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Khawaja stamps himself on BBL competition

Cricket

Usman Khawaja aspires to again represent Australia in all three cricketing formats, but his immediate goal is less lofty – trying to get a laugh out of a recent adversary and new teammate.

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The 31-year-old left-handed Queensland batsman, who has played 29 Tests, 18 ODIs and nine T20 internationals, is enjoying a very productive season.

His stylish 85 off 51 deliveries in Sydney Thunder’s three-run BBL win over Perth Scorchers last night highlighted the adaptability of the Pakistan-born batsman.

It followed an Ashes series in which he averaged 47 and finished with a mammoth 171 in the final Test.

While some pundits questioned Khawaja’s position before that game, he never went more than two innings in the series without reaching 50.

Prior to the Ashes, Khawaja also piled up plenty of runs for the Bulls, averaging 86 in the Sheffield Shield and 63 in the domestic one-day tournament.

He hasn’t played an ODI for almost a year and his last T20 appearance in national colours was back in September 2016. 

“I’ve played all formats for Australia, so I’d love to get back up there, but I can’t look too far ahead at the moment,” Khawaja said.

“Hopefully I can keep scoring runs and doing well for my team and if I’m doing that, I’m giving myself the best opportunity to do that.”

Joining Khawaja in the Thunder squad following the Ashes series was England batsman James Vince, who struggled for runs against Australia’s four high-class frontline bowlers.

Vince missed yesterday’s game with a stomach bug. While Khawaja stressed his new teammate had a good T20 record, he was lacking in one area.

“He’s a man of few words, my goal is to try to make him laugh,” Khawaja said.

“I still haven’t done it, he hasn’t cracked a smile with me, so I might have to get my best material for him.

“I’ll rehearse some jokes and see what happens.”

Last night’s last-gasp victory boosted sixth-placed Thunder’s finals hopes as they improved their record to 3-4.

But Khawaja recognised they can ill afford a defeat in Saturday’s derby against cross-town rival Sydney Sixers, who have lost all six of their games.

“I think you’ve got to be wary of teams like that, they can click at any time and play really well in one game,” Khawaja said.

“We’ve got to come out and play well again and do that consistently now, because it’s do or die for us, I guess, every single time we go out there.”

Khawaja struck successive sixes off England veteran Tim Bresnan, pulled and swept with power and hit some majestic shots down the ground.

But an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 137 between Khawaja’s Test colleague Cameron Bancroft (75 not out off 56 balls) and Hilton Cartwright (65no off 41) almost stole the match for the Scorchers.

Perth needed 74 runs off the final five overs. Needing 24 off the last, Cartwright took 10 off the first two balls from Mitch McClenaghan, but the Scorchers fell just short.

They remain in second spot on the BBL ladder, while the Thunder stay in sixth, but move to within two points of fourth.

Khawaja’s authority at the top of order bodes well for a late-season charge.

-AAP

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