Does re­turn of SOK spell doom for Khawaja?

The Observer - - SPORT DIGEST - — Ben Horne

CRICKET: Aus­tralia could be set to back­flip on their plan to give Us­man Khawaja pre-Ashes crease time, af­ter Steve O’Keefe’s shock re­call pointed to­wards a rare three-pronged spin at­tack for the sec­ond Test.

O’Keefe’s dra­matic re­turn to the fold has come so far out of left-field it’s hard to imag­ine he’s fly­ing to Bangladesh for a hol­i­day, and – al­though the wicket would need to be prop­erly in­spected first – it seems likely the ul­tra-con­sis­tent left-armer will line up along­side Nathan Lyon and Ash­ton Agar in Chit­tagong.

Josh Ha­zle­wood’s in­jury has opened the door for it to be the first time in a decade Aus­tralia has played three spin­ners in a Test, but if that bold plan is to come to fruition, Khawaja’s po­si­tion would first have to come un­der the mi­cro­scope.

To com­pen­sate for go­ing into a Test with Pat Cum­mins as the only fast bowler, se­lec­tors may look for all-rounder Hil­ton Cartwright to also come into the line-up as a back-up seam op­tion and if that hap­pens Khawaja will be look­ing over his shoul­der.

It shapes as a vex­ing de­ci­sion for se­lec­tors who must weigh up the po­ten­tial im­pact on Khawaja’s con­fi­dence and mind­set lead­ing into an Ashes se­ries.

Khawaja was up­set he wasn’t given more than two Tests in Sri Lanka last year, and given he’s spent the last six months on the side­lines mixing drinks, only giv­ing him one match in Bangladesh would be a tough call for a player Steve Smith has de­clared is “key” for the Ashes.

How­ever, Khawaja has left him­self highly vul­ner­a­ble with two un­con­vinc­ing dis­missals in Dhaka for a toal of two runs.

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