It hasn’t been a great Ashes series for Usman Khawaja thus far.
It hasn’t been a great Ashes series for Usman Khawaja thus far.

Uzzy feeling heat as Ashes pressure builds

USMAN Khawaja says he's batting well, he just keeps getting out.

The out-of-sorts Aussie batsman will captain his country in a tour game against Derbyshire that is also a bat-off for a spot in the fourth Test.

Steve Smith, who will return to the Aussie line-up in Manchester, was the only member of the touring party to test the local net bowlers on Wednesday before rain hammered down 24 hours before the three-day clash against the division two county side.

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Khawaja, didn't have a bat, but confirmed he would open with Marcus Harris in the game which seven of the 17-man Australian squad will miss.

 

But while he opted out of a day-before hit, Khawaja knows how important time in the middle will be against the Falcons' given he's one of the players in the gun as selectors decide who makes way for Smith in the Test line-up.

Khawaja is averaging just 20.33 in the Ashes so far, with a high score of 40 in the opening Test at Edgbaston. His career average in Test match cricket in England is 19.66, with one half century in 12 innings.

But his selection as captain for the tour game highlights his seniority in a batting group light on for experience other than Smith and David Warner, which muddies those waters.

The Queensland captain will open with Harris, who returned eight and 19 in his Ashes debut at Headingley. His second innings score was higher than anything the man he replaced, Cameron Bancroft, contributed for the series.

But Harris' second innings dismissal, trying to drive England spinner Jack Leach's first ball in the game, didn't help his cause.

Khawaja could open with Warner at Manchester. He has opened seven times for Australia in Test matches. He's scored two hundreds doing so, and averages 96.80.

Khawaja takes his talents to touch football.
Khawaja takes his talents to touch football.

The 32-year-old opened in January's Test match against India after Aaron Finch was dropped, with Marnus Labuschagne coming in at number three.

That's a plausible situation for the fourth Ashes Test, although it would be hard on Harris to be dropped after just one match.

Travis Head isn't even playing in Derby, so he's safe. That leaves Matthew Wade as the other option, despite a century just two Tests ago in Edgbaston.

Marcus Harris is knocked over by Jack Leach at Headingley.
Marcus Harris is knocked over by Jack Leach at Headingley.

As the Aussies roared around the Derbyshire ground in a hotly-contested game of touch football, during which Nathan Lyon rolled his ankle, there was little sign of any players feeling the selection heat.

Khawaja said that's because every player knew every innings they played was being measured, but selection was not something they could control

"No matter where you are playing there's always competition for spots. That's the nature of the game," he said

"You don't wish anything bad on anyone. Everyone in the squad deserves to be playing Test cricket. So you just go out there and try and perform.

"At the moment it's just about guys going out and playing some cricket, worrying about this game."

Nathan Lyon leaves training with an ankle injury.
Nathan Lyon leaves training with an ankle injury.

Khawaja knows what he has to do, and that's bat for longer. He's got to 40, 36, and 23 in three of his six Ashes outings. At least one of them should have been more.

"I actually feel really good batting, I just haven't made any big runs. It's frustrating for me," he said.

"I've been getting lots of starts … the most important thing is to capitalise on those starts. That's what the best players do, hopefully I'll do that in the next few games."

Lyon isn't playing in Derby, and team officials said he was in no doubt for the fourth Test.