Ashes

Khawaja 'born to bat for Oz'

2011-01-04 12:55
Usman Khawaja (File)

Sydney - Australian debutant Usman Khawaja showed in his modest first Test innings that he was born to wear the treasured baggy green cap and has the hallmarks of batting greatness, newspapers said on Tuesday.

The Pakistan-born Khawaja made just 37 in two hours during the first day of the fifth and final Ashes Test in Sydney but showed signs that he could make an impact in an Australian team in the throes of a painful transition.

Khawaja's Test debut was one of the main talking points in the run-up to Monday's play, when Australia crawled to 134 for four against England before play was washed out.

The composed 24-year-old fitted seamlessly into the demanding number three batting position, occupied for almost 10 years by injured captain Ricky Ponting.

"In just his first relatively modest Test innings, the delightfully poised left-hander has already done enough to show why he should bat above Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke," The Australian's Malcolm Conn said.

"Khawaja showed no obvious nerves. He looked born to bat at number three, for which Australia can thank Pakistan.

"His birth certificate has him beginning life in Islamabad but he can only ever remember being an Aussie, moving to Sydney with his family at the age of three."

The Melbourne Age's Greg Baum likened Khawaja's debut to "one gleaming shaft of light."

"He plays with two hallmarks of batting greatness. One is time; suddenly the bowlers seemed slower," he wrote.

"The other is soft and late hands, taking the slips out of play, creating angles. It gives him a classic appearance."

Baum said Khawaja, the first Muslim to play for his adopted country, met his challenges with aplomb.

"Three influences move in him: subcontinental wristiness, Australian schooling and youthful certainty," he said.

Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter Roebuck said Khawaja looks destined to become a significant member of Australia's top order.

"During the course of his polished innings, Usman Khawaja displayed most of the qualities needed to occupy cricket's trickiest position. Only one attribute eluded him -- longevity. In every other respect he served the purpose.

"Throughout an emotional, exhausting day, the newcomer retained his equanimity."

Roebuck was impressed by Khawaja's composure when facing the pressure of his maiden Test innings before an expectant home crowd.

"Khawaja did not give any indication that a weight had been taken from his shoulders," he said.

"It was all impressively matter of fact, and done with the air of a man advancing his team's cause, not his own.

"Composure was his hallmark. Nothing upset him -- not playing in front of 40,000 people, not the sight on the big screen of his parents fretting."

The Daily Telegraph said if Ponting had doubts about shifting down the order upon his return from a fractured finger, they should have evaporated with every passing minute of Khawaja's innings.

"Enough about him being of the Muslim faith. Enough about him playing the guitar. There's another point of interest: the bloke can bat," The Telegraph's Will Swanton said.

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