Hobart, Jan 12 (IANS) England skipper Joe Root on Wednesday expressed surprise with Cricket Australia (CA) ignoring the credentials of batter Usman Khawaja earlier on in the Ashes series, saying that the 35-year-old was a “wonderful player” and had a great “understanding” of the game.
Khawaja was ignored for the first three Ashes Tests and included in the playing XI after middle-order batter and first Test centurion Travis Head tested positive for COVID-19 after the Boxing Day Test.
Khawaja, playing his maiden Test since 2019, smashed two centuries in the fourth Test at the SCG, which ended with England snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat.
“I was surprised he didn’t start the series. Personally, I think he’s a wonderful player,” Root was quoted as saying by sen.com.au on Wednesday.
“He’s at a period of his career where he’s very content with his game, he’s got an understanding of how he wants to play, and we’ve got some work to do to keep him quiet in this last game.”
Khawaja’s knocks of 137 and 101 at SCG have created a selection headache for Australia heading into the fifth and final Test at Hobart, with Head available after recovering from COVID-19.
Head has scored 248 runs at 62 batting at No.5 in the first three Tests and looks set to return for the series finale at Blundstone Arena. If the selectors include both Khawaja and Head in the XI, opener Marcus Harris, who has averaged only 30 in the series with just one 50-plus score, will have to make way.
“It’s a phenomenal effort (from Khawaja), what he managed to achieve last week was truly brilliant. We need to make sure we keep him quiet as best we can here in Tasmania (Hobart Test),” added Root.
Khawaja has emerged as the fifth-highest run-scorer in the series despite playing just one Test.
The left-hander has opened seven times for Australia across his 45-Test career, scoring 484 runs at an average of 96.8 with two centuries, according to sen.com.au.