The West Australian quicks have rattled Queensland’s top order on the opening day of their Sheffield Shield clash, with Ashes hopeful Usman Khawaja playing a lone hand at the Gabba.
Queensland was rolled for 129 on Wednesday, with Khawaja scoring 70 of the side’s runs — nobody else in the side’s top eight reached double figures.
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Both teams were greeted by overcast conditions in Brisbane, and West Australian captain Shaun Marsh elected to field first after winning the toss — a decision that quickly paid dividends.
The green deck offered plenty of movement for the West Australian seamers, who tore through Queensland’s top order to leave the hosts reeling at 5/38.
Australian Test No. 3 Marnus Labuschagne was dismissed for a golden duck, with Joel Paris immediately finding the star batter’s outside edge.
West Australian young gun Lance Morris finished with stellar figures of 4/31 from 10.1 overs, while Jhye Richardson claimed three wickets of his own.
But the standout performer was undeniably Khawaja.
The Queensland skipper defied the bowler-friendly conditions to patiently keep the scoreboard ticking while wickets tumbled at the other end.
Put simply, he looked a class above his teammates on Wednesday. Heck, he looked a class above the rest of the Sheffield Shield competition.
Cricket pundits have previously accused Khawaja of being a flat-track bully, but this knock proved the contrary.
Former Australian Test captain Ian Chappell recently claimed Khawaja was “a good player against mediocre bowling, but against good bowling.”
On Tuesday, the Pakistan-born batter replied with tongue in cheek: “Chappelli’s not even the best player in his family, so if I’m going to take advice, I might take it from his younger brother, who I get along with very well too.”
With Victorian batter Will Pucovski still recovering from a head knock he sustained last month, Khawaja has once again pushed his case for a long-awaited Test recall.
The left-hander played his most recent Test match during the 2019 Ashes series, where he was axed for Labuschagne.
But after scoring back-to-back centuries in the Sheffield Shield last month, Khawaja has sent a timely reminder to the national selection panel.
The 34-year-old is currently the highest run-scorer of the 2021/22 Sheffield Shield with 396 runs at an average of 79.20.
ESPNcricinfo journalist Andrew McGlashan tweeted: “If you are going strictly by who the best five/six batters are in Australia, not sure you can leave Usman Khawaja out of the first Test.”
Khawaja and incumbent opener Marcus Harris are the most likely candidates to partner with David Warner for the first Ashes Test at the Gabba, which gets underway on Wednesday, December 8.
Last week, Victorian coach Chris Rogers said it was “unlikely” Pucovski would be available for the Brisbane Test as he continued to recover from concussion symptoms.
West Australia’s first innings at the Gabba got off to a horror start, with Michael Neser removing former Test opener Cameron Bancroft for a golden duck.