Head coach Justin Langer has confirmed that Usman Khawaja will bat at No3 for Australia in the first Ashes Test against England at Edgbaston after the left-hander passed a fitness test.
Khawaja had been recovering from a hamstring strain and the top-order batsman proved his fitness for the first Test by passing a series of tests on Monday.
“Usman Khawaja will definitely be in, he’s fit, ready to go, he’s playing well,” Langer told the media.
“He’s a seasoned pro for us, he averages 40-odd in Test cricket, his hammy’s good, he’s running well, he’s passed all the fitness tests so he’s ready to go. He’ll bat No. 3.”
While Khawaja has been locked in for the No3 spot, fast bowler James Pattinson is also a near certainty to make the playing XI for Thursday. The 29-year-old pacer is now set to make his first Test appearance since February, 2016 after battling a spate of back injuries over the course of his career.
“Just a very, very good bowler,” Langer said about the pacer.
“I’m sure Painey (Tim Paine) will work out ways of using him, it’s just nice to see him back, it’s a great story isn’t it, coming back from where he was as a young bowler, the back surgeries, to more than likely being selected for this Test match, it’s a great story.”
With Pattinson set to partner Pat Cummins for the Edgbaston Test, Justin Langer has revealed that Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle could all be vying for the third pacer’s slot.
“Like in all these selections, there’s literally a case for 17 blokes to play,” Langer said.
“The opening partnership’s going to be really tough, between Cameron and Marcus Harris, really hard.
“They’ve both got a really strong case, and then the fast bowling spots. There’s probably three to be fair, Starcy, Peter Siddle and Josh Hazlewood, for one spot.”
The first Ashes Test between hosts England and Australia at Edgbaston gets underway on August 1.
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Australia seamer Josh Hazlewood has cast doubts over whether England opener Jason Roy’s technique will be suitable for the challenges of red-ball cricket.
Roy has been one of the most explosive limited-overs openers in the game for some years now and the right-hander’s displays in the recent World Cup have seen him earn a maiden Test cap against Ireland.
He is now set to open for England in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston beginning on August 1 after registering a scratchy 72 in his debut match against Ireland. Hazlewood, however, remains unconvinced about the Englishman making a successful transition to Test cricket.
“We’ll see how Roy goes in Test cricket. He’s has only played one Test match and it’s a lot different opening the batting in a Test than a one-day game, that’s for sure,” Hazlewood said.
“In England, opening is probably the toughest place to bat, which probably made Alastair Cook’s record all the better. To play attacking cricket in those conditions is tough.”
The Aussie bowler cited the example of ODI skipper Aaron Finch’s failure in the Test series loss to India last year as a cautionary tale for Roy.
“Aaron Finch found it tough last summer against a quality India attack on wickets that didn’t do too much, to be honest,” Hazlewood stated.
“I think he found it a big step up, to be honest. He found the ball swung and seamed around and the wickets were a lot different to a one-day wicket.
“He’d played a lot of his four-day cricket at five or six and I think Roy is the same at Surrey. It’s hard to bat five at a level below and then open in Test cricket. We’ll see.”
In 84 first-class matches so far for Roy, the right-hander has managed to score 4,722 runs at an average of nearly 39 with the help of nine centuries.
Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur has admitted that a Test retirement for Mohammad Amir had been on the cards since over a year.
Amir sprang a major surprise earlier this week when he announced his decision to walk away from Test cricket at the age of just 27 in order to prolong his white-ball career.
The left-armed pacer has struggled for fitness and a troublesome knee since making his return to international cricket in 2016 after a five-year suspension for spot-fixing.
“It was on the cards for a long while,” Arthur said about Amir’s retirement in an interview with ESPNcricinfo.
“Amir had been speaking to me about it with me for some time now. His Test career was taking a strain on his body. It’s not about management here. It’s about his desire to play Test cricket and the effects it has on his body.
“I think Amir’s an unbelievable bowler and reluctantly I accepted his decision because that’s what he wanted to do and that’s what he thought was best for himself. What it does do is give us a white-ball bowler that I think we can get a longer period from.”
Amir bows out of Test cricket with 119 wickets in 36 appearances with an average of just over 30. Arthur is now hoping that the pacer can become even a more potent asset for Pakistan in the shorter formats of the game.
“We get a white-ball bowler who’s going to be rejuvenated, refreshed, and with a T20 World Cup just around the corner, in 18 months’ time we’ve got a potential match-winner because we know he performs on the big stage,” said Arthur.
“Like every other player who plays for Pakistan, he’s going to need to put in match-winning performances.
“But he’ll certainly get the opportunity to do that, and he will start in our white-ball cricket.”
Amir had recently finished as Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker in the 2019 ICC Word Cup in England with the southpaw picking up 17 scalps in eight matches.