He seems to be battling with Marcus Harris alone for the opening position, while Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh appear on the radar to bat at five against England.
Taylor says whoever gets the nod could be batting for their Test career.
“Whichever way the selectors go it’s going to be a back-to-the-future selection. Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, they’ve all been tried, and dropped, often on more than one occasion,” Taylor said.
“For one of them, whoever is picked, it will hopefully be third or fourth time lucky.
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“Probably one of (Khawaja’s) best innings in Test cricket was when he opened the batting in that game at the Adelaide Oval, the pink ball game against South Africa, and made a hundred.
“I think he has shown he can (score runs against quality attacks), but it was 2016 that innings I’m talking about. So he’s shown it but that is five years ago.
“The one thing he’s got in his favour is Travis Head is probably in the same boat. Travis hasn’t made that one quality Test score that would lock him in as a permanent Australian cricketer.
“Whichever way they go… it will be a bit of a roll of the dice.”
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