CAN A non-performing Usman Khawaja continue to survive in Australia’s top six, asks KEN PIESSE:
WATCHING Usman Khawaja bat is like being caught in a game of snakes and ladders. The highs, like in Sydney in the New Year, are exhilaratingly delicious. The lows make you wonder how he could possibly have been given the job at Number 3… the traditional role of the elite like Bradman, Ian Chappell and Ponting.
A third consecutive failure, albeit on a juiced-up Port Elizabeth wicket, has him playing for his Test spot — yet again.
Should he fail a fourth time this weekend in what shapes as another low-scoring four-day affair, will he live to fight on in Cape Town the week after next and in the decider in Johannesburg from March 30?
When you average a caress or two under 60 at home, but just 24 away, there is a problem.
He may be Australia’s most watchable, majestic batsman, ahead even of the street-fighting David Warner and the innovative, unique Steve Smith, but unless you perform consistently in cricket you are a dead man walking.
The heat is building on Khawaja, innings by innings. The veteran Protea paceman Vernon Philander seems to have his measure.
Can Khawaja cope with the constant probings on and outside his off stump? Right now, a series average of eight suggests not.
His saving grace right now is that Australia prefers its reserve batsman Peter Handscomb to bat lower in the order, at five. Smith himself likes four.
There is no standout replacement at Number 3, unless Shaun Marsh is elevated and he has been a rock in the middle order all summer.
South Africa’s attack is willing and skilled. In Kagiso Rabada it has a genuine fireball.
Khawaja faces a supreme challenge to lift himself out of his latest slump.
Surely another failure will be damning… for now.
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. Despite that setback, Ken has written, published and edited 86 books on cricket and AFL football to become Australian sport’s most prolific author.
His latest cricket book is David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be Different with Wilkinson Publishing, out now