Does return of SOK spell doom for Khawaja?
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.