Khawaja looks assured to play SCG Test; COVID-19 all-clear for Australian squad

by IANS |

Sydney, Jan 1 (IANS) Veteran middle-order batter Usman Khawaja looks assured to replace Travis Head in Australia's playing XI for the fourth Ashes Test at the SCG after the latter was ruled out because of COVID-19 infection, even as Cricket Australia (CA) heaved a sigh of relief as no more COVID-19 cases were reported in the side.

Head had tested positive for COVID-19 on December 31, 2021 and was ruled out of the fourth Test beginning on January 5. Australia have taken an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-Test series, with their latest win coming in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

The 35-year-old Khawaja will likely return to the side at No.5, the only position in the top-6 in which he has never batted in Tests. The Pakistan-origin cricketer had made his debut on the SCG almost 11 years ago. This season, Khawaja is second on the list of Marsh Sheffield Shield run scorers, but hasn't spent time in the middle for some time now as he is a Test squad member.

However, Khawaja said lack of game time will not be a problem if he gets to play in the fourth Test.

"It's always nicer when you're coming off games -- I haven't played for a month now -- but it shouldn't take too long hopefully, if I play and get out there, bat for half an hour and get into it, I should find that sync again," the Queensland captain was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au on Saturday.

"It's one of those things where even if I do play, it'll only be for one game… I understand that situation … hopefully I can go out there and score a hundred and do well for the team in the absence of 'Heady'."

"There's a lot of cricket still to come up. I'm just putting my head down, making sure I'm working really hard and doing the best I can for Australia whenever I get the opportunity. I'll potentially have one game for Australia here, but even if that doesn't happen, I know there's still… a lot of cricket on the subcontinent which I feel I'm very suited to, and which I'm looking forward to hopefully being a part of moving forward," added Khawaja.

Meanwhile, opener Marcus Harris did not board the chartered flight to Sydney with the other members of the squad on Friday as there were concerns after he had dined with Head, who tested COVID-19 positive later. Once cleared, Harris is likely to drive from Victoria to NSW for the Test.

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